Enter your email and win a prize, let us know your age and
gender to qualify, tell us your first name and address - if
you browse the web, you have probably seen all the clever ways the
internet is trying to suck personal data out of you.
It is very likely that at some point you entered your name, email
or gender and ended up receiving tons of unnecessary newsletters.
Know this - it could have been worse. In the times of data leaks
and identity thefts it has become increasingly important to protect
your information online. Simplifydigital shows you how.
As delicious as they sound, cookies, or bits of data that your
computer stores temporarily, can leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Cookies are the reason why you can automatically log in to your web
email or social media platforms after submitting your password and
clicking Yes, you want the browser to remember your password.
While this may simplify your browsing experience, you also risk
being a victim of "data mining", where masterminds collect
information such as the sites you accessed, how frequently or how
long you stayed on a page. This data may later be used for targeted
marketing without you even knowing it!
What to do?
Blocking cookies entirely will make some sites non-functional.
This is why it's simply better to clear browsing data every now and
again. Every browser has this feature, some call it "clear
history", and others "delete cookies and other site data".
If you feel that you need to be in control of the
cookie-dropping process, you can download cookie management
software, for example Internet Junkbuster Proxy, or set your
browser to notify you prior to every cookie-drop.
Don't think that entering basic information will have no
consequences. Entering competitions gives advertisers an
opportunity to use your precious data and infest your personal
email with newsletters and advertising, so don't be surprised if
you start getting newsletters that you didn't sign up to as you
probably did so unknowingly.
What to do?
It's crucial to separate your personal e-letters from marketing
newsletters. If you can't help but enter competitions and draws,
set up a special side email address for this activity, preferably
with a nickname. This inbox is likely to be packed with newsletters
and spam, so as soon as it gets too much, you can simply delete it
and start afresh. Do not, under any circumstances, reply to spam
emails as the next email may come with a nasty virus as an
With the rise of social media, keeping your information safe and
private has become tricky. After all, these networks have been set
up to do just the opposite - share your life. You can control what
gets published and who sees it to an extent. If you play a Facebook
game or join a group, your details will automatically be sent to
Unfortunately, you have no control over this - the only thing
you can do is not play or join. Having said that, you can maximise
the safety of your online activity but you can't guarantee it. Have
a look at the insert below to find out how a new trend, doxing, can
gather data that you, yourself unconsciously supplied.
What to do?
While it's wise not to add people on Facebook who you don't
know, you might be tempted to simply because you'd like to raise
the number of likes or followers. This is why it is best to avoid
adding general information such as your mobile number or your exact
address to your profile. You can also personalise your privacy
settings by choosing your page not to be displayed by search
engines, restrict who can view your photo albums or simply not
upload certain photographs. You can also opt out from the "check
in" option which publishes your exact location. Do you really want
a bunch of strangers or e-friends to know where you are likely to
go every Sunday?
The "Doxing" Trend
Social engineering and doxing have become very popular methods of
obtaining private information. It is worth saying that it is not
illegal to dox as you will be getting data that your target has
voluntarily left online, for example on a social media
Using that information to blackmail or send out threats is
There are a few ways that overly keen "researchers" can get hold
of private data: if they obtain an IP address, email, name, surname
or even image, doxers can use various websites which can help them
access their target's online information.
While doxing is more of a one-sided way of getting dirt on
people, social engineers will speak to their victims online or in
person and manipulate them to voluntarily give their details such
as address or phone number.
Although there is no certain antidote to doxing, following
Simplifydigital's tips to protect your personal data online will
certainly minimise the risk.
Clicking on pop-up windows has never been a good idea as it may
result in your personal information being stolen. Inquisitive
bosses, marketers hungry for new flesh, scammers and spammers are
all queuing up to get their hands on your data for various reasons
including forcing you to buy unnecessary garbage, stealing your
identity, compromising your bank details or even blackmailing
you. By voluntarily accessing dubious pages, you are opening
the door for malicious scripts to gather your personal
And the worst part is that no-gooders can simply sit back and
relax as you are the one who's doing the clicking for them.
What to do?
First of all browse safe and don't click on dodgy looking links
even if they say: You've won a million, click here to collect your
glorious check. It's a good idea to set up a pop-up blocker and
make sure your antivirus is up-to-date. This will lessen the
possibility of catching spyware, adware, Trojans and 'keylogger
viruses', which read what you type and feed back to hackers so they
can steal your logins and passes.
It is also a good idea to download basic encryption software
such as Pretty Good Privacy which converts your data into code
which is almost impossible to crack for third party vultures. You
can also use an "anonimising" (i.e. Tor or Anonimizer) programme
which makes it infeasible to track down your PC's unique IP
There are dangers lurking in some dark corners of the online
world. However, if there wasn't any secure web page at all, online
shopping wouldn't have become as popular as it has. "Secure" means
that the data you enter gets encrypted therefore impossible to
crack, snatch or steal.
Popular shopping sites are the safest ones to use and it is
better to steer clear of lesser known suspicious looking sites, no
matter how great their products and prices seem to be. Also, when
buying something or filling in an official document, it is wise to
know when exactly it is safe to type in your credit card or
What to do?
With your credit card in hand, make sure you look at the URL box
prior to entering the bank account number. If you see a small
padlock icon and "https://" rather than "http://", this means that
you have now entered a secure part of the site (the extra "s"
stands for "secure"). If the "s" is nowhere to be found, make sure
you manually type it in and hit enter. If the website loads after
that, it might have just been a technical glitch on the merchant's
behalf. If it shows an error page, it's better to reconsider making
that purchase and find a website which supports secure
You probably wouldn't give your personal details to a random
person you just met on the street, so why would you do so online?
"New" web buddies or dubious potential employers may ask you for
basic information such as your name and surname or email address.
While some may genuinely be interested in employing you, others
might be grudge-holding "social engineers" who are keen on getting
your data to later use against you - for example threaten to
publish an embarrassing image all around the web or forward it to
What to do?
Don't give out personal data too easily to chat buddies who
appeared out of thin air. If this "potential employer" is who he
says he is, google his or her name as well as the company name and
check, letter by letter if the email addresses completely match. If
they don't, ignore all emails, texts or instant messages from this
As the saying goes, in life you are what you eat but in the
digital sphere you are what you browse.