How you can keep your data safe

13 August 2020

Technology

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You’ve probably been hearing a lot recently about TikTok, Facebook and a lot of other social media on data security and privacy. The problem is, between all the news stories and all the drama, it’s not always clear just why data is such a big deal or how exactly it affects you. As part of our efforts to keep our customers informed, we’re going to break down just why data is so important, what security there is to keep your data secure and what you can do to keep yourself secure.

 

So why is data important?

Well, put simply, these days data is worth its virtual weight in gold. Pretty much every business in modern times uses hordes of information to help them build products and market them to customers, collected from feedback and buying habits. Most of this data is completely anonymous and doesn’t contain ‘sensitive’ information such as names, addresses or credit card details. However, it’s still useful for everything from recommending content to watch next, like on TikTok or YouTube, to targeting people with specific ads or products.

However, for some shady groups, anonymous data just isn’t detailed enough. That’s why modern hackers often target a company’s data instead of going straight for their money. In many cases, any data they can steal can be sold in huge quantities for more money anyway. If you’ve ever received spam emails, scam phone calls or even had someone copy your credit card, there’s a chance your information came from a hacker. The current controversy around TikTok and other apps is around similar data being potentially used for political reasons or to track and monitor the daily lives of people. In short, data is serious business.

 

How is my data kept secure?

As data becomes a new global currency, data security has evolved to keep up. Data encryption is our biggest defence against theft; this is a bit like codes in old spy movies where the real information, like a phone number, is replaced by a set (or many sets) of new numbers that only the security system can read. On top of that, if you use a lot of apps, you might have used something called Two-Factor Authentication (TFA). This is where the app asks you for both a password and then an extra code either from a text message or another app. TFA works on the idea that it’s much less likely a data thief could get both your password AND your phone at the same time.

 

What can I do to keep my data secure?

The big thing to remember is this: Encryption, TFA or any other security won’t stop you giving away the data yourself. Even just browsing a website generates data on you through the cookies installed in the site. Cookies are little bits of software which track how where you go on a website and how you use it, and can generate almost any kind of data without you ever realising.

 

Research is your best friend. It doesn’t matter if you’re signing up to a well-known website or an app that has been directly verified by Google or Apple, it always pays for you to check their data policy so you know exactly what data they’ll collect and how they’ll use it. Be careful about what cookies a website has; all websites should now ask you if you accept the cookies and give you the option to look at them first. Read through the cookies on a site if you’re not sure, and try to avoid sites that don’t give you that option.