I found it very shocking, and intriguing at least, that only a few days after November 30th, that is, The International Computer Security Day, reports on hackers’  attacks on Google, Apple, and Microsoft, and stealing 2 million passwords from Twitter, Facebook and Gmail users’ accounts swamped both online and offline media. It was almost as if hackers were “celebrating” the security day, or “security year” (given all the security breaches this year). At the same time we were reading reports on NSA surveillance, new security strategies, and demands on government surveillance reform. While, on one hand, our personal data depend on those security strategies and surveillance policies, they also, on the other hand, depend on our own knowledge and security strategy. So, what can we do for our own protection?

How to pick a password: don’t use your pet’s name?

Do you have a word “blue” in any of your passwords? Do you use the same password for more than one website? Did you know that you should seek an advice from a red-haired women if you wish to protect your data online? These and many more flows of us humans related to internet security were researched and published by different studies indicating the most common mistakes we make. What seems to be the problem? An article, published on BBC, revealed the truth:“The number one conclusion from looking at that data – people are lousy at picking good passwords.” Apart from being lousy, we are also lazy, the studies showed. It is, in a way, understandable that we choose words and numbers that we can easily remember, and those are usually the names of siblings, pets, children, birthdays, wedding dates, etc. So, how to make a strong password?

“A good password would be a phrase or combination of characters that has little or no connection to the person picking it.”

Now that you know, remember, stop reusing passwords! Moreover, if you want to find out how predictable your passwords are, read this article and visit Telepathwords.

Do you read security policies and update your privacy settings?

More than 80 per cent of people use computers for work, or at work, and more than 50 per cent has at least one computer at home. The question is how many of those who use computers for work read their workplace’s security policies? If you work in a company that has one, reared it.

The privacy settings of social networks are changing whenever the network has an update. With this change, you need to be up-to-date with your privacy setting as well. Have you seen Jack Vale’s Social Media experiment? He used data from Twitter and Instagram to “freak them (people) out a little bit”.

So, do you see how can one easily see your personal information? If you wish to know more on this subject see: how to avoid losing control of your data online: the annual privacy audit.

How often do you update your security software?

I am pretty sure that some surveys also revealed how we are lazy when it comes to updating our security software. Making sure that the security software has the newest updates will protect us from getting malware or trojan horses that could steal our information. Although most programmes have automatic updates, it is necessary to check them from time to time. It will not take you more than 10 minutes to get the updates.

What do you do before throwing out your tech or are you eco-friendly?

How many of you remember to delete all important information from your computer or any other device before selling or trashing it? E-waste is both dangerous for environment and your privacy, unless you delete and secure your data. Important files are not just on computers, they are also part of registration keys, installed programmes, login information in web browser, etc. One should back up all the data onto USB drive, DVDs, or external hard drive. To securely delete data from your hard drive you need to use a specific programme, because neither deleting files from the hard drive, or recycle bin, nor formatting hard drive will delete those data.

As for being eco-friendly, keep in mind that 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed every year all over the planet, and that electronic products contain toxic materials that can be released into the air, thus, do not throw your computer, recycle, resell, or donate.

While we are on the subject of securing and deleting our personal information, you should also be very careful and insightful when it comes to choosing an agency or a person that support your tech devices.  Opt for trusted computer support specialists.

Are you connecting to trusted Wi-Fi Networks or any network you see?

Think twice before going online –networks with strange and ridiculous names, or the usual one such as Free Public Wi-Fi, which do not require a password, are not necessarily secure (most of the time these networks are not secured at all). I am not indicating that you should be paranoid every time you see a free Wi-Fi or, on the other hand, that you cannot trust them (sometimes secured networks are not to be trusted also), I am saying that you should adjust you setting (such as an automatic log into Wi-Fi hotspots).

These are the things we can do to protect our personal information, as for the rest, it is not up to us, unfortunately.