Do you ever feel like someone is watching what you do online?
How can we protect ourselves and safeguard our privacy?
Aisha is a woman living and working in Sub-Saharan Africa. She loves to chat with her friends and sends them funny GIFs that she finds on the internet. She also has to send weekly reports via email to her supervisor. Does this sound familiar?
We use the internet for a lot of things. The online environment is part of our lives. We post on social media sites, do internet searches and send emails, but as we do these things our personal information is left behind.
Right now, you have opportunities to change the way you interact with the internet. You can make it safer, more private. You are able to secure your online activities from intruders who may have ulterior motives to steal your data or even watch you on your webcam.
More women in Sub-saharan Africa are able to access the internet today than ever before and this number is growing because of more affordable internet subscription rates, smartphones and computers. In this guide, we would like to focus on keeping the internet a safe space. A place where women can securely develop their social and economic networks. We would also like to shade light on how to make informed decisions about digital security, online privacy and protection against forms of cybercrime.
A lot of the time we spend on the internet is used to send and receive information to people. Sometimes one may need to keep this exchange a secret and encryption software can help. It works by converting a message or file into an unreadable format, so that only those with a unique password can view it. Once this password is entered, the message/file is converted back to a readable format thereby unlocking its true meaning.
There are many kinds of encryption software available for mobile phones and computers.
For example, imagine that Aisha is exchanging encrypted messages with Jimmy. For encryption to work, both Aisha and Jimmy create unique passwords which they use to unlock their encrypted messages. A hacker may see that Aisha and Jimmy are corresponding but the hacker won’t be able to read the information contained in any of the messages.
Aisha has been using a username and password to get into her Twitter account. She hopes that nobody knows her password but to feel more secure she’s adding another layer of protection by enabling two factor authentication. This is a process of verification that requires the person signing in to prove that they are the owner of the account. With two-factor authentication enabled in Aisha´s account settings, the ritual of signing in changes a bit. Her password alone is no longer enough to access the account. Instead, a secret security code is sent to her mobile phone to verify that it’s actually her trying to access the account and not an intruder. A new code is sent whenever she wants to sign in.
Even if someone else knows your password they will not be able to sign in without the secret code.
These days being online is a fast and handy mode of correspondence. The issue is, we leave behind digital footprints, that is, information about who we are, what we like (or dislike), friends, families, our economic profile, health concerns, our political views and what we had for dinner last week on a girl’s night out.
Most of the search engines and social media sites you know and love are owned by very wealthy private businesses whose favorite exchange currency is YOUR DATA
Take time to consider what you share online and how others (good guys and bad guys) might use this information.
There are lots of people going around stealing passwords, in fact, this business is booming. Your password is important to hackers because it is the key that unlocks information about you. Why are they succeeding? Well, for one, the passwords we use are easily cracked by computers. Did you know that the word “password” is one of the most commonly used passwords?
A strong password can act as a first line of defense against hackers.
Remember Aisha? She decided that a little effort can make a huge difference in securing her online accounts.
Aisha traded her old Facebook password “august1990!” for this passphrase “Eyelikefriends&familyOgust1990”. A passphrase is a password without necessarily using random letters and numbers. It’s a sequence of words, which when put together, makes sense only to their creator and lets them sign into accounts as a regular password would.
It’s easy to remember but not easy to crack- even by the most advanced computers. Don´t stop there! Passwords and passphrases should be changed regularly to offer a better defense against cyber criminals.
Storage and Backup
Losing your information by theft or because of a strange computer virus can be a very unpleasant experience. Backing up your data is a neat way of exercising precaution and making sure you can recover it as soon as you need it. All you have to do is make different copies of an original document and save it in another location. This can be on an external drive or on a virtual one(often referred to as the cloud). In case your laptop just won’t start or in the event it is stolen, you won’t have to panic. Storing the information virtually means that you can access it on any device at any time as long as you have an internet connection. In reality, online data storage has a lot more to offer because it also enables you to share that information and collaborate with your peers on work projects. Cloud hosting service providers like Google and Dropbox give users up to 15 gigabytes of storage.
Mobile service providers need to know where you are at all times in order to connect calls/messages from your location to anywhere in the world. This means that they have access to your location and know with whom you are connecting. Depending on your risk level, this information can be hacked or requested by order of a Government. In such a case, it may not only compromise your personal information but that of the people in your social network. When you make calls or send messages, it is important to have in the back of your mind that some conversations may not really be private. Consider making voice calls or sending text messages through communication services that keep the conversations hidden for example Signal or telegram.
Aisha’s Top 6 to-do’s
1. I can do it! I will dedicate some time to learn about what digital security means and practice caution when using the internet. My best asset may be the ability to notice privacy concerns and take steps to reduce them.
2. Use better passwords: Will make it fun by using a combination of letters and characters or create a strong passphrase from my favourite song lyrics.
3. Thinking before clicking: If hackers want to send infected software to my device I won’t make it too easy for them. Starting right now am not clicking on suspicious looking links and file attachments.
4. Take charge of social media: I will update my privacy settings and read through privacy policies to really understand how much of my data is being used and for what.
5. Look at for strange emails: I will pay attention to sender’s info, contents of the email, and verify if the message is authentic before clicking on or downloading unknown files!
6. Keep my device software updated: I won’t ignore software update reminders. Updates contain new features designed to make my computer and phone work better against the hackers
Tips, Tools and How-tos for Safer Online Communications
Security in a box- Digital Security Tools and Tactics
Terms of Service: Didn’t Read
Take control of your data