Improve Privacy & Security with 5 Easy New Year’s Resolutions

Philip Bates 30-12-2015

It’s very easy to declare to the world that this coming year, you’ll give up smoking Taking Part in Stoptober? Five Places To Go For Help If you can quit smoking for 28 days, you're more likely to give it up for good, but it's tough. So what should you do when you're struggling to stay smoke-free? Read More , quit drinking alcohol, and buy some new underwear. But sticking to New Year’s Resolutions is difficult: a cigarette whiles away your lunch break; free alcohol is on offer at your friend’s bizarre Leap Year Party; and your other half assures you that socks with holes in them will be fashionable in the coming year.


However, there’s no excuse for getting lax with your online security and privacy.

Here are just a few simple things you should abide by in order to keep yourself safe.

Stop Tagging Your (and Others’) Location

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On Facebook, far too many people tag each other when visiting restaurants or cinemas, or going on vacation.

On the list of Things Not to Post on Social Networking Some Things Should Remain Private: What Not To Share On Facebook Ah, Facebook. The grandfather of all social networks, where we all share all sorts of weird things without a second thought. Despite its horrible reputation when it comes to privacy, Facebook still manages to lull... Read More , though, this should be high up.


Not only are you alerting friends that your house is empty, you might be telling thieves too. Your buddies won’t rob you, obviously, but it’s always a big risk putting such data online. It exposes you, and potentially even worse, you could be exposing someone else too.

Check your privacy settings Protect Yourself With Facebook's Privacy Check-up Tool Facebook has a privacy problem. It's no secret. You hear stories about that every other day. So to help users understand their settings better, Facebook has released a new tool called Privacy Check-up. Read More to see who can view your profile – which can include friends of friends, who might not be so trustworthy. Even if you’re perfectly secure, your friends’ profiles might not be, and so tagging them on a weekend away in Reykjavik isn’t such a great idea.

Know What to Shred


When sharing so much information 10 Things You Should Never Share on Social Media Be careful what you share on social media because you never know when something could come back and ruin your life. Read More on the Internet, and with perpetual tales of hackers attacking big companies like Ashley Madison Ashley Madison Leak No Big Deal? Think Again Discreet online dating site Ashley Madison (targeted primarily at cheating spouses) has been hacked. However this is a far more serious issue than has been portrayed in the press, with considerable implications for user safety. Read More and Moonfruit What Other Major Websites Can Learn from Moonfruit's DDoS Attack Moonfruit is the latest in a long list of online giants hit by hackers, but how they handled the threat was impressive. Indeed, other sites could learn a lot from how they handled the situation. Read More , you can forget about one big potential security risk…


Your trash.

Identity theft is horrendous; there’s no question about that. Your personal data can be used against you. It might be all you really have in life, but to criminals, Personally Identifiable Information (PII) – including name, address, and date of birth – is a small drop in the ocean when it comes to the Dark Web Here's How Much Your Identity Could Be Worth on the Dark Web It's uncomfortable to think of yourself as a commodity, but all of your personal details, from name and address to bank account details, are worth something to online criminals. How much are you worth? Read More .

To reduce the risk, avoid complacency. Credit cards naturally need shredding, but there are many seemingly-innocent documents you need to destroy Here Are 6 Pieces of Paper You Should Always Shred We know that important documents must be shredded, but complacency is easy: 'it doesn't really matter.' But should you go to extremes and destroy all records? Which documents do you really need to shred? Read More . Some, like bills, might seem obvious; others, like boarding passes, may come as a surprise.

Stand Up For Your Privacy!

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When it comes to complacency, this is an entirely different ballgame. And so many of us are guilty of it. The notion of letting Government agencies encroach on our rights is becoming increasingly prevalent. We figure, ‘I don’t do anything wrong, so why should I care?’ – especially when faced with threats involving terrorism or children being at risk.

So why should you care?

Comedian Frankie Boyle mulled over the so-called Snooper’s Charter How Britain's "Snoopers' Charter" Might Affect You British Prime Minister David Cameron intends to resurrect the "Snooper's Charter", a privacy-breaching set of new measures to enable enhanced monitoring of communications by the security services. Can it be stopped? Read More , UK legislation that would force service providers into keeping the telecommunication records of its users. In a brilliant opinion piece for The Guardian, he says:

“I suppose that we need to consider what our internet history is. The legislation seems to view it as a list of actions, but it’s not. It’s a document that shows what we’re thinking about. The government wants to know what we’ve been thinking about, and what could be more sinister than that? Perhaps we’ve got so involved in the false selves we project on social media that we’ve forgotten that our real selves, our private selves, are different, are worth saving.”

