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October 31, 2023

Data Privacy & Data Security Best Practices: Protect Your Data, Personal Information, & Privacy Online

Since 2004, October has been recognized as Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Its aim is to highlight some of the emerging challenges that exist in the world of cybersecurity and to provide straightforward actionable guidance that anyone can follow to create a safe and secure digital world for themselves and their loved ones.

From mobile to connected home devices, technology is deeply intertwined with our lives. And while the evolution of technology accelerates, cybercriminals are working just as hard to find ways to compromise technology and disrupt personal and business life. With the proliferation of connected home devices and mobile technology, our lives are heavily enmeshed with technology. As technological advancements speed up, cybercriminals are equally dedicated to finding ways to undermine and cause chaos in both personal and business technology.  From smartphones to smart home devices, technology is closely intertwined with our everyday existence. Meanwhile, as technology advances rapidly, malicious actors are diligently seeking ways to undermine technology and disrupt both personal and professional lives.

Since 2004, October has been recognized as Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Its aim is to highlight some of the emerging challenges that exist in the world of cybersecurity and to provide straightforward actionable guidance that anyone can follow to create a safe and secure digital world. The goal is to bring attention to the new difficulties in cybersecurity and offer practical advice that anyone can use to establish a safe and secure online environment for themselves and their families.

Starting this year, the new theme of Cybersecurity Awareness Month is Secure Our World, with a focus on four key cybersecurity best practices for all consumers: using strong passwords and a password manager, turning on multi-factor authentication, recognizing and reporting phishing, and updating software.

Beyond those four key practices, there are several others that will help you protect your personal data, which is essential in this era where digital information is vulnerable to various threats. Concord urges everyone to consider the following best practices when it comes to both personal data and business data.

Use Strong, Unique Passwords to Protect Your Data

Strong passwords are long, random, unique and include all four character types (uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and symbols). Avoid using easily guessable information like birthdays or common words. Consider using a reputable password manager to generate and store passwords securely. Using strong, unique passwords is essential for maintaining the security of your online accounts. Here are some tips to create and manage strong passwords:

  1. Length: Choose passwords that are at least 12 characters long. Longer passwords are more secure.
  2. Randomness: Create passwords that have a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using predictable patterns or sequences.
  3. Avoid common words or phrases: Hackers often use dictionaries and common word lists to guess passwords. Therefore, avoid using easily guessable information like birthdays, pet names, or common words.
  4. Unique passwords: Use a different password for each of your accounts. Using the same password for multiple accounts can be risky. If one account gets hacked, all your accounts become vulnerable.
  5. Password manager: Consider using a reputable password manager tool. Password managers can generate strong passwords for you and securely store them. They allow you to access your passwords across devices and can also help with auto-filling login forms.
  6. Two-factor authentication (2FA): Enable two-factor authentication wherever possible. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of verification, such as a fingerprint, code, or physical key, in addition to your password.
  7. Regular updates: Regularly update and change your passwords. This helps prevent unauthorized access to your accounts.

Remember, creating and managing strong passwords is crucial for protecting your personal information and preventing identity theft. Invest time in implementing these practices to enhance your online security.

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for Extra Data Security

Whenever possible, enable MFA for your online accounts. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring you to provide a second authentication factor, such as a temporary code sent to your mobile device, in addition to your password. Enabling MFA makes you significantly less likely to get hacked. Enable MFA on all your online accounts that offer it, especially email, social media, and financial accounts. Hardware security keys for MFA are even more secure, and MFA should also be used to protect your organization on the business side and helps to protect consumer data, which is often the most valuable data that organizations have access to.

Recognize & Report Phishing to Reduce Security Risks

Be cautious of unsolicited messages asking for personal information and avoid sharing sensitive information or credentials with unknown sources. This helps reduce data theft and stolen data. As a best practice, always be suspicious of messages asking for access to data or for login information, and avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown or unverified sources. When people do try and access your data via social engineering tactics or phishing attempts, help others by reporting those messages as malicious and delete the messages when possible.

Regularly Update Software & Devices for Enhanced Security

Keep your operating system, software applications, and devices up to date with the latest security patches and updates. Cybercriminals often exploit known vulnerabilities in outdated software and take advantage of the fact that many organizations often have gaps when it comes to security infrastructure, security teams, and different policies in regards to privacy and security, including their data usage policy and a data security policy.

Review Privacy Settings for Better Data Protection, Especially When it Comes to Sensitive Data

Review and adjust the privacy settings on your devices and online accounts. Personal data classification, where you review the different data that is stored online in order to limit the amount of personal information you share, is an important security measure. By only granting the necessary permissions to apps and services where consumer data is stored, you can protect your privacy and the level of security when it comes to your accounts and data. Reducing your personal information online helps minimize the impact due to data breaches and data leaks, reduces the types of data stored online, minimizes data access by third parties, and helps protect data, To make this easier, the National Cybersecurity Alliance provides direct links to update your privacy settings on many popular devices and online services.

Back Up Your Data & Secure Data to Keep Data Safe

Regularly backing up your important data to an external device or a secure cloud storage service is important. The usage of data encryption and physical security can further help reduce security threats and unwanted access to data.  This also ensures that you can recover your private data in case of loss due to hardware failures or cyberattacks like ransomware.

Continue to Educate Yourself on Data Privacy & Data Security Best Practices

Stay informed about common cybersecurity threats and best practices. Being aware of the latest scams and tactics used by cybercriminals can help you avoid falling victim to them. A good resource is the National Cybersecurity Alliance.

By following these best practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of your personal data falling into the wrong hands and enhance your overall online security and privacy.