Knowing how to protect digital data has become a big concern these days, what with the Russians and others hacking away. Even the most casual of online users worry that their personal information is not safe.

Four Ways to Protect Digital Data

Fortunately, keeping information safe is easier than you think. Here are four easy ways to keep your personal information out of the hands of those who would do you and your data harm.

1. Protect Passwords

You should password-protect your computer and all devices. If your device allows fingerprint ID (biometrics), that’s a great alternative and more secure than a password. In addition, all apps and programs should be password-protected.

The best passwords are those you change frequently. Unfortunately, changing passwords every two weeks or so can be both inconvenient and confusing. A password manager that stores all your passwords and is guarded by a single (memorized) master password is the answer. By the way, it’s a good idea to have that master password written down somewhere, but don’t tape it to your computer or on the back of your mobile device.

One top-rated password manager is Dashlane 4. The free version allows you to use it with only a single computer and offers no ability to sync with mobile devices or tablets. For $39 per year you can sync with multiple devices. Dashlane 4 supports PC, Mac, Android and iOS. (For more, see 4 Best and Safest Password Manager Apps for 2016.) 

2. Use Two-Factor Authentication

When available on email or other accounts, use two-factor authentication (Dashlane supports two-factor). With two-factor authentication, when someone tries to sign in to your email from a new device, that person will have to enter a code that is sent to your phone via text message. Two-factor authentication can also be set for social media accounts, but using it for email is critical, as that’s where password-recovery messages arrive, not to mention much personal information. 

3. Lock Up Your Computer’s Hard Drive

Most people worry about what happens to information they send or receive over the internet. You should also be concerned about someone gaining access to your computer at home or at work. The newest versions of Apple’s iOS operating system and certain versions of Microsoft’s Windows OS offer a way to encrypt everything on the hard drive of both your laptop and desktop computers. This way, if someone accesses or steals your computer, your data remain unavailable. For Apple, the system is called FileVault, and for Windows it is called BitLocker

If your Windows OS does not include BitLocker, another recommended program is DiskCryptor. This program lets you encrypt the system/boot volume as well as all internal and external drives. Best of all, it’s free. 

4. Encrypt Text Messages

Good encryption is nearly impossible to decode. Make sure that the text and SMS messages you send are encrypted. One way to do that is by using Signal – Private Messenger from Open Whisper Systems. The Signal platform is available for both the iOS and Android operating systems; it allows the use of emoji’s, pictures and group texts and has a stellar encryption system. One caveat: You and those with whom you text must use Signal in order to communicate. On the plus side, Signal is completely free. 

The Bottom Line

In this Wikileaks world, protecting your digital information has become a genuine concern. Simple steps – protecting passwords, encrypting hard drives and text messages and using two-factor authentication for your social media and email accounts – can go a long way toward keeping your personal info safe from prying eyes. (For more, see Online Banking: Your App Is Safest.)




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