10 Top Tips for Keeping Your Personal Data Safe

Portrait of Robert Godfrey
Robert Godfrey
Partner, Head of Professional Negligence and Dispute Resolution

Cyber security probably doesn’t cross your mind as you’re scrolling through your apps, but many of us will be affected by a hacker or data breach at some point in our lives.

Some scams can fool even the smartest people because they sound very convincing, so anyone can get caught out. Some examples of the ways scammers try to get personal data include:

  • Trying to guess your password
  • Pretending to be a company you hold an account with e.g. your bank
  • Presenting you with an offer that looks like a good deal e.g. a holiday

With technology being such a big part of our lives, it’s very important to know how to keep your data safe.

10 Top Tips for Keeping Your Personal Data Safe

  1. Use strong passwords

Using a password that’s hard to guess it’s the best defence you can use. Some websites will even have a fixed strength requirement that your password must fit.

Usually this includes a combination of:

  • Uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Numbers
  • Symbols

Many people make the mistake of using their beloved pet’s name as a password, but these are usually easy for hackers to guess. Instead, try to use a random combination of words and numbers that you’ll remember.

Most browsers give you the option of saving passwords for websites, which can be a useful option if you’re worried about remembering them. Don’t worry – this is perfectly safe. Just check the password settings in your browser.

Don’t use the same password for all your accounts because if one account gets hacked, then this compromises all the others.

  1. Don’t fall for a scam

Scammers and phishers will use all sorts of techniques for tricking people, including emails, texts and phone calls. They can be very sophisticated, even going as far as perfectly replicating a company’s logo in an email.

Keep a look out for clues such as incorrect spellings and unusual looking email and web addresses. Don’t click any links or attachments unless you’re absolutely sure it’s legitimate. Remember, bank providers will never ask for your bank details over email.

And if you’re sent an offer that looks too good to be true, remember that it usually is.

Be wary about answering phone calls from suspicious numbers too. If you do pick up and things sound phhang up straight away and block the phone number. You can also search phone numbers online to see if they’ve already been reported as a scam by other people.

  1. Keep an eye on your bank account

Most bank are quick to inform you of any unusual activity on your accounts, but it’s good to keep on top of it yourself too.

If you notice any unusual transactions on your bank statements, contact your bank immediately and report it to their fraud team.

Make sure you always log out of a session if you’re using a shared device and don’t use the autofill form for bank details.

  1. Use two-factor authentication

You may have noticed some websites direct you to your bank provider to verify your account before completing a purchase. This is known as two-factor or two-step authentication or verification and it adds an extra layer of protection to your accounts.

The security feature is free and available on many different apps and websites, so it’s useful to have this turned when available.

  1. Check websites are secure

There’s an easy way to do this – just check for a little padlock symbol in the left-hand side of the search bar at the top of your browser window. This is usually a good indication that the website is safe.    

Sometimes, web browsers will send you a warning message asking if you want to proceed if they think the website seems suspicious. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is, but think carefully before deciding to continue.

You should also look out for other signs of phishing such as incorrect spellings or a change in the web address in the top search bar once you’ve landed on the page.

  1. Keep software and apps up to date

It’s good to have up-to-date anti-virus software installed on your devices to pick up on any cyber security threats.

You should also keep your mobile apps up to date as they’ll regularly be improving their cyber security. An easy way of doing this is to turn on automatic updates so you don’t have to worry about remembering.  

  1. Back up your data

Devices can get lost or stolen, which can lead to your personal information falling into the wrong hands. It’s good practice to back up your data regularly using online storage systems such as iCloud, OneDrive and Google Drive, or an external hard drive.

  1. Store your information somewhere safe

Sometimes we need to keep physical copies of documents but it’s important to keep these stored away somewhere safe, for example locked in a drawer at home.

Avoid carrying important information around with you unless absolutely necessary e.g. taking proof of address into a bank.

If you need to get rid of any documents, make sure these are properly destroyed by using something like a paper shredder.

  1. Log out of shared devices

Always make sure you log out of your online accounts when using any shared devices, even if this is at work or in the home of a trusted friend or family member.

  1. Think about what you’re sharing on social media

With social media being such a huge part of our lives, it can be easy to broadcast our lives without thinking about the possible repercussions.

Even if your social accounts are set to private, hackers can end up finding out personal information that you share online, so always think before you post anything that involves personal details.

If Your Data Gets Breached

Hopefully these tips will help you keep safe online, but unfortunately things can go wrong and personal data can get stolen. This usually won’t be through any fault of your own, but it can be very worrying.

If you’d like further advice about keeping your personal data safe, or if you want to make a GDPR Data Breach Claim, our Data Breach Solicitors are here for you. We deal with these claims on a No Win, No Fee basis.

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