What do January 28th and February 5th have in common? Both are important days for data protectors. The Data Privacy Day is celebrated each year on January 28th, and the Safer Internet Day is celebrated on February 5th. Why are there two? We are not sure, but maybe because the EU and the USA could not agree.
In any case, the aim is to sensitise people to the issue of data protection and in particular to the protection of privacy on the Internet. We are aware of our responsibilities, which is why we would like to give you a helpful tip on data protection starting from today, until February 5th.
Tip 1: Browser-Add-ons like Ghostery and Adblock are not sufficient for protection
In fact, such browser extensions block trackers, cookies, and social media buttons that spy on surfing behavior. Not only do they improve privacy, they also reduce advertising traffic. But there are several hooks:
- Protects browser only:
Browser extensions only protect the browser itself, but not the PC in general and no other devices in the network.
- Blocks not everything:
Such add-ons provide reasonable protection against trackers and advertisements, but they do not cloak the IP address. Completely anonymous surfing remains an illusion.
- Connections to the advertising industry:
Whether Web of Trust or Ghostery – these extensions turned out to real threads. The extensions block many trackers, but at the same time collect data and sell it to advertising companies, especially since these extensions are often designed by large companies. For e.g., we can only speculate about what the German publishing house Burda does with the all data they get through their newly bought product Ghostery.
Tip 2: Use a password manager
Most of the time you need to be registered in order to use Internet services. The number of passwords that you use can thus quickly become confusing.
Therefore a lot of users come up with the idea of using the first password that comes to their mind. The password also needs to be easy to remember, because how could you remember a difficult code consisting of hieroglyphs, letters and numbers?
According to Times magazine the creativity when it comes to creating a password is limited though. Times recently published a list of the top ten passwords in the US. Third place went to the complicated number combination ‘12345’ and the word ‘password’ comes on second place. But no other password has been chosen as often as ‘123456’, as you may have guessed. To view the complete top ten, visit the article here.
However, a password manager can provide more convenience and security. On the one hand, this helps to use complicated and long – and therefore secure – passwords. On the other hand, the effort is reduced to a minimum because the user only has to remember one single password: his master password.
Come back tomorrow for tip number three.
Tip 3: How to protect yourself from phishing
MThe term phishing refers to an attempt to gain access to the personal data of an Internet user via fake emails, websites or short messages.
Most phishing emails can no longer be identified as phishing emails at first glance. In the meantime, for e.g., victims are contacted personally (“Dear Mr. Müller”), the sender address is trustworthy (e.g. “firstname.lastname@example.org”) and spelling and design are without error or blame. A link in this mail then leads to a fake website and requires the entry of personal data.
So how can we expose phishing and protect ourselves from something bad to happen? The most important characteristic: Phishing messages always follow scheme F. The attention grabber is usually a security issue or another difficulty that must allegedly be solved. In order to give the whole thing emphasis, threats such as blocking accounts or cards usually follow if the recipient does not act immediately.
The most important thing: banks, payment services and other companies NEVER ask for passwords, login data or other personal data by email or telephone. If you follow this rule, you are already on the safe side. But at the end of the day we are all just human beings, maybe you weren’t focused enough or just didn’t took a closer look – And it’s done. You should observe the following further rules:
- Do not click on links: If you think there might be something true about a warning message don’t click on the link in the email, but manually log in to the service in a new browser window and see for yourself if something is wrong.
- Don’t open attachments: Never open attachments from emails of unknown origin. It doesn’t matter whether they are apparently harmless files such as pictures, documents or other files.
- Don’t answer: Never respond to phishing or spam: In this case, the cyber gangsters know that the email address is actually being used. This will get you even more spam and phishing emails.
Tip 4: How to protect yourself from viruses
Attackers use many tricks to gain access to user data in today’s digital age. Computer viruses are one of those instruments used by cyber criminals. These can cause terrible damage: Hackers divert Internet traffic via hijacked PCs, blackmail viruses block access to the computer and data collectors spy on your privacy.
It is quite easy to protect yourself against such attacks and to do something for your own security and privacy.
