If you have never been affected by a data breach or other Internet crime, it’s easy to overlook the importance of data security. However, it is now critically important to remain vigilant when it comes to your online presence. Gone are the days of easy-to-guess passwords used across all accounts. There are currently so many different variations of cyber crime that even authorities find it extremely difficult to counter.

Cyber crime involves hacking, malware (computer viruses), denial of service attacks and more. In 2016 alone, over 3.5 million cases of online fraud and around 2 million cases of computer misuse offenses were recorded. It’s a huge and expensive issue to combat, but there are things you can do to better safeguard yourself.

Data Security and What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

  1. Use complex passwords. Criminals and robots often try to guess passwords. Because of this, try to use complex passwords, and avoid using that same password across all platforms. If you find it hard to remember all of your passwords (who doesn’t?), use a password manager tool. New password alternatives — like fingerprints and facial recognition — are being used, but actual passwords are still the most prevalent.
  2. Update to the latest operating system on all of your devices. Operating system updates often include better data security features. When cyber criminals find a weakness to exploit, operating systems will quickly find a way to patch that weakness and roll out an update.
  3. Don’t share personal information online. Don’t share personal information — such as your birthdate — on social media profiles or elsewhere online. Information like this can be used to try to hack into your accounts.
  4. Use secure websites. Secure websites start with https://, rather than http:// (they also have a padlock symbol in the address bar). It is especially important to verify that you are on a secure website when making a purchase or filling out personal information.
  5. Be careful when using public WiFi networks. Public networks can compromise security. When using WiFi in a public place, never log into your bank account or enter other important passwords.

Data security is an issue that affects millions of people each year. From phishing emails to unfortunate computer viruses, hackers come up with new ways to attack innocent Internet users every day. However, taking a few basic precautions and educating yourself goes a long way.