A new survey by security software provider Avira recently found that 40 percent of us believe that their reputation is squeaky-clean on the Internet. Roughly the same amount say they haven't a clue.
Either way, the data points up the fact that many of us probably aren't taking adequate measures to protect our private and personal information from unwanted online exposure.
The survey, conducted by Avira and Ruflotse, security software companies from Germany, reflects the responses of 1,555 of Avira's 100 million customers. Another finding that kind of freaked me out: 6 percent of the respondents said they agreed with the following statement, but didn't really care: "Be honest; is there any unpleasant or potentially damaging information about you on the Internet?"
The companies go on to offer these three tips as a means of addressing online privacy (yes, the tips are self-serving, but they are also general enough to be useful). I'm also twisting them slightly. To wit:
- Be more circumspect about the personal information you include in social networks. Do you REALLY need to publish the town you live in on your Facebook account? Shouldn't your real friends know that?
- Don't use the same password. Yes, I really hate this one like you do, BECAUSE I am notorious for forgetting my password, but there you go. Don't use the same password on multiple accounts. AND don't use the same password for your email and some other online site.
- Keep tabs on your identity and name across this Internet. So, when you are mentioned, you know about it.
I'd like to add a fourth tip:
- Routinely CHANGE your password. And, while you are at it, keep tabs on the accounts you are using and shut down the ones where you aren't active and don't plan to be active.
I have to be honest with you. I am not very good at this stuff myself, which just goes to show that even technophiles are challenged with this sort of thing . I have way more online accounts than I remember. If someone wanted to find me, it probably wouldn't take all that much sleuthing on the Internet.
That said, I exercise some pretty serious discipline about my passwords and other security measures, such as content filtering software and antivirus protection. I guess you could call me somewhere between cyber-sloppy and cyber-aware.
Where do you stand, especially in a society where hacking and attacks on personal privacy have become much more common?