Opinion: Think twice on the internet

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Grace Wu

The development of the internet has also allowed for more data breaches; thinking twice while online is crucial in protecting personal information.

“I made this just for you; I hope you like it. Click here!”

After clicking the link your friend sent you, another page pops up asking you to sign in to your Instagram account. You enter your information, curious to see what your friend made for you. And just like that, you unknowingly gave a stranger access to your username and password.

Similar situations are not unfamiliar to the many individuals who frequently browse the internet or use social media. Particularly on social media, there have been plenty of accounts that impersonate other users. Even just allowing an app to know your location or contacts on your phone may be dangerous.

With the expansion of computer networks, everyday activities have become achievable from the comfort of our homes — shopping, entertainment, and dating, to name a few. But this shift to an online world also increases the chance of a data breach.

According to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 64% of U.S. adults have been impacted by some form of data theft, whether it was fraudulent charges on credit cards, compromised account numbers, or hacked email and social media accounts.

Even so, many Americans do not follow cybersecurity best practices to protect their personal information, with 69% of online adults not worried about password security. Of those surveyed, 41% of online adults have shared their passwords with another individual, 39% use the same password for multiple accounts, and 25% admit to using simple passwords instead of risking forgetting a more complex one.

But data theft should be a principal worry. The intersection between what people have experienced with internet safety and their nonchalance over protecting their information exemplifies that this issue must be addressed before others exploit that indifference. Of course, it should be noted that the surveys were conducted prior to some major high-profile data breaches. Nonetheless, there continues to be little regard for keeping one’s data secure.

Data security becomes another discussion when the government is considered. When asked about encryption, a method to hide the true meaning of information, 46% believed that the government should have access to encrypted communications to investigate crimes, while 44% felt that law enforcement should not be able to break encryption tools.

This divide prompts the question of the extent to which data should be protected. While the need to acquire data for investigation purposes is understandable, it also cannot be denied that everyone has the right to privacy and should be firm about maintaining that privilege.

There may not be a single solution to prevent data breaches altogether, but one can certainly minimize the chances by ensuring their information and accounts are protected. Before clicking on a link, look out for suspicious sources or senders. Before entering your information on a website, ask yourself who is on the other end.

As one grows up and takes on new responsibilities, there is a greater necessity to secure confidential information. So before something more important is taken away, develop the urgency and awareness to keep yourself safe on the internet.