Protect Your Personal Data

IPS want to help members keep their personal data as safe as possible from nuisance marketers and criminal scammers.  

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Advice

There is a thriving marketplace that trades this data in shadowy corners of the internet.  Corporate data breaches have occurred that leaked personal and payment information of hundreds of millions of customers of eBay, Equifax, Marriott, Yahoo and a long list of others which grows every day.  That means that your details may well have been compromised through no fault of your own.

Companies can be hacked through incredibly complex plots that involve large budgets and international criminal gangs – but these breaches can also occur through human error (like a sensitive email going to the wrong person or a laptop left on a train).

Following the British Airways data breach in 2018, criminals were selling personal data for £7 per consumer on the so-called Dark Web.   An American Express credit card with PIN details can be acquired for £25, but you can also acquire the log-in to a Deliveroo app account for £4 and order lots of food and alcohol and have the owner of that account foot the bill.  The Dark Web is a very strange and scary marketplace.

We summarise here the simple but effective changes you should make to your accounts and devices to minimise the risk that these crimes will affect you personally. You can reinforce your security against unwelcome attempts to access your data AND protect your privacy from those who have access to some of your information (but you wish they didn’t).

1. Take control of your passwords

Don’t use the same password again and again.  If a hacker ever gets hold of that password on the Dark Web, they can access all your accounts.  Change that habit.  Make it more difficult for them.  If you only have a few accounts and a small digital footprint then make them all different, unguessable, long and strong.  If you have a lot of accounts then you should think about a Password Manager which will carry the load for you.  It is not as hard to get going as you might think and, once you are off and running, you just browse the web as usual; when you login to accounts the software will manage the password for you and nudge you to change those that are weak or duplicate passwords.

 

2. Turn on Two Factor Authentication (2FA)

If an email address and password falls into the wrong hands you have an extra line of defence if you have made use of the 2FA offered by your bank or social network or retailer.  2FA provides a lot of security for not much effort.  Use it everywhere you see it.  Many of us use it already without really knowing what it was called.  When accessing an online account the password is commonly “factor 1”, but a “factor 2” makes it much harder for a criminal to continue.  If they are sitting in another country and the bank account login sends a text message to you with a PIN number that must be entered with the password then the jig is up – you know you weren’t trying to log in and he knows that he hasn’t got access to your phone. The FaceID or fingerprint you use to access your bank or fitness tracking application is also a “factor 2”.  Other 2FA tools that help foil the hack include memorable words and simple alerts (from Apple or Microsoft or Google or Netflix) that tell you when someone is trying to login to your account.  You can ignore these when it’s one of your children but act on them when it’s not.

3. Data sharing and privacy settings

The more companies you share your email address with, to create an account on a website you may only visit once, or to enter a competition or receive a newsletter – the more likely you are to be “on the list” if they suffer a data breach.  Try to checkout as a guest wherever you can rather than create an account.  Also, take a breath before deciding whether you do or don’t want to agree to them “emailing you with special offers” in future.  They have to provide choice by law now, so make a choice that means they won’t be in touch, unless you would quite like that.  Terms and conditions make heads spin but think about what you are broadly agreeing to before agreeing, and try to share the least amount of data as possible.

4. Keep your device up to date

This one is a behaviour change. It is easy to put off making a decision when your phone or laptop says that “an update to the operating system” is available.  You might not have time or space on your machine and it is easy to let yourself off the hook by putting it on the “to do“ list you never quite get around to.  Next time this message appears we want you to think of it as a message that says “please install our free update to better protect your data from being stolen”.  Many of the updates relate to improvements in security since the last update, and are prompted by learning from hacks that have occurred.  This is your hardware or software provider improving what they gave you the first time around.

5. Beware of public Wifi

Your home Wi-Fi router is something you use a lot.  You should make sure that the password setting on it is one that you choose,  rather than one that came with it.  Once you have changed the password your Wi-Fi is fairly secure.  It is not the same story when you are out and about in Sainsbury’s or Starbucks or jumping on “FreeHighStreet Wi-Fi”.  Many public Wi-Fi are password free and not encrypted.  Scammers know this and run software that “sniffs” out the details of those using the Wi-Fi so that they can track your online activity.  If you are caught out they can steal your passwords.  Do not do any sensitive jobs (like banking) on public Wi-Fi.  Think about switching to your data allowance (where the connection is encrypted by O2 or EE etc) or consider a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that will protect you from Wi-Fi snoopers.

 

A few other simple changes you can make.

