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Lawmakers have spent the past decade attempting to limit the data companies can collect. Companies like Facebook—despite facing overwhelming scandals—find themselves unrestricted, free to collect as much of its users’ data as possible.
But why do companies care about collecting user data? There are many reasons for collecting user data, from using data to improve the app/website, seeing the demographics their product attracts the most, or what ads they can target said demographics with.
So who exactly wants your data? How much are they willing to pay for it? And most importantly, how can you protect your data?
Who’s Wanting Your Data?
To put it simply, everyone. Everyone wants your data. Internet service providers (ISPs) thrive off of user data. Advertisers use your data to target you with ads. Companies collect your data to either sell to other third parties or use your data to improve their services.
But how much is user data worth? Better yet, how much is your data worth? Companies around the world are eager to keep exact quotes close to their chests, but user data can cost tens of cents to nearly $100, depending on the type of data and what the buyer can do with it.
7 Ways to Secure Your Data
1. Update Your Devices Frequently
The first thing you should do when securing your devices is making sure they are all updated. Cybercriminals are always finding new vulnerabilities in existing software and creating new viruses and malware to infect devices with. As a result, software developers package security improvements with software updates, making these updates vital to your devices’ overall security.
2. Connect to Public Networks With a VPN
Public networks are designed to provide free internet to those who need it, from customers who plan to stop in for a quick meal to remote workers who stay for hours on end to get their work done. However, this free internet does come at a cost: security.
Public networks are known to be unsecured. They lack proper encryption protocols, and many public networks don’t require a password to access. This lack of encryption and passwords means that public networks make good hunting grounds for cybercriminals looking to steal users’ data.
If you ever connect to a public network, ensure that you’re encrypting your data with something like a VPN. This way, cybercriminals located on the same network will be unable to steal your data.
3. Destroy Old Hard Drives
Every computer has its day. Whether it’s a faulty hard drive or a laptop that decided to display its final blue screen, you’ll probably need to replace your devices at a certain point. Many people throw their broken devices out and call it a day.
Do not do that.
If a cybercriminal comes across your broken device on the off-chance, they could potentially extract the data off your hard drive. Yes, they can do this even if the hard drive itself is faulty. Before you throw out your devices, make sure you destroy the hard drive, which you can either do yourself or hire someone else to do.
4. Scan for Viruses and Malware
Viruses and malware: you won’t know you have them until it’s too late. Ransomware doesn’t expose itself until you boot up your device and see all of your data gone. Keyloggers never expose themselves and steal your data for as long as possible. Viruses can infect many devices before the users find out.
Don’t become a victim to malicious software; download an anti-malware program ASAP. That way, you’ll be alerted when a threat has been detected on your device(s) and can get rid of it before it becomes a bigger problem.
5. Use Strong and Unique Passwords
Using a strong password is an important aspect of cybersecurity, yet many people use the same weak password for all of their accounts. This practice is an excellent way to have all of your accounts hacked in record time.
Always set up a strong, unique password for each of your accounts; password generators and password managers make doing so easier than ever.
6. Set Up Notifications for Purchases
Card theft can happen to anyone, and if you’re unlucky enough to have your credit card details leaked online, you may one day find a few unknown charges on your account statements. A good way of staying on top of your spending is to enable push notifications for purchases made on your bank accounts. That way, you’ll be notified if a cybercriminal ever uses your card(s) for a fraudulent transaction.
7. Stay Vigilant of Phishing Scams
Phishing scams, a type of scam that attempts to force users into giving away personal information, are rampant. According to Valimail, three billion spoofing messages are sent each and every day.
Learning how to identify and avoid phishing scams is vital to your data’s privacy. Scammers are getting smarter, and the internet is only growing. It’s only a matter of time before you come face-to-face with a phishing scam that is realistic enough to trick you.
Your data is worth a lot to companies, which is why you need to be as protective of it as possible. Fortunately, plenty of tools and tactics allow you to safeguard your data with relative ease.