Guide to protecting your personal details

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Digital technology has made so many aspects of our life simpler and slicker. But it's also made access to personal details and data much easier.

Thankfully there are lots of basic measures anyone can put in place to keep data safe from prying eyes. Here are some simple and effective tips to keep your details safe, online and offline.

Online Security

The internet has changed our lives in so many positive ways but it's also led to a loss of personal privacy. As we browse and peruse websites, we create a digital trail with our every move monitored and logged. This means our personal data is at risk of entering the wrong hands. Here are some things you can do to make sure this doesn't happen. 

Backup data

Keeping copies of your digital data is one of the most basic ways to protect your personal information, but it's so often overlooked. Backing up your data means that it's safe if any of your devices are lost, stolen or damaged. Using an external hard drive is an easy way to do this.

Secure your wireless connection

WiFi signals often extend beyond the boundaries of your home, making it an easy target for hackers. It's a good idea to make passwords as secure as possible and use a mixture of letters, numbers, and characters. Beware of using public WiFi and if you do, ensure website URL's start with HTTPS rather than HTTP, as these are more secure connections.

Install anti-virus software

Malware (or malicious software) plagues many computers and it includes viruses, spyware and more. The best way to avoid malware is to install good anti-virus software. 

Change your passwords regularly

Make passwords at least 15 characters long and change them frequently. Importantly, don't store them close to any of your devices or write them down on the device itself. 

Be careful with emails

There are many hackers who attempt to trick consumers into sharing their personal details via email. As a rule-of-thumb, if something seems untoward, trust your instincts and speak to the company or individual directly if you're at all suspicious. 

Watch out for viruses

There are several signs that your computer may have a virus. Lookout for unexpected pop-ups, slow start-up speed and slow performance, an overactive hard drive, crashes and error messages. Missing files and a sudden lack of storage space could also mean there is a problem. 

Limit social media activity

Consider strictly limiting what you share on social media. Don't publish details such as where you live.

Have you ever wondered how other consumers feel about cybersecurity and the measures they take to protect themselves? Read the results from Europ Assistance's cyber and digital protection survey.

Offline Security

Offline security is often overlooked in today's digital age, but a paper trail can be just as easily accessed as a digital footprint. Here are some simple tips for keeping data safe offline.

Look into identity protection services 

Identity protection services can offer you extra peace of mind, safe in the knowledge that a reputable company is looking over your shoulder for you. These programs typically include identity and credit monitoring, suspicious activity alerts and protection insurance, as well as access to experts should you need any additional advice. Given data breaches reached an all-time high of 1,000 in 2017, it might be worth considering. Check out Europ Assistance Identity protection services

Backup documents

Scan important documents and save them on your computer so that you have both digital and hard copies of everything.

Always turn your devices off

Turn your digital devices off when you're not using them and consider buying a webcam cover for your laptop or computer. Even when you're not using it, it's possible for hackers to access a camera. Remember to turn off your Bluetooth by default as Bluetooth can be an open-door to attackers.

Change your passwords regularly

Changing your passwords frequently applies not only to online security but also offline. For example, this might include telephone banking passwords, safes, and any key or security boxes.

Smart home lock

Some traditional locks can be easy to break. If you have an older lock, consider replacing it with a smart device. There are many different smart locks available including those which use fingerprints for access, some which have a digital key and others which require a code.

Shred letters

Never throw out any important letters that contain personal details, as they can easily get into the wrong hands. Instead, shred or burn them. 

Cut up old credit cards

Identity theft is a real problem so instead of simply throwing out an expired credit card you should cut it up. This makes it harder for someone to extract any personal details from it.

Locked filing cabinet

Many of us keep our personal documents in filing cabinets. Ensure these are safe from prying eyes and burglaries by ensuring your cabinet stays locked.

Finally, limit what you carry when you're out and about. It's easy to get into the habit of having all cards and details in one place, so take some time to rummage through your purse or wallet and have a clear-out. Make sure you're carrying only what you really need.