Nerding out about online safety

I don’t usually get excited when social media marketers send me infographics and ask me to publish them on my site. See, most of the folks who do this are shilling some scare-tactics advice to try and get you to pay for weird services or products that you don’t need. So imagine my surprise and delight when I was sent an infographic that I actually think my clients and readers would find helpful!

…The suspense is killing you, right? Okay, here goes!

February is, apparently, Data Privacy Month. And data privacy is something that many of us are pretty lax about, even though we probably shouldn’t be! Here’s the quiz (in extra-long-scrolly infographic format, sorry) that puts a bunch of questions to you about your usual online data habits.

Data Privacy Month Quiz

Of course, this infographic was created by SingleHop, a company that helps other companies with virtual private cloud stuff, so they’ve obviously got a vested interest in spreading this kind of awareness, haha. But I think this raises some interesting questions that ought to help you adjust your online behavior to tighten up security.

I’m going to ask some non-quiz-related questions that will also get your data privacy juices flowing, if that’s a thing.

  • Don’t you hate it when you see tweets, Facebook posts, or emails from people whose accounts have clearly been compromised by someone trying to sell miracle diet pills?
  • Don’t you want to never accidentally shill miracle diet pills to everyone in your exhaustive Gmail contact list?
  • Don’t you feel weird about the possibility of someone logging into your OkCupid or eHarmony account, downloading your pictures, securing control of your dating presence, and wreaking potential havoc in your personal life?

I kinda hope the answers to all these are yes, haha. Mine sure are! So in addition to my many online dating safety tips, let’s talk about a few other steps you can take to cover your digital asses.

Use a password manager.

Seriously, this is such a great choice. Tools like LastPass and 1Password make it much easier to generate and store strong, secure passwords that are way beyond the stuff you usually come up with and memorize on your own. They also have apps and add-ins that work across many different computer, web, and mobile ecosystems, so once you’ve set things up right you’ve got everything accessible from anywhere you choose.

And by the way, these companies pay me nothing—not even an affiliate percentage (because I forgot how to generate affiliate links, haha). I just genuinely think they’re providing a helpful service that’s worth paying for.

Don’t use the same damn password everywhere.

SO MANY of us use the same password across multiple sites, right? Admit it! :) I used to be guilty of this myself, but I decided I needed to shape up when I really took my business seriously. Once someone has your email and password combo, they can safely assume that if they try that same combo across multiple sites, they’ll eventually find another one that lets them log in as you. Almost all the major credit card security breaches involved thief of usernames and passwords, not just credit card info. But those of us who used unique passwords are much less impacted.

Bonus points if you use different email addresses for each different login, too. And on that note…

Come up with (at least one) dedicated online dating email address

tl;dr—the email address that you share with people you’ve only just met online should not contain your name in the username (the part before the @) or in the display name (the name that shows up in someone’s inbox).

I talk about this some in my Tech Tips page, so check that out if you need help sorting this out. (I know it’s a tad outdated, so just ask me if you get confused.)

There are plenty of other reasons why a dedicated email address for online dating makes sense—but it’s also nice that, you know, a jealous ex who knows your shamefully predictable go-to password habits can’t easily log in and proclaim something nasty in your dating profile.

When possible, create logins via email, not social sites

Tons of sites and apps (ahem, Tinder) force you to log in via Twitter or Facebook. But many of them will also present multiple options—something like “Log in with Google+,” “Log in with Facebook,” “Log in with Twitter,” OR “Create an account via email/password.” Always pick that last option. That way, if a major social site has a data breach, or (more likely) this scrappy little startup app compromises your login data, you’ll only have compromised this one unimportant combo instead of compromising your entire Facebook presence, you know? (I also periodically go in and de-authorize various apps and sites from accessing my social media accounts.)

Call me paranoid, but I think following these steps are super-duper smart in this crazy digital age. Got any more tips you’d like to share?

Oh, and just for fun: I enjoy the @SwiftOnSecurity Twitter account. Maybe you will too.

Oh, and for even more further (and paranoia-inducing) reading, check out this FastCo article on lax security in dating apps. Yikes.

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