How much of yourself do you share with the world? Do you take pains to keep your really personal information offline because you never know who’s watching? What if that’s not enough?

You can invent convoluted passwords to stymie hackers, you can install the latest firewalls and antivirus software, you can keep your email address and phone numbers off social networks. But, you can’t do anything about banks whose systems are hacked or about your friends who accidentally reveal a personal identifier online.

That doesn’t mean you should give it all up and give the world you PIN number and the password to your cheque account.


Protect your data

These days, people are very concerned about protecting their data online. They worry about hackers and viruses, and about search engines and marketers collecting, using and selling information about their search patterns.

And they are right to worry (although there is a line between appropriate concern and paranoia). But they shouldn’t forget about all the data that is available offline.

Ask yourself, what do you do with old bank statements – the really old ones? Do you run them through the shredder, cut them up into itty bitty pieces or just chuck them in the recycling bin? Your bank statements contain a wealth of personal information that cunning criminals can use to unravel all the details of your life and steal your entire identity, let alone all you money.

What you do with old utility bills? What do you do with those annoying letters that tell you’ve been pre-approved for store card at a store you’ve never been in?

If a department store can get your details, you can bet that a recreational hacker can do it quicker.


What else should you consider?

Where do you store your hard copies? Do you stuff them in a drawer, do you have a concertina file in the back of a cupboard, do you have an unlocked filing cabinet, or do you have a safe?

A thief with a particular goal in mind won’t find it too difficult to find your details if you keep documents in all the usual places. The least you can do is make it as difficult as possible to get hold of the information. Put locks on your filing cabinet. Buy a safe. Don’t keep documents in your sock drawer.

How much of your data is stored on your mobile phone? Is it secure enough that it won’t pose any risk if the phone is stolen? Mobile phones get stolen all the time. Sometimes they’re scrubbed clean before they find new owners. Sometimes curious thieves dig around before discarding unimportant information, but they might keep some stuff – like the pictures of your kids at the easily identifiable park that you frequent.

All your contacts, your texts and all your pictures, even your apps are data gold mines for someone of a certain bent.

That’s why there are data protection apps available, and why you should always have a password to access your phone. It’s also why you need to encrypt all the data you can, especially on your desktop and laptop.

You’re never going to make your data 100% safe. But many people are deterred if they have to work too hard to get what they want. So make criminals jump through fiery hoops, so that at least they have to earn your data – before your tracking system nails them, that is.

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