Are Privacy and Security Good for Your Personal Finances?March 9, 2022 / My Data Removal Staff
Where do privacy, security, and personal finances intersect? They intersect with you. Small costs now (whether just time or also money) can save a lot of potential headache and costs later.
Creating good privacy and security habits both online and offline can save you time and money down the road. The peace of mind that these habits and services buy is well worth the costs. Notching up your privacy and security likely won’t make you rich but, like insurance, they mitigate risks you face and are well worth the investment of time and money.
Good privacy and security are like insurance
In simple terms, insurance works by trading risk for money. You pay auto insurance premiums so that if you get into an accident, the insurance company will pay for most of the damages. Insurance can be pricey, but most of us choose spend money on insurance. For the cost, the peace of mind and protection offered by insurance are a great deal.
Upgrading your privacy and security practices do the same thing. You have to pay a cost, whether it be in time or money. But doing these things can reduce the likelihood of some bad things happening to you. Some of these negative consequences can be expensive to resolve, both in terms of time and money. For example:
- Scams cost Americans billions of dollars every year
- Spam costs businesses more than 20 billion every year
- Identity theft costs consumers $13 billion a year
- One personal account getting hacked costs on average $128 dollars
- Losing access to important data costs companies around $3.8 million
- Each successful ransomware attack costs companies over half a million dollars on average in 2020
- Identity fraud cost individuals $56 billion in 2020
What makes you a target?
Most of these things come about because your personal information has been compromised in some way. Some of the above things happen, not because you did anything wrong, but because you were unlucky. Sometimes you make yourself more of a target because you have lax security and privacy practices, and your personal information is more readily available. Bad guys can get your data in a number of ways:
- Your data is included in a data breach
- Your data is on people search websites
- You have malware on your computer or phone that gives your data to bad guys
- Data brokers sell your data to anyone they can
- Services you use share and sell your data
What can you do?
What all of these actions essentially do is make your information harder to find or access. This will make you harder to find on people search sites, harder to piece together your information if you’re part of a data breach, and harder to be a target of identity theft. While you can never be 100% invincible, the more of the following actions you take, the more secure you will be. And just like buying a good insurance plan, these actions can help mitigate potential risks and save you time and money down the road.
Actions you should take
- Get your data off people search and data broker websites. You can do this yourself (see our DIY removal guide), or you can have us do it for you.
- Use alias information online and offline whenever possible. The cable guy doesn’t need to know your real name. Netflix also doesn’t need to know your personal information. If they don’t need it, don’t give it to them.
- Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) everywhere. SMS is weak, an authenticator app is great, a hardware key is best.
- Use a password manager and have unique passwords everywhere. Reusing passwords is a really bad practice.
- Aim for unique usernames on as many websites as you can. Combined with unique passwords and MFA, your accounts will be in great shape.
- Don’t click suspicious links, open suspicious files, or download pirated software. Be careful.
Services you can get for free
- Password managers have perfectly fine free tiers.
- Zero knowledge email like Protonmail or Tutenota also have free tiers.
- Secure communication apps like Signal are free.
- Email masking services have free tiers.
- Standard Notes has a free tier.
- Private online payments through Privacy.com don’t cost any more than they would otherwise (but you don’t get credit card points).
- Open source Android apps from F-Droid and others don’t share your data.
Services to consider paying for
- Premium accounts at Protonmail or Tutenota, possibly with your own domain, give you more options.
- Premium accounts with masked email services, possibly with your own domain, give you greater flexibility in creating masked email addresses on the fly.
- Credit card masking services cost a little more than you’d pay otherwise, but they can work where privacy.com cards don’t.
- A CMRA or PO box let you get mail in your real name but not at your residence. This is a great option when you have to use your real name.
There are a lot of things that you can do to help improve your privacy and security. It can seem overwhelming or hard to know where to start. Some of the suggestions can be costly or at least a hassle. Privacy and security are a marathon, not a sprint. Consider the options and do what is right for you. Being a little more intentional today than you were yesterday is a step in the right direction. Good luck in your journey and let us know how we can help!
For a deeper dive into privacy and security check out our Why Privacy? and Why Security? blog posts.