Dear Google, you know way too much about us, and you're sharing a little too much with everyone else. It's time we users took a look at the information we're sharing, and what it means for our safety online.
Let’s face it, we’ve all loosened up on our online security. E-shopping used to be slightly dubious, filling out forms was always approached with caution and creating passwords, totally top secret. But now we’re one-click shopping, auto-completing and standardising and it means we’re more vulnerable than ever.
We spoke to Tony Anscombe, Senior Security Evangelist at internet security firm AVG Technologies about the five things you didn’t even know you were exposing yourself to:
1. Beware the overshare
Armed with just a name, a stranger trailing the internet can find out your rough weight and height, as well as the places you like to go for dinner, simply because you’ve started using a fitness tracker online.
‘Getting motivated to lose those extra couple of pounds or walk a bit more is great, but it’s exposing more of your lifestyle than you think,’ says Tony. ‘And the information is very personal, how often you exercise, how much and where, what did you eat and drink and where? The profile you’re building is extensive and you’re sharing it with all of your friends to keep you motivated. Be wary – most settings are set to default when you sign up, so just think twice before you start sharing.’
2. Online dating is a minefield
Don’t we know it. While we’re so busy worrying about whether we’ve said all the right things, we’re less aware that we’re exposing where we might be and when, and even where we live, before we’ve even met a potential suitor.
‘Dating apps like Tinder advertise where we are with some level of anonymity, but think about it, if you are looking at them with first name, age and their interests they have all of the same info on you,’ explains Tony. If you use the same ID for Instagram for example, the pictures that you use in your profile can be tracked to your past locations, therefore ‘geomapping’ your favourite places. ‘Using an alias and not advertising even your first name and age would be sensible,’ Tony adds.
3. Only shop for yourself
Shopping online makes life easier and it’s a great time saver, but you’d never leave your card details in a shop, so why leave them unwittingly online?
‘What if someone managed to hack one of your regular shopping accounts?,’ asks Tony Anscombe. ‘They can get to all of them. You should always use a credit card and not your debit card, this stops access to your bank account directly and keep a credit card just for online shopping that has a limited credit limit, so that if the worst happens, then it’s an easy task to stop the card and start again.’
4. Keep your passwords sacred
Even if you do add a letter, number or an ‘s’ to the end of your typical one-word password each time, it’s still the same word that links your finances, social media and buying habits.
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‘When creating passwords use something different for each service. Your bank account password should be different to your Facebook, for instance. Some accounts will be easier to hack than others, so once they have access to one, they have access to all. To help remember them all, use an app such as Vault to keep them safe and accessible.’
5. Keep security answers secret
Never put your mother’s maiden name, place of birth, first car or first pet’s name on social media. That’s four of the top answers to your security questions answered, granting easy access to any number of your online and offline accounts.
‘Nothing that you post on the internet disappears,’ warns Tony. ‘You need to be conscious of the long-term impact of everything that you put online.