  • Actively close down online accounts you don’t use.  That makes your data more secure than if your account is dormant.
  • Turn-off bluetooth when you are not using it and make sure it’s set to “not discoverable” when you are.  Hackers can gain access to your device when they are in close proximity
  • Put a password or FaceID or Fingerprint access on your mobile phone and laptop – to make it difficult for a thief to do anything with a stolen device.
  • Backup important files or photos so that you have a plan B.  What if you spill coffee on your mobile or laptop or tablet and it stops working?  Or you lose it?  You can buy a cheap USB hard drive to copy important files and put those files in a drawer for safe keeping, or you can use some cloud storage like Dropbox or iCloud or Google Drive

IPS Summary

Change your mindset and protect your precious data.  There is a balance between security and convenience and we all face these choices every day.  A criminal trying to make money from stealing data is not faced with such decisions, they will target the people who went for convenience every time.

Have your say

As an IPS member, you can leave us your thoughts, comments and experiences in the commments section below

27 Responses

  1. Joanne Watson says:

    I sympathise with Raymond, see his comment above. If you can afford it, Raymond, it would recommend buying a telephone system where you have 2 or 3 bases and handsets that you can lift off. The main base, attached to your main phone connection, will recharge the handsets. I was lucky to have one bought for me. It is made by Panasonic, but there will be other manufacturers.

    I agree with comments from other IPS members and would also recommend taking on a Call Blocker system, as well as ignoring calls from numbers you don’t recognise, especially the long ones that begin with 01 or 02, that are from the London area. Mobile numbers that begin with 07 are more difficult to ignore, as you can’t carry all your friends’ mobile numbers in your memory, but the Call Blocker system announces ‘You have a call from…….’ and give the caller’s name. You can decide whether to take the call or not.

  2. Christina Thomson says:

    I seem to be receiving spam or unwanted calls and emails from alleged genuine companies whether they can offer me a guaranteed loan just call this number to get my payment always premium rate number and I have been caught out once but never again also so many times they purport to be citizens advice when you first hear those words automatically citizens advice BUREAU comes to mind I’m afraid recently I have been quite rude in telling whomever to go away and leave me alone it seems like 99%are spam or scam I get these calls to both my landline and mobile phones or spam texts and increasingly emails as well and some of these are quite obscene and disgusting please can we all help to get rid of them hopefully prosecute and NOT BE LENIENT
    THANK YOU FOR READING TO THE END. We all need to be careful about so many things nowadays
    Regards
    Chris Thomson
    Aka Steakqueen

  3. toyotagirl says:

    This week I have received no less than 20 calls this week . Same old car accident

  4. Raymond says:

    I am disabled and getting up to keep answering the phone,gets on my nerves and causes me pain.because 90% of my calls are spam.and I am getting really fed up with this.

  5. Pamelashaw says:

    Thanks for update

  6. Pamelashaw says:

    Forever getting these calls every day so just keep blocking them when I dont recognise numbers also on landline as well .

  7. GrandmaM says:

    Thanks for helping defeat the liars, thieves and fraudsters. They won’t give up and thanks to you neither should we!

  8. carolfooks698@gmail.com says:

    I would like telephone scams ro stop I am getting a lot.

  9. marie says:

    It would be nice not to have those nuisance calls

  10. christine B says:

    I’m forever getting calls they drive me mad ive had one telling me their from Reach they knew everything about me even where I banked wanted my bank card numbers they even knew some of it it seemed real enough until they read my bank number back to me & it was wrong I. I got called several times by them its stressful & upsetting.

  11. janettejohnston@hotmail.co.uk says:

    I’m fed getting txt messages from someone claiming to be Royal Mail saying I have a parcel to get if I pay either £1-99 or 2-99 . And there’s was one I got yesterday saying they wanted to help me get more benefits I might be entitled to, but I told them I don’t give any details out in the phone and they just hung up on me ..

  12. gingerjeanie says:

    Its a good feeling knowing your personal information can be safe with IPS

  13. giggles56 says:

    Fantastic set up
    Information is 1st keep up the excellent service

  14. ian.jones.valley@gmail.com says:

    Great help, thank you.

  15. ullachisholm@talktalk.net says:

    You always have excellent info and advice. Thank you.
    Ulla

  16. jo gale says:

    Great service so informative,

  17. Hogmanay says:

    The kind of information on your website should be more widely available and publicised

  18. Susan Andrews says:

    It’s very good and helps

  19. Leakyplumber1 says:

    Always stay safe us ips

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