- Install antivirus software: If you use your PC or Mac without anti-virus protection, you are acting irresponsibly. Using online banking with a PC infected with viruses, for e.g., is an invitation for cyber criminals. The first priority to make sure that you are safe: Never access the Internet without appropriate security software. Programs that repeatedly perform well in tests: Kaspersky Internet Security, Bitdefender Internet Security and McAfee Internet Security.Users should take a particularly close look at free offers. This is because some antivirus software manufacturers may collect customer data in order to market it to third parties – a refinancing model for the free protection software.
- Only a few browsers use add-ons / plug-ins: Some browser add-ons are very practical, but can also be very dangerous. The popular Adobe Flash PlugIn, for e.g., always has large security gaps which is why many browsers no longer provide this extension or even support it. With Web-of-Trust, a plug-in that is supposed to show the trustworthiness of the website, masses of personal user data were recorded before the scandal was published. Many plugins are often associated with greater security or privacy risks. Therefore, do without as many extensions as possible and load them only from trustworthy sources.
Tip 5: Surf anonymously without loosing speed
Surfing with the Tor network is technically slower than in a normal browser, because every request takes a detour. There’s no doubt about that.
After all, the requests must first run over several servers (so-called Tor nodes) before they reach the recipient. This makes the service very secure during daily surfing but almost unusable for broadband downloads: The speed at which pages are set up is usually fine, while when downloading and playing videos on your home computer, the joy of the Tor anonymization process suffers a lot.
On the other hand, commercial VPN services (VPN = Virtual Private Network) run much faster. In this case the data only has to take the detour via the proxy server infrastructure of the VPN provider. If sufficient bandwidth is available, the speed is close to the maximum speed of the Internet line. It should be clear to everyone that VPN providers can at least theoretically “read along” with the customer. Therefore, it is better not to fall back on free services; after all they have to earn their money with something.
Tip 6: If you have to talk to Alexa, please do it with class and cleverness
If you start your evening at home with the words “Ok Google …” or “Alexa …”, you probably have a smart speaker at home.
These cute little gadgets are fun and are supposed to make everyday life easier but are also very controversial. There is talk of continuous spying. Clever designers try to find a solution to protect your privacy – they have developed the “Alias”. This gadget is supposed to deactivate permanent eavesdropping.
To find out exactly how it works and what you might need it, read here.
Tip 7: Beware of free offers
Much of what is offered on the Internet is free – but is it really free? Although users do not pay directly with money they provide their data in return for the use of various offers and contents.
If you want more privacy in the digital world, you might want to consider which websites you want to surf and which apps you want to use. Many free apps in particular are almost always financed e.g. through the sale of user data to advertising networks.
Free and supposedly attractive apps can also be offered with criminal intent. Android users should be particularly vigilant: About 99 percent of Trojan attacks are directed against Google’s Android OS, as a report of the security software manufacturer F-Secure of 2017 noted. iOS malware practically does not exist.
More about this topic here.
Tip 8: Public hotspots are a security risk
You can mostly control the security of your Internet access to your own router while being at home.
But surfing in public using WIFI, there is always this danger of hackers spying on you, monitoring your surfing experience, or even installing malware on your mobile phone. Malware for mobile devices for e.g., can lock the phone and demand payment for unlocking it. Other programs access private data or send premium SMS messages at the expense of the smartphone owner, who is often unaware of this.
Basically, users should only switch on the WIFI function if it is really needed. Security experts then highly recommend the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for connections to public WIFI’s. This is a “private tunnel” in which all data is transmitted in encrypted form. This prevents cybercriminals on the network from intercepting your data.
Finally, users should preferably avoid transferring confidential or private data in public WIFI.
Tip 9: Incognito mode – don’t use it if you really want to be anonymous on the net
When you surf in incognito mode the IP address is cloaked, the location suppressed and malware and viruses blocked. At least that’s what many Internet users think.
Unfortunately all these are misconceptions. Incognito mode, private surfing or InPrivate mode – no matter what the manufacturers call it: When using this feature only local tracks on your computer are usually deleted. They should also not trust the browser setting “Do not track”. Most service providers such as Google, AOL & Co. do not take this setting into account.
Further information and help can be found here.