Data Privacy Day – January 28th

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January 28th is Data Privacy Day (DPD). Since 2008, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) has led this international campaign in North America, to raise awareness of the importance of privacy and promote efforts to protect your personal information.

To mark the day, NCSA and TRUSTe, the leading global Data Privacy Management Company, have published their Consumer Privacy Index. Their Infographic has a lot of interesting statistics and shows that privacy and data security are on the minds of most people in one form or another but they don’t really know what to do about it.

To do your part on Data Privacy Day, take a few minutes to follow the advice of NCSA to make your data secure.

Keep your computer clean

While many Mac users don’t use anti-virus software specifically, you still have protection from the security built into OS X. If you are not running the latest version of your OS X version, today would be a good day to update. While you’re at it, make sure you are running the latest version of the web browsers you use.

Gatekeeper, introduced in OS X 10.7.5, is a great tool to help protect against installing potentially dangerous software, but there are times when you might need to by-pass it or turn it off to install software that was not signed by Apple. Now is a good time to check that gatekeeper has not been accidentally disabled.

USB flash drives are a convenient way to exchange files but they also pose the risk that a USB drive also contains malware or a virus. Be careful about what you plug into your computer. If you don’t know the source of the file, think twice before plugging it in.

Protect Your Data

You’ve heard it before, USE STRONG PASSWORDS. A recent survey found that the two most common passwords in 2015 were “password” and “123456”. Your best protection for websites are to use long and strong passwords. It is also recommended that you use a different password for each site.

To help manage all of these passwords, consider a Password Manager like 1Password or Dashlane. Both of these applications have consistently received high marks for security and ease of use and can synchronize your passwords between multiple devices.

If your computer hold sensitive data, consider encrypting your hard drive. Beginning with OS X 10.3, Apple introduced FileVault as a way to encrypt the User Home Folder on a Mac. Data was encrypted and decrypted “on the fly”. Beginning with OS X 10.7, FileVault2 was introduced which provided a way to encrypt the entire start-up volume.

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Be Careful Where and How You Connect

One of the easiest way to infect your Mac is through a link sent to you via email. Even if you know the sender, be cautious about clicking on a link. If the tone of an email seems strange or it’s not the type of message you would expect from the sender, check it out before you open it. You might be surprised to discover the sender doesn’t know anything about it either.

When connecting to you bank or on-lone shopping sites, look for the web address to start with “hhtps://” or “shttp://”. That is an indication that the business partner on the other end of the line has taken the proper precautions to make you connection secure.

As Wi-Fi becomes more available, we find ourselves connecting in more and more places. When using public Wi-Fi, be caution about what you do on your computer. You never know who may be watching. Stay away from logging into your bank or credit card company sites. Even if they are using the security measures mentioned above, it’s possible for someone to intercept your log in credentials.

Stay Alert

Keep up to date about the latest trends in computer security as well as the latest scams. Web sites like StaySafe.org are a great for following the latest trends and issues. Be wary of emails or web sites that demand immediate action. No, that email from the IRS telling you to pay an overdue tax bill by going to Western Union right now is not real. It doesn’t matter how official the web page looks.

And finally, back up your computer! In the event the worst happens and your Mac is compromised, a recent clean backup is the easiest way to eliminate the problem and start over. Portable hard drives like the WD My Passport Ultra or the Seagate Backup Plus for Mac are great options that allow you to easily transport you back up data at a reasonable price.

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