These are some steps you can take to protect your data and privacy from prying eyes and malicious individuals.
1. Use passwords wisely
Before you do anything else, make sure you’re using strong passwords to lock your devices and online accounts. It is also better to have different passwords for each of your accounts, so that if one is compromised the others will remain secure. Additionally, passwords won’t help if you store them on your device, so don’t keep them in a document on the device and resist the urge to select the "Keep me logged in" option in your web browser. Most importantly, no reputable organisation will ever ask for your password.
2. Be smart about your data
It's always a good idea to back up your data, so do it regularly. Also, try not to store scans of sensitive documents (e.g. ID, passport) and information (credit card statements, etc.) on your device, on the Internet or in cloud-based storage.
3. Protect yourself against identity theft
Keen on sharing your identity with a criminal? If not, guard against identity theft by disposing of sensitive paperwork safely, enabling SMS alerts on your bank account activities and take other important steps to protect yourself against this scourge.
4. Report fraud
It's also important to report the fraud to the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS). If your ID book and other sensitive documents have been lost or stolen, register them with the SAFPS via phone (011 867 2234) OR email email@example.com. You can also contact the Credit Ombudsman to resolve disputes with credit providers or agents. Most banks also have fraud divisions which can be very helpful and knowledgeable in cases where your bank account has been compromised. Check your bank’s website for the contact details should this happen to you.
5. Tighten up your social media settings
You know how important social media is to you. Your accounts are also pretty important to cyber criminals, so lock down your security and privacy settings to avoid data breaches.
6. Be cautious with apps
Smartphone and tablet apps are awesome, but not when they’re riddled with malware. Before you download anything, exercise caution to avoid malicious apps.
7. Watch out for phishing
Criminals often use email, SMS or other means to send you unsolicited messages asking for personal or sensitive information. You’re smarter than they are, so be suspicious and check whether it’s a phishing attempt.
8. Protect your finances online
If you’re a billionaire with no concern about losing money, then bank and buy online without any worries. But if you’re like the rest of us, remember to protect your finances by applying some basic safety techniques.
9. Protect yourself when using public facilities
When using public computers, take precautions to protect your privacy.
10. Dispose of your device properly
Upgrading your phone? Selling your laptop or tablet? Before you do, make sure you log out of all accounts, clear all passwords and remove all your data from it by doing a factory reset. And if you’ll be disposing of a sim card, destroy it before throwing it away.
11. Switch off
Battery draining too quickly? Try turning off your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you’re not using them. Not only will this extend battery life, but it’ll also protect your device from cyber criminals who want to snoop on you.
12. Use Wi-Fi carefully
Everybody loves free Wi-Fi – especially cyber thieves, who can use it to gain unauthorised access to your device. If you’re using public wireless signals, protect yourself by enabling built-in safety features, using a VPN and applying other safety measures.
13. Change your Bluetooth PIN
If you need to use a Bluetooth device in public (such as a headset), don’t leave the default security PIN as is. Change it to a more secure code that an attacker would have difficulty guessing.
14. Exercise caution with USBs
Although it’s easy to get things wirelessly nowadays, physical media – like flash drives – are still useful for large file transfers. But don’t just plug a USB device into your computer unless you’re sure that it’s virus-free. Even if you trust the device, as soon as you plug it into your computer, run a virus scan on it.
15. Cover the basics
16. Keep records
In all cases, keep printed copies of all documentation related to your case.
If disaster STILL strikes
Now that you’re clued up on a wide range of protective measures you can take, we hope that you will practice safe computing. However, criminals can be persistent, and despite all the precautions you take, there’s still a chance that they will target you.
If you do end up as a victim of cybercrime, read Phone stolen? Don’t panic where we’ve outlined what you need to do to get your stuff back, or at the very least, minimise the risks of your privacy being compromised and data misused.