In a world where data breaches make the news headlines on an almost daily basis, it’s important that you take steps to secure your data and sensitive information.

Many of the world’s biggest brands have suffered some kind of data breach, resulting in customer data losses and other consequences, so we’ve written this guide to help you reduce the chances that your personal data will fall into the wrong hands.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Data Protection

Here are 5 simple steps to follow to keep your personal data safe and secure.

1. Use Strong and Different Passwords

Your data is only as secure as the website you’re using. If you use the same password for a website that gets hacked, all of your other accounts are potentially vulnerable.

Password managers, such as LastPass, can help you by automatically generating different and complex passwords for all of your online accounts. Make sure that your master password is complex and memorised or you won’t be able to access it.

2. Two-Factor Authentication

Many websites now support two-factor authentication, this allows you to enhance your security by requiring your password and another form of authentication, such as your mobile, using a unique code, biometric print or voice recognition. If someone does get hold of your password they will need your personal device as well to render the account accessible.

3. Encryption

Encrypting your data on your laptop, tablet or mobile is key if this device is lost, even more so if you store data in the cloud. Encrypted data requires a unique key to unlock it and with your Apple devices it can be destroyed remotely if the device is lost or stolen.

If you use cloud storage then look for data encryption tools that can be used in combination with your chosen provider. For Dropbox, there is a tool called SafeMonk, which encrypts your files before uploading them. These files are useless without the SafeMonk client to decrypt everything into a readable format.

4. Antivirus Software

Antivirus software is key for protecting your computer. Make sure you use a reputable provider, which is regularly updated and capable of setting up scheduled scans. You can follow all of the steps above to be secure, but if malware is installed on your device and not detected, then your data can be leaked remotely, and easily.

5. Payment Caution

Whenever you pay online, make sure you are using a verified site, which is secured using TLS 1.1 as an absolute minimum (most browsers will now enforce this).

Whenever you pay in-store, make sure you cover the PDQ machine when entering your PIN, the same goes for cash machines. A quick look around the machine for any cameras, overlays or card scanners never goes a miss.

Whenever you pay by phone, make sure you are speaking with the correct company and that you dialled the number on their website. Be cautious making a payment on calls made to you, a reputable company will not mind if you ask to call them back.

If the company is using a Dual Tone Multi Frequency (DTMF) solution, which allows you to type your card number into the keypad without the tones being heard by the agent, you can be safe in the knowledge that the company has taken proactive steps to secure your data.

Always be careful with your personal and financial data, especially online. Once it’s gone, the consequences can be devastating.