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Securing Your Personal Data: Introduction

written by: J. Forlanda•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 8/18/2011

In this day and age of computers and high speed Internet, when your personal data is compromised, you can guarantee that someone is bound to gain from them financially. If you want to learn how to deal with this threat, read on, and be introduced to the concept of personal computer data security.

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    Today everyone is just pixels away from eveyone else; and if your personal data is compromised, you can guarantee that someone is bound to gain from it financially. That someone is certainly not going to be you. As a matter of fact, you're bound to see your credit rating take a dive or your bank's balance disappear! If you don't want to see this scenario playout in your life, read on so that you can get introduced to the concepts behind personal computer data security, and you can feel safer about keeping your personal data private.
    After reading this article you will know:
    • What personal data is
    • What does it mean to secure personal data
    • Steps one can take to secure personal data
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    What is personal data?

    Before going any further, we need to make sure we have the same meaning for the term "personal data". Personal data is any information about you or related to you. It can range anywhere from your full name, your birth date, your addresses, to information about how much income you made last year. And in the context of this article, they would be information about you or on you that is stored and/or transmitted from your computer--in short, your personal computer data.

    Below are some of the most common personal data one may find on someone's computer or online.

    • Legal name
    • Birthdate
    • Home address
    • Social security number
    • Last tax year's gross income
    • Credit card number
    • Bank account number
    • Home phone number
    • Cell phone number
    • Online bank account ID and password
    • Your Paypal account ID and password
    • Your e-mail account ID and password
    • Your Facebook account ID and password
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    What does it mean to secure personal data?

    Whether you know it or not, your personal data is the key to your financial profile and assets. Any malicious person who gains a hold of your personal data can easily do one of many things:
    • Apply for credit cards in your name
    • Withdraw funds from your financial account
    • Purchase items on your behalf
    • Send e-mails to your online contact list in order to steal more personal data
    These are just some of the most obvious things that can happen if your do not secure your personal data. As such, to "secure personal data" means that you are taking actions to prevent others from having access to your personal information, and thus preventing identity theft, credit rating damage, and worst of all, loss of or access to your own financial assets.
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    What steps can one take to secure personal data?

    The steps or actions one can take to secure personal data are part of the concept behind personal computer data security. Before we can delve deeper into this concept, we need to enumerate some of the ways personal computer data can leak out--then and only then can we determine ways we can secure personal data. Here are the most obvious and common ways you can leak personal computer data:

    • You lose the device containing personal computer data
      • your laptop
      • external hard drive
      • USB thumb drive
    • You unknowingly install a trojan on your computer
    • You unknowingly install spyware on your computer
    • You respond to an official looking e-mail from your financial institution asking you to login in order to resolve account issues
    • You make such information available on your online profile (e.g. on Facebook)

    Now that we know what can lead to your personal computer data to leak out unexpectedly, we can begin looking at actions that can help prevent such loses if and when such things happen. Each example listed above belongs to classes of ways personal computer data can be lost or can leak out. They are:

    • loss of computer or data storage device
    • victim to malware infection
    • victim to phishing
    • direct disclosure to online social networking sites

    There are measures one can take to secure personal data and computer data. I will enumerate them below along with which class above they counteract.

    • For loss of computer or data storage device
      • External storage. Don't put personal data in your computer hard disk drive, instead store them externally online or in external storage devices like a USB thumb drive) . If you lose your laptop, you can buy another one to replace it with no personal data loss.
      • File/volume encryption software. Regardless of where you store your personal data, you should encrypt files containing personal data or store them in encrypted disk volumes, so that if you lose your storage device or your computer is compromised by some form of trojan or spyware, no one can read your personal computer data.
    • Against malware infection
      • Firewall/internet-web filter. Setup your computer's firewall, and install an Internet or web filter software or solution. Doing so can help prevent you from getting infected in the first place; or if you do, it can prevent the infection from sending back your personal data to a malicious hacker.
      • Antivirus/Antispyware software. Install some form of anti-malware software on your computer. This is just common practice and common sense. If you don't have one, get one. Trojan or spyware infection can allow a malicious hacker to steal your personal data/information.
    • Against phishing
      • Internet-web filter. Install an Internet-web filter solution. Most solutions will prevent you from accidentally going to malicious web sites which can steal your personal information or data.
      • Self-education. Educate yourself about the best way to handle e-mails from your financial institutions. Find good sources of information online and learn about how to deal with e-mail so that you don't accidentally divulge personal information to malicious hackers. A good common sense solution is never click on any link e-mailed to you, unless you know how to tell if the link is legitimate. If it looks like your bank is asking you to login to their web site, don't click the link in the email; instead open your browser and type your bank's web site there.
    • Against disclosure of personal data to online networking sites
      • Self-education. Educate yourself about the online capabilities of your online networking site, and use its privacy tools to limit disclosure of any personal information you may have there.
      • Limit disclosure. Better yet, limit what personal information or data you disclose on your online profile, or any site for that matter.
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    In this first of a two part article, you learned about personal computer data security. Specifically, you learned:
    what constitutes personal data (or personal computer data), what it means to secure your personal data, and what actions or steps you can take to help prevent unintentional disclosure or loss of your personal data. I saw an interesting tutorial from the Federal Trade Commission web site--Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business ( If you want to continue to learn more, then check it out. Even though it is intended for businesses, the concepts there can easily be adapted for personal use.

Securing your personal data

In todays digital age, when your personal data is compromised, it will can lead to the degredation of your financial standing or profile (i.e. big headache and loss of money). Learn personal computer data security concepts and find top free security PC tools to help protect your personal data
  1. Securing Your Personal Data: Introduction
  2. Securing Your Personal Data: Top Free Tools and Apps