Pitt IT Shares Tips for Online Protection for Data Privacy Day

Data Privacy Day — Monday, Jan. 28 — is an international effort that aims to spread awareness about data privacy and educate people on how to secure their personal information in a digital world. 

As the National Cyber Security Alliance points out, while we conduct much of our lives on the internet and on our connected devices, few people understand that enormous amounts of personal information is collected and shared. This data — from seemingly harmless details like places we want to visit around town or research on purchases we want to make — can be bought and sold by companies and used for both useful and harmful activities.

In advance of Data Privacy Day, Pitt’s Computing Services and Systems Development has provided the following tips for protecting yourself and safeguarding your privacy.

Preventing Identity Theft

Last year, 14.2 million people were exposed to credit card fraud and 158 million Social Security numbers were compromised.

Having your identity stolen can make you feel like the unwilling star of a horror movie. Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to stay alert, avert identity theft and leave the scaring to Hollywood.

  • Limit the number of credit cards you carry and never carry your Social Security card.
  • Keep track of documents containing personal information.
  • Check your credit report at least annually.
  • Watch out for phishing scams, and forward phishing emails as attachments to phish@pitt.edu.
  • Run up-to-date security software on your devices.

Using Social Media Safely

While social media accounts are fun and easy ways to stay connected with friends and family, it’s easy to forget to proceed with caution when posting to your profile.

Follow these tips to stay safe online:

  • Don’t post confidential information.
  • Do use social media to network.
  • Don’t share suspicious or unflattering posts about yourself.
  • Do post and share your interests.
  • Don’t spend too much time on it.
  • Do Google yourself, and opt out of data broker sites.
  • Beware of friend requests from strangers and links shared on social media.

Whether you want to post a selfie or share your latest accomplishments, following these steps will assure your safety online. Learn more about social networking safely at pi.tt/socnet.

Minding Your Smartphone Apps

Malicious apps — often requiring access to things like your contacts, camera, microphone and other components — are an increasingly common way for cybercriminals to compromise your devices.

Follow these six smartphone safety tips to reduce risks:

  • Download apps only from reputable sources such as the Pitt App Center on AskCathy, Apple App Store or Google Play, and avoid “sideloading” apps.
  • Be aware of permissions requested by an app and consider whether the app truly needs that access. For example, a non-interactive game should not need access to your contacts list or camera.
  • Do not “jail-break” your phone. You may inadvertently disable security features.
  • Set the screen lock to 10 minutes or less and have a PIN to open the device.
  • Set the device to wipe or delete all information after 10 failed login attempts.
  • Keep updates current by installing them as soon as the vendor or carrier releases them.

If You Collect It, Protect It

A strong password is your first line of defense for keeping online accounts safe.

Follow these five tips to maximize password security:

  • Create strong passwords or passphrases that are hard to guess, but easy to remember (containing at least eight characters and a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, symbols and numbers).
  • Avoid reusing passwords for online accounts — especially your banking accounts.
  • Do not use your Pitt password for non-Pitt websites or applications.
  • Legitimate organizations will never ask for your password over the phone or through email.
  • Sign up for Pitt Password Manager (LastPass), which simplifies your online life by generating strong, unique passwords, and saves them in a secure vault that you can access from any device, using a single strong master password.

Find additional information about passwords at pi.tt/passwords