Furthermore, an adult filter that’s been rolled out The UK Thought Police Is Blocking You - Take a Stand! The British government has decided it wants to nanny the population by installing filters at the Internet Service Provider (ISP) level, yet 19,000 of Alexa's top 100,000 sites are in the list! Read More nationwide stops you accessing certain innocent sites, as well as NSFW material.


What’s more, there’s the National Security Agency (NSA)’s bid for backdoor encryption Tomorrow's Surveillance: Four Technologies The NSA Will Use to Spy on You - Soon Surveillance is always on the cutting edge of technology. Here are four technologies that will be used to violate your privacy over the next few years. Read More , allowing them easy access to your data. The Agency already has extended rights, thanks to the Cybersecurity Act, making it easier for communications data to be exchanged between the Government and the private sector, ie. service providers. To some extent, it’s much too late to do anything, despite privacy activists kicking up.

We need to kick up a fuss about these intrusions. It appears most Americans are resigned to mass record collection, and that’s very sad. Find your local representatives, and have your say. Even if you think it’s futile, surely standing up for what you believe is right will always be more favorable to simply rolling over. You could also turn to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

In the UK, you should contact your local MP. Try the Open Rights Group, Liberty Human Rights, or Privacy International. Have your say and sign petitions. It doesn’t take long, but you are at least making a stand.

Use Private Browsing

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We’re all familiar with private browsing, but many think it’s just useful for viewing adult content or ordering presents. Not so!

Your history is deleted, and so are cookies, temporary Internet files, AutoComplete data, and perhaps most importantly, any information you type into forms, including email, passwords and potentially address – essentially any data input required!

There’s even a Chrome extension that lets you simply switch to Incognito mode Incognito This: Turn Private Browsing On & Off With A Single Click (Chrome) Read More .

It’s far from perfect: pages you’ve visited will still be recorded by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), so you won’t be able to keep information private from Government agencies – if your browsing history is investigated, for instance – but Private does allow you to keep details secure from prying eyes using the same computer. This is about your privacy in relation to those around you, not those with the power of enforce any sort of examination of your Internet habits.

Tighten Up Your Passwords


Despite all the warnings, nagging, and general scare-tactics, many use just one, two or three passwords across every account. Because we figure, ‘hey, no one is ever going to guess that, so it doesn’t matter if I use it on multiple sites.’

This is flawed thinking.

Typically, people can’t guess your password How to Generate Strong Passwords That Match Your Personality Without a strong password you could quickly find yourself on the receiving end of a cyber-crime. One way to create a memorable password could be to match it to your personality. Read More , but algorithms might be able to. Look how Digital Shadow picks apart your Facebook Digital Shadow Exposes What Facebook Really Knows About You While it began as a mere marketing stunt, Ubisoft's Digital Shadow remains a very useful (and potentially scary) application that shows you how much people can find out about you from Facebook. Read More profile and throws password suggestions at you based on your likes and conversations. And it does it pretty fast too!

If a hacker managed to work out your password – just the one, even – what could he or she gain access to? Your PayPal? Amazon? How about eBay? Or online banking Is Online Banking Safe? Mostly, But Here Are 5 Risks You Should Know About There's a lot to like about online banking. It's convenient, can simplify your life, you might even get better savings rates. But is online banking as safe and secure as it should be? Read More …?

Worrying, right?

Vary your passwords. Mix it up a bit. Test them using software hackers use Test Your Password Strength with the Same Tool Hackers Use Is your password secure? Tools that assess your password strength have poor accuracy, meaning that the only way to really test your passwords is to try to break them. Let's look at how. Read More . On one hand, your concern will be forgetting them; on the other, someone else could spend to their heart’s content using your details.

Create numerous memorable passwords 13 Ways to Make Up Passwords That Are Secure and Memorable Want to know how to make up a secure password? These creative password ideas will help you create strong, memorable passwords. Read More . It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Making the New Year a Great One?

These are all easily achievable.

They’re simple resolutions that help make up the biggest resolution of all: to have peace of mind.

What other security tips do you have? What tech-based New Year’s resolutions are you making?

Image Credits: Shredder, 1990, by Mike Mozart; and Password by Automobile Italia.

Related topics: Facebook, Online Privacy, Online Security.

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  1. Anonymous
    December 31, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    "Stop Tagging Your Location"
    WHAT! And forego the pleasure of making your friends green with envy because you are luxuriating in some remote exotic spot?!

    • Philip Bates
      January 30, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      Photos after the event should do the trick ;)

  2. Anonymous
    December 30, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Passwords may soon be a thing of the past, but in the meantime, we should not use that word nor the concept anymore. Instead we should use "passphrases". Because 1. they are more secure and 2. they are easier to remember.
    So replace your passwords by passphrases & use a password manager to make things even easier on yourself & to further enhance your online security.