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19th July 2023

How can you keep data secure online

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Your data has never been more important – or valuable. Data has become currency for big companies, making it valuable to scammers and fraudsters. This means protecting personal data and keeping your information secure is more important than ever.  It’s something at we’re always looking at and working on ways to make our valuable service even more secure than ever and to help you prevent fraud.

This article will look into what types of personal data you might need to secure as well as ways to protect your data online.

Examples of personal information

Your personal information is everywhere on the internet. It could be your address added to a sign up form or your age when you access an age restricted website. In the UK, the GDPR regulations were introduced to help protect your personal data. GDPR has quote specific rules on what is classed as personal information:

  • Any information that can be used to directly identify a person
  • Any information that can be used in conjunction with other data to indirectly identified someone

This means anything from names or address can be classed as personal data. But, it can also include more specific data, such as any criminal conviction, offences data held on you or a person’s position in a business. Even pseudonymised data is still classed as personal data.

Basically, unless you can make it so the person is totally anonymous even with the data, then GDPR applies. It does not cover deceased people.

Personal data for this piece covers:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Home address
  • Bank details
  • Email address
  • Criminal convictions
  • Working status
  • Identification numbers
  • Online identifiers such as cookie identifiers or IP address

Cookies and personal information

A cookie is an identifier that tracks your progress through a website. Cookies fall under the GDPR rules as they are classed as a persona identifier. Basically, they allow the website to remember what you’ve done – your settings, passwords, browsing preferences, targeted advertising, and tracking.

Today, you’ll get a Cookie pop-up asking if you allow them to track you for marketing purposes.

How to clear cache and cookies

If you want to start afresh without any cookies stored, then you need to clear your cache. This is basically all the information stored on your via cookies. Go to your settings, click privacy and security and then clear browsing data. You can choose to delete your browsing history, cookies and cached images. Remember, if you do this any auto-sign in sites will be cleared and you’ll have to log in again.

You can also control your cookies from the same menu, setting default behaviour on allowing / blocking cookies and blocking cookies in incognito browsing mode.

13 ways to protect your personal data

There's a lot of consider when protecting your data – from who you share it with to the security of device you access. Here are our top 11 ways to protect your personal information while online.

1. Choose a strong password

Passwords are your key to your data. If you give someone else your key, they can access everything from bank account numbers to sensitive emails. There are websites that can help you choose a strong password, but the key recommendations as to what makes a strong password are to:

  • Use a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Avoid predictable passwords such as birthdays or common words.
  • Change them regularly.
  • Don’t use the same password for different sites

2. Adopt two-factor authentication

Two forms of defence are better than one. When you enable two-factor authentication you combine a strong password with a second form of identification usually biometrics (face or fingerprint) and a one-time access code sent to a phone or apps.

3. Update software

When you update your software on your computer or phone, you’ll usually see that many of the updates are security patches. These might not be as exciting as a new operating system but they are just as vital when keeping your online date secure. Keep your operating systems, antivirus software and applications updated.

4. Beware of Phishing

Phishing is scam emails trying to get you to hand over personal data or clicking on something that gives fraudsters access to your computer so they can directly access your passwords. Always verify the source before clicking any links or providing personal information. Read more about fraud prevention.

5. Use secure network

Finding a café has Wi-Fi is great – but how much do you know about the connection? Is it secure it could someone access it? If you don’t trust then but need to get online, use a trusted Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your data.

6. Monitor any accounts

While updating and changing your login details should be on your regular to do list, you should also add a quick audit of any important sites for any suspicious activity. This could be payments you don’t remember, purchases you’ve not had or people using it from strange and distant IP locations. If you do find anything, first change your password. Then inform the website of the activity. Often, you’ll get an email if someone logs in form an unknown device or location or tries to change your password. If you do get such an email, don’t click on any links as the email itself could be phishing. Simply visit the website directly and check for activity.

7. Protect social media accounts

Fraudster involved in social engineering can use personal data shared on social channels to build up a fake version of you. This can include details like children’s names, place of birth, address etc that could even be used to change your passwords using security questions. It’s worth reviewing your privacy settings to limit who can view your personal information.

8. Dispose of personal information properly

Not all data theft takes place online. If you’re getting bank statements, invoices or bills sent to your home or work address, you need to make sure you’re disposing of these correctly. Shred documents before disposal to prevent scammers getting your address.

The same applies to items like old computers, old phones, hard drives, even USB sticks. Make sure they are wiped clean before disposal.

9. Use reliable identity verification services

Services like UKPhonebook can help validate the identities of the people you're dealing with, providing an extra layer of security. This can be through person verification, age verification, mobile verification or even home ownership verification.

Colin Frith, Head of Business Development at says: "Verification tools are highly useful when looking to discover whether someone is who they claim to be. This is especially important if you’re doing business with someone new."

10. How to keep data on a USB stick secure

USB sticks can easily fall into the wrong hands due to their portable nature. Here's how you can keep your data safe on a USB stick:

  • Encryption: Use software to encrypt an entire USB stick. This makes the data inaccessible without the correct password.
  • Antivirus: Scan USB sticks with well-known antivirus software to ensure it's free from malware.
  • Don't use them for sensitive data: If possible, avoid storing highly sensitive data on USB sticks. If you must, ensure the data is encrypted.
  • Physical Protection: Keep USB sticks in a safe place to prevent it from being lost or stolen.

11. Look over your shoulder

Whether you’re on a train finalising a pitch, in a café working on some spreadsheets or hotdesking at an unfamiliar office it’s worth being aware of people around you. Especially if you’re logging into your laptop or any accounts. Use a privacy screen on your laptop if you’re often working out and about. And make sure to lock your screen if you nip out for a toilet trip or quick coffee.

12. Use shared devices with caution

If you’re sharing your device – either quickly at work or on a more permanent basis in a shared office space – then make sure you always log out of your account. Avoid using an auto-fill options as well.

13. Educate yourself

If you want to protect something valuable online or are often using sites that could be untrustworthy for work, it’s best to stay on top of the most recent threats and protection methods. By understanding potential risks, you can take the appropriate measures to protect your personal data.

Conclusion: How to protect yourself online

Protecting your online data comes down to two main tactics: being aware of who you are sharing your data with and making sure you have the correct defence in place and up to date. If you follow these two rules, then you should be able to go about your business safely.

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