Imagine your financial transactions, medical histories, innovative ideas, private chats, work discussions, and sensitive client details all exposed. What happens if this treasure trove of data falls into malicious hands? The consequences could range from identity theft and fraud to potential blackmail.
Unprotected, these details can be prey to cybercriminals who might listen in, alter encrypted messages, or exploit unguarded communication pathways with schemes like phishing, malware attacks, and other deceitful strategies.
So, how can you secure your personal communications?
1. Use Strong Passwords
Creating strong passwords and managing them properly follows typical cybersecurity best practices. This helps ward off potential data breaches and unauthorized prying eyes and minimizes the risk of identity theft and fraud.
It is advisable to assign intricate passwords that combine various elements, rendering them resistant to common hacking methods. Aim for a length of at least 12 characters, and steer clear of predictable choices like your surname or birthday.
You should also avoid common words and sequential numbers. You can use passphrases with seemingly unrelated words and blend in a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
To bolster your safety, maintain distinct passwords for different accounts. If remembering them all seems daunting, consider using a reliable and safe password manager.
2. Enable Multi-factor Authentication
Relying solely on traditional password-based security can leave you open to many cyberattacks. You can add an extra layer of defense if you enable more than one method of authentication. This could be in the form of the physical possession of a registered device like a token, an authentication app, or a biometric feature.
You may not want to do this with every single account you have. If so, create a list of your accounts that have sensitive information, like your financial accounts, email services, and other personal data.
Check out our explainer on what multi-factor authentication is and why you should use it if you’d like to learn more about this security method.
3. Use a Reliable VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) acts as a secure tunnel, encrypting your private information. This makes it harder for hackers to decipher your messages. Also, when you connect to public Wi-Fi networks, your VPN encrypts your connection to reduce the risks associated with unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots.
Your VPN also masks your IP address to prevent anyone from tracking your online activity. It helps you keep your digital footprint private. Here are the 5 best VPNs with RAM-only servers.
4. Use Public Wi-Fi With Caution
Public Wi-Fi hotspots typically lack the encryption and security measures you would use on your private networks. Threat actors can intercept your information over these channels. They can also use man-in-the-middle attacks to position themselves between your device and the network to either gain information or damage the integrity of the information you pass across.
Hackers can create fake Wi-Fi networks to give them access to your data. So, although convenient, you might be better off staying away.
However, if you can’t avoid using a public Wi-Fi connection, use a VPN, avoid conducting sensitive activities, only connect to known networks, and always use websites that use HTTPS.
5. Secure Your Emails With Encryption Techniques
Email encryption encodes the contents of your email so that only the receiver can decipher the information. It makes the content unreadable during transmission and only restores it to its original form for the recipient.
End-to-end encryption encrypts the content on your device using a unique encryption key, only allowing the recipient with the corresponding decryption key to access the content.
You can also use S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) as they use digital certificates to authenticate and encrypt your emails. Both you and your receiver would have valid certificates – ensuring the authenticity and confidentiality of the email content.
PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) is also a good alternative as it uses a combination of public and private keys for encryption and decryption. The users can exchange public keys while the private keys remain confidential—offering you a high level of security.
Additionally, you can choose secure email services that prioritize security and encryption, as well as encrypted messaging apps, to ensure secure communication with your contacts while using those apps.
6. Be Careful of Phishing Attempts
Phishing is a cybercrime social engineering strategy that threat actors use to deceive you into revealing sensitive information. They could come as deceptive emails, messages, or websites that look like legitimate websites. The information they could be looking for can be login credentials, financial details, or personal identification data.
You should also learn how to protect yourself from social engineering attacks. To protect yourself and your communications, verify the source of the email before clicking on any links. Additionally, look out for variations in the spelling of the company name or links. Avoid putting sensitive information on unfamiliar websites and use reliable security software like anti-viruses and anti-malware to block malicious content.
Also, try to educate yourself on common phishing techniques and evolving strategies to become more aware and informed.
7. Keep Your Laptop Safe
Aside from keeping your personal communication software safe through the above tricks and tips, you should also keep your physical possessions safe. Email scammers can gain access to private information by either directly going to your laptop or sneaking a peek while you log in to your accounts.
Remember to lock up your laptop when you’re not using it, always stay close to your laptop, update your anti-theft software, consider using privacy screens, and ultimately password-protect your devices.
Your Personal Data Is Worth a Lot
What you may not know is that personal data is worth an awful lot on illicit platforms, such as stolen data marketplaces on the dark web.
This is why cybercriminals are always looking to get their hands on your sensitive information. Use the tips above to keep your personal data out of the wrong hands.