To help keep your personal data private, think of it in personal terms

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SEATTLE — Keeping your information safe on the web isn’t always easy. This Sunday, January 28, is Data Privacy Day. A day to both raise awareness of the issue and to help people keep their information safe as we continue to put more and more of our personal details on the internet.

According to a recent University of Phoenix cybersecurity survey of 2,012 Americans, nearly 43 percent have experienced a personal data breach in the past three years.

Maurice Gibson is the Assistant Dean of Specialized Programming with the University of Phoenix’s College of Information Systems and Technologies. He says we need to stop simply thinking of this as a “cybersecurity” issue and think of it in more personal terms.

“Cybersecurity is really personal security. The same reason we lock the doors at night,” said Gibson.

The university does this survey annually and began it as a way of looking at how students were dealing with cybersecurity issues. The survey shows that more people are taking the issue seriously.

“We did find that, of surveyed, about 85 percent have taken a more conscious effort to really boost their personal defenses,” said Gibson. 

However, the study shows some pessimism as well. More than three-quarters of people said that they don’t feel any more secure today about possible cyberattacks than they did five years ago or feel less secure.


Businesses are often the target for hackers. In 2016, the healthcare and finance industries were hackers’ biggest marks. Despite that, seven in ten people say they trust those two industries with their personal information.

“I think those institutions, as industries, lend themselves to people trusting them a bit more,” said Gibson. He added that three in ten people showed confidence in personal cybersecurity.

So what can we do to help protect ourselves? Again, Gibson pointed to the personal.

“When I think about backing up my data, I really, I’m not thinking about files or organization, I’m thinking about my kids’ pictures,” said Gibson. “I have small children. I take a lot of pictures of them. If I lose my phone or it crashes, you know, that’s the memories of their childhood memories I lose. So when I bring cybersecurity down to the level that it means something to me, it makes it a lot easier.”

He says to keep yourself and your data safe:

  • Avoid phishing scams
  • Avoid click-bait
  • Update your software

Gibson said that updating your computer can be inconvenient, “but those are the things you have to do to really sort of try to protect yourself.”

When it comes to updating, he also said to think of those alerts as a warning light on your car.

“Those alerts are no different than you light on your car saying that your tire’s running low,” said Gibson. “Now, you can ignore it but you run the risk of getting a flat or puncturing your tire. It’s the same concept, right? You want to make sure that you’re doing things to protect you. We’re not, we’re not unaccustomed to alerts, it’s just choosing to act on those alerts.”

Another good tip Gibson suggests is to encrypt your data. “Encrypt it at rest. Encrypt it in transit. It’s kind of similar to locking your car door. You lock it when you leave, get out of a car, you lock it when you’re riding down the road.”

He says most applications and devices are able to encrypt your data. Go to your security settings and check out what privacies are built it and if you’re not already, start using them.

If you’d like to learn more about the University of Phoenix cybersecurity survey, you can find it here.

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