5 resolutions you can make in 2019 to better protect your personal data:


1: Consider using a disposable email account

Rather than giving out your work email for everything, try using different accounts for different purposes. Or, better yet, use a disposable email account when signing up for discounts and mailing lists. Services like Mailinator allow you to create separate accounts and inboxes so those daily marketing messages don’t blow up your “real” inbox. They also help protect your main account from phishing and other scams.

2: Your data’s only as secure as your Wi-Fi

Whenever possible, you should use secured Wi-Fi networks. Secure networks encrypt your traffic, helping to prevent snoopers from seeing your data. Open, public networks, on the other hand, don’t protect your data by default. If you absolutely have to connect to an open, public Wi-Fi network, avoid sending any sensitive information (e.g., by logging in to banking or shopping websites) until you’re back on a secure network. You can also use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, which creates a secure “pipeline” for your data even over an open network. Ultimately, connecting to public Wi-Fi networks will pose some threat of exposure. There are several ways you can ensure a Wi-Fi network is secure:

-Check the URL: links with “https” are secure channels for information. These URLs encrypt data entered from your browser and share it directly with the secure site.

-Follow “The Rule”: if your operating system did not prompt you to enter a password simply to connect to a network, you are not on a secure network. 

3: Cover your webcam

Most smartphones and laptops come with user-facing cameras for video calls (and, more importantly, selfies). Even if you aren’t actively using it, those cameras are pointed right at you, and hackers have found creative ways to turn them on without your permission. Unless, of course, you keep the the lens covered when it’s not in use. Whether you use a sticky note, piece of tape, or a sliding cover, this may be the easiest resolution to keep all year.

4: Review your app permissions

When you first open or update a new app, you may be prompted to grant it permission to access your data—including your contacts, media files, and text messages. While you may be tempted to simply click “accept,” it’s important to really think about how much of your data you’re comfortable handing over. Do you really need to give your browser access to your camera? It’s worth double checking your app permissions to make sure you’re not sharing more than you need.

5: Be careful when sharing your location data

Speaking of double checking app permissions, definitely review which apps can access your location data. Most of the time, it’s probably not important (let alone necessary) to tell the app publishers where you are. Google Maps and similar apps have good reason to ask, but your games and productivity apps don’t. Some devices may also offer the option to universally disable location sharing.