5 Safety Precautions for Backing Up Your Data Online
With the increasing number of internet users, hackers now have more online data to steal. Due to this spike, even the U.S. federal government had to implement a research and development unit to deal with the increasing cyber threats. The team was responsible for developing plans to formulate policies and develop technologies that minimize online data risks.
If such an agency went to all that trouble to ensure their data remains protected, how about regular internet users who are even more vulnerable? Often, we use the internet carelessly, not minding which information we give out or who we give out the information to. This level of carelessness makes the protection of valuable personal data difficult and, in some cases, impossible. Backing up your data online can expose you to several security breaches if you do not take proper precautions.
While the internet can expose you to threats that can cause irredeemable damages, you can make some effort to protect yourself. Here are five safety precautions you must consider when backing up your data online.
1. Never Save Your Financial Information Online
Shopping online comes with a lot of conveniences but can expose you to internet scammers and hackers. Many online shopping platforms encourage you to save your credit card information on their website. Of course, they mean no harm. They only want to save you the stress of inputting your credit card information every time you shop on their platform. Unfortunately, despite these platforms promising to safeguard your information, some hackers can take advantage of the slightest security vulnerability. Such hackers can gain access to credit card information saved on e-commerce websites.
It is best to take the pain to enter your credit card information each time you want to make a purchase rather than store the data online. If you can access this information at will, so can hackers, although it may take a little more time for them to access it than you would.
Securing your financial information online is not limited to e-commerce websites. There are other online platforms where you will need to enter your financial information or bank details before you can download, stream, or have access to their contents. Examples of this are Netflix, iTunes, Boomplay, and even Google Playstore. Make sure to remove your financial information from all of these platforms once you’ve completed your purchase.
2. Create Unique and Strong Passwords
One of the main reasons for backing up your data online is to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing them. Cloud storage platforms like Google Drive allow you to grant access to your online data to whoever you want. Although they can only access the data, they don’t have permission to modify the content except they enter a specific password. Using a single password for every account you create online is wrong and can potentially expose you to an undesired privacy breach.
There are several ways you can create a strong and secure password. These days, some websites make it compulsory that your password comprises of a letter (a compulsory combination of uppercase and lowercase letters), a number, and an alphanumeric character (like *, #, $). Passwords created this way are considered strong and unique and will be difficult for just anyone to guess.
Another tip for creating a strong password is to think of a sentence that is easy for you to remember. It may be a popular quote from your favourite writer or something else that comes easy to you. Use the first letter of the word in variance of both upper and lowercase letters. For instance, ‘I would love to visit the White House very soon’ can be coded as 1wL2vTWhvS. This would be a strong password, unique to you and difficult for anyone else to guess.
Most websites also require that you choose a password that is at least eight (8) characters long. All of these are just to ensure that your online data is not accessible by anyone else except you willingly grant them authorization to the data.
3. Use Trusted and Updated Antivirus Software
Antivirus Software protects your device against malware attacks. Most antiviruses also have in-built web protection. This web protection monitors the sites you visit and sends you notification whenever you are redirected to an unsafe website. They also sometimes block out blacklisted websites automatically without sending a notification.
It is not enough to install a trusted antivirus. One thing most people fail to do with their antivirus is to keep it updated. You must know that cybercriminals are always creating new ways to bypass heavy antivirus security firewalls. Antivirus providers also update their firewalls to deal with new threats; this is why you should ensure that you keep your antivirus software updated.
Systems that run on Windows Operating Systems also have an in-built security system, Windows security. Keeping your windows security antivirus updated can also protect you against virus attacks (for windows users only).
Ransomware is one of the most dangerous threats you can encounter with your data. Hackers create ransomware to “hold your data to a ransom”. All your files and data are injected with a virus that modifies your files and adds file extensions such as “nile”. Unfortunately, changing the file extension will not solve the problem. You’ll have to pay a heavy ransom before you can retrieve your files, and the files will not be accessible unless you pay the ransom. Luckily, there are many antivirus software that offers protection against ransomware. However, most of them are not free, but they are not expensive either.
Protecting your offline data from ransomware starts with you protecting your internet activities by using the best antivirus you can afford. Free antivirus offers you limited protection for your data. You will find that paying for antivirus software is worth it.
4. Two-Step Authentication
Two-step authentication is also referred to as two-factor authentication or verification. To protect your online data sometimes, you require more than just passwords and usernames. Two-step authentication gives you an extra layer of security that your username and password alone cannot provide.
Two-step authentication sometimes requires you to provide a code to verify your identity after you have logged in with your username and password. In some cases, the codes are already generated and saved on the website’s database, but in most cases, the codes are sent to the phone number or email linked to your account. This code is valid only for a short period.
Security questions are also used for two-step authentication on some websites. In this case, you are allowed to choose from a list of questions and provide your unique answer. If you’re backing up sensitive data to the cloud and you want to keep cybercriminals out of your way, you should consider choosing a question to which no one else has answers to.
Whenever an online platform offers you two-step verification to secure your data, do well to opt in. Of course, it will take a few more seconds before you can log in to your account, but those few seconds can surely guarantee your privacy and security for your data. Setting up two-step verification is as easy as setting up your password and username.
5. Use a Paid VPN
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are tools that can help you maintain your privacy online and secure your data. While surfing the internet, your identity can be traced using your IP address. However, with VPNs, your IP address is shielded from spies and hackers. This is achieved by filtering your devices’ internet connection through the private server of the VPN instead of the internet service provider; this means that if your actual location is Japan, but you are connected to a server in the Philippines, a Philippine IP address will be assigned to your device, masking your actual IP address.
Whenever you are connecting to a public Wi-Fi, ensure you enable your VPN. Trackers who are on the same public Wi-Fi as you can track your internet activities. A VPN however shields you from such tracking. Any information shared on a public Wi-Fi can be retrieved by anyone who uses the same Wi-Fi. Hence, as much as possible, desist from sharing personal information over public Wi-Fi.
Free VPNs offer limited privacy and security for your data. Most free VPNs collect your data and store them up on their servers. Advertisers can buy these data from such VPN providers. This means that your data is not safe if you use free VPNs. Most paid VPNs offer a strict no-logging policy, which means that they do not store any of your data with them. Paid VPNs also provide the best security for your online data using the best possible encryption methods (usually AES-256 bit encryption).
Backing up your data online can only be safe if necessary precautions are taken to protect the data. Before you back up your data online or share any personal information with the online community, you must ensure that you invest some of your time, money, and effort. Using any one of the precautions highlighted above can save you a lot of headaches concerning your data’s security. Combining more than one precautionary measure offers even more protection.