I know what you’re thinking. “Here we go again, another post about not giving out my bank pin”. As someone who has navigated the internet since childhood, I understand how digital privacy can feel instinctive to us – the young digital natives. We know the drill: don’t share personal info with unknown callers, guard your banking pin like a treasure, and avoid shopping on websites that give off sketchy “vibes.”

We roll our eyes when Grandpa gets scammed over the phone while wholeheartedly believing the password we have used for every platform since Grade 8 will be foolproof against hackers on the dark web. We criticise our unemployed millennial cousin for thinking he will become a millionaire with the obvious pyramid scheme he’s been roped into. Yet, we post every detail of our lives on social media without thinking about it twice.

But let’s face it: digital and internet privacy is a pressing concern for all of us. A robust online presence is more than just being connected; it means being vigilant and informed about the potential for unlawful activities that threaten our digital well-being. Avoiding the digital world is nearly impossible, even if you shun social media. If you’re reading this blog, you’re part of the internet ecosystem, so you must stay informed about maintaining online safety and fostering responsible digital interactions.

Beware of the Current Online Threats
Malware and phishing are the most common scams circulating on the online landscape. A link is sent to your phone number or email (often posing as a banking notification). Once you click on the link, malware enters your device, allowing scammers to “fish” through your device to find your data, such as passwords. Phishing is also the most prevalent cybercrime worldwide, according to data from 2022.

On a similar note, online banking scams are increasingly prevalent and disproportionally affect the elderly population. I was affected by this scam. I received an SMS from who I thought was FNB containing a link requesting that I change my banking details. I did not even think about the fact that it must be a scam, as banks make it abundantly clear that they will never ask for your banking information online. I had such an automatic thought process of “it will never happen to me” that I didn’t stop thinking critically about what I was being asked to do. It was only after I sent my banking information that I realised there was no way it could be legit. I had to cancel my card and change all my banking details. Thankfully, my money was not stolen. However, a scam like this unfortunately targeted my friend’s grandmother, stealing 20,000 rands from her.

Online payment fraud is also highly prevalent. These can be scammers imitating shopping sites, fake advertisements sent to your email or number, and even investment scams. “I had my banking information stolen online from a scam posing as a link from the post office,” says Emma (20), “I hadn’t even ordered anything, and I still went ahead and put my banking details in. We are often on autopilot when it comes to these things and don’t stop to consider that fraud can happen to you”.

How to protect your digital privacy:
Always use a different password for all your accounts. I know it’s a schlep, but this makes it much more difficult for your information to get stolen by hackers.

Update your software. I am guilty of constantly clicking “remind me later” when my laptop gives me a software notification update, but updating your software is crucial. It prevents hackers from exploiting security flaws in older versions of your device’s software.

Do not share your personal email and cell phone number. Signing up for a rewards programme on your favourite shopping site might be tempting, but your information risks theft if these companies experience a data breach. To prevent personal data loss, use an alternative email account strictly for online shopping.

Always verify if the website you are using is secure. Check if the link contains HTTPS and a padlock icon is in the address bar.

Remember, digital privacy isn’t just about protecting data – it’s about preserving your freedom and security in the digital realm. Stay alert, stay informed, and navigate the digital world with confidence.

In your personal experience, what has been the most challenging aspect of maintaining digital privacy in an era where sharing information online has become almost second nature, and how have you adapted your habits to safeguard against potential digital threats?