Kick Off 2013 with Online Privacy in Mind

Back in August, a Forbes article pointed out 10 simple ways to protect your privacy. The full list included:

  1. Password protecting devices
  2. Putting a Google Alert on your name
  3. Signing out of email and social networks when done
  4. Being wary of giving out your personal information
  5. Encrypting your computer
  6. Turning on 2-Step authentication in Gmail
  7. Using cash for embarrassing purchases
  8. Changing your Facebook settings to “Friends Only”
  9. Clearing your browser history and cookies on a regular basis
  10.  Using an IP masker

This list that is just as applicable today as it was in August, but as we kick off 2013, I want to highlight some additional ways to improve your privacy online. Below are 5 tips – McAfee’s online privacy New Year’s resolutions – to include in your plans for 2013.

1.     Download a mobile security solution (and use it)!

A recent report from Flurry Analytics estimates that more than 50 million new mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) were activated over the holidays. Hackers and scammers are already taking these figures into consideration and creating viruses that specifically target phones and tablets, so it’s critical for users to find reliable mobile security solutions for their new devices right away.

McAfee offers a great package in McAfee All Access, which provides seamless protection across all of your devices, including PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets. It can be a nightmare to have your smartphone or tablet stolen, but a security solution will prevent the private information stored on your phone from being accessed by thieves. You can also opt for a mobile-focused security package like McAfee Mobile Security for peace of mind on your mobile device. No matter what security solution you choose, the software should be able to remotely wipe your device, as well as track it down with the phone’s built-in GPS.

2.     Be wary of scams through social media

Just about everyone and their grandmother is on Facebook and Twitter these days. With so many users, social networks are perfect targets for scammers looking for rapid results. The McAfee Labs™ team recently uncovered another Facebook scam involving a fake YouTube video spreading through curious users clicking on the link from friends.

These scams are commonplace, but users are still falling for the same tricks. Make sure that you’re not a victim by never clicking on random links—even those from friends—and stay alert and aware of suspicious activity. If you’re infected, immediately change your password and alert your friends and followers of the scam.

3.     Use a unique password for all accounts and change them regularly

You have probably heard this piece of advice, and I’ve given it out many times myself, but it is definitely one of the most effective ways to guard your privacy and online accounts. Using a unique, complex password for each of your accounts can keep you safe in the case of a breach or ID theft, and until a more effective method is implemented, password management is your best bet at security.

A secure password manager can be your best friend in this endeavor, eliminating the necessity to juggle dozens of passwords. McAfee SafeKey is a cross-platform password manager that allows all McAfee All Access subscribers to seamlessly access their accounts. Whether you’re working on your Mac, PC, smartphone or tablet, SafeKey protects your passwords and guards each of your accounts.

4.     Regularly review your social network’s location and privacy settings

Do you allow your Twitter account to display your location for your tweets? How about your Facebook account? If you’re letting your channels disclose your location for each and every update, you are compromising your security with each tweet and post. Imagine tweeting that you’re spending a week away from home with no one housesitting. You’ve just let anyone listening know that your home will be a sitting duck for a week. Couple this with the increasingly tricky privacy settings for social network accounts, and you have a prime security threat.

This year, make an effort to stay on top of social media security and privacy settings and turn off the geo-location option on your mobile devices. In the same vein, double-check that only friends can view your Facebook page, and consider using a higher privacy setting with the new Facebook messaging policy.

5.     Avoid public or open Wi-Fi

One of the most tempting things to do with a new mobile device is to take it out and connect to a free Wi-Fi connection at the coffee shop, airport, library, and many of the other locations offering free Internet access. Before you embark on your next mobile adventure, remember that every time you connect to a public or open Wi-Fi network, a hacker on the same network could intercept the information passing through your device.

If you do end up connecting to an open network, make sure you never access bank or credit card accounts or send personal or private information in any correspondences. If you absolutely have to use public Wi-Fi, make sure you log out of all accounts, and never use the “Remember Me” function on both PCs and mobile sites and apps. While this security best practice is particularly important on public connections, it’s always a good idea to log out of accounts any time you’re done using them – even while at home.

What are some of your security resolutions for 2013? Tell us in the comments section below, and follow us on Twitter @McAfeeConsumer for the latest in security news, updates, and events.

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