The Difference Between Online Privacy and Security (and How You Can Protect Both)

–– 19 Oct 2020

Photo by Philipp Katzenberger on Unsplash

The terms “privacy” and “security” are often used interchangeably when it comes to discussing online data, and that’s understandable. Both are related to each other, and one (privacy) can’t exist without the other (security).

Still, they aren’t the same thing. Below, we’ll look at the differences between them, how they’re threatened, and some ways you can protect your online privacy and security..

What is online privacy?

Online privacy is your right to control the extent to which other people can see your data and what they do with it. It’s concerned with questions like:

  • What data should be collected?
  • Who should be able to see that data?
  • What can be done with the data?
  • How long should the data be held onto?

It’s important to be aware of what’s happening with your data when companies get ahold of it – this might shock you!

What is online security?

When it comes to data, security consists of the measures that actually protect your data from unauthorized access.

So if privacy is concerned with determining what data should be collected and who should have access to it, security is about enforcing those decisions through various measures. Some examples of security controls include:

Protect your online privacy and security

Now that we’ve covered the differences between online privacy and security, let’s look at six  threats you’re facing and how to protect yourself from them. 

1. Oversharing on social media

The information you freely share on social media platforms can attract and be used by cybercriminals.

What to do

Don’t share personally identifying information on social media. This doesn’t just mean to avoid giving out your social security number. Even filling out your “About Me” section with your birth year or location could be enough to jeopardize your privacy.

Be careful about linking your social media account to third-party tools, too. They may not have the best security—as evidenced by several recent Instagram data breaches.

2. Phishing attacks

Many hackers will attempt to gain your information using phishing. Phishing involves sending you an email meant to look like a real message from financial institutions, stores, or other legitimate institutions. 

Most of these emails ask you to click a link to verify information (usually financial). Clicking the link takes you to a fake (but real-looking) page that asks for that info. If you provide your info, you’re giving it to scammers.

What to do

One way to see if it’s fake is to hover your cursor over the link to see if the URL matches the website in question. If not, don’t click. 

Also, your bank won’t ask you for this information over email. Log in directly through your bank’s online login portal to see if there are actual issues to handle. You can also always call your bank if you aren’t sure.

3. Weak password practices

According to the 2020 Verizon Data Breach Industry Report, about 80% of data breaches happen thanks to lost or stolen login credentials or using a bot to guess passwords.

What to do

You can help prevent your password from being stolen by making it stronger. 

Your password should be at least 10 characters long and consist of a combination of upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid using easy-to-guess personal information like your mother’s maiden name, pet’s name, or hometown.

On top of that, you should create a different password for every site you use. That way, only one account is compromised if someone gets a hold of a password.

4. Lack of search engine privacy

Google is the most popular search engine, but it isn’t the best in terms of privacy because it collects your search history and clicks. 

What to do 

Consider picking a privacy-friendly Google alternative for added protection to your personal data.

5. Location tracking

Unless you specify otherwise, various apps on your smartphone will track the places you visit, by default. Makes you wonder who’s watching, doesn’t it?

What to do

If you don’t want your every location to be known, you need to turn off those settings now

6. Unprotected devices

When you get a new phone or computer, it’s important to take measures to protect it from threats. Without the right security, your device is an easy target.

What to do

Download and install software updates on your phone as soon as they’re available. Each update contains a variety of protections against new malware and other threats. Check out these privacy features in the Apple iOS 14 release to see what we mean.

Don’t use public Wi-Fi for anything important—such as banking—on your phone or laptop. Public Wi-Fi tends to have little security, making you vulnerable to privacy threats. Consider a VPN if you have to use public Wi-Fi.

Lastly, make sure your computers have robust anti-virus software installed, and don’t forget to install updates or renew your subscription as needed. 

Own your data

If this has you wondering how much of your data is out there and what you can do about it, it’s time to try TapMyData.

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