There were complaints about data of India users being transferred abroad sans authorisation by Chinese apps, which means that your privacy was put at risk. Here is a quick guide to help you.
The government banned 59 smartphone apps a few days ago, including popular ones such as TikTok, WeChat, ShareIt and so on. The reason for calling a ban on these apps was primarily on the grounds of security.
There were complaints about data of India users being transferred abroad sans authorisation by these apps as well, which means that your privacy was put at risk. In case you are wondering if your personal information has been compromised, here is a quick guide to help you.
1. Has your email been compromised?
Our email id is not only used for emails but also as a login credential for various sites and services. Your email id is the first thing that gets leaked out and available to spammers and hackers in case of a data breach. Every year we hear about several data breaches from various sites and services.
Unless we lose access to our email, most of us tend to ignore these data breaches and believe we are safe. However, that is not the case. To check if your email has been compromised, head to https://haveibeenpwned.com/ and input your email in the search bar. The site will show which all breaches your email id was leaked in along with which other information. You can then choose to change your passwords on the compromised sites or delete your account altogether for safety.
2. Are your passwords secure?
For users who have an Android smartphone or use the Chrome browser on a desktop/mobile, Google offers a password manager to make it easier to log in for sites and services. If you want to access it, you can go to https://passwords.google.com/ and login to your Google account. On the top, you will see a large box for ‘Password Checkup’ – this is where Google will check all of your stored passwords and inform you which of them are compromised, and you should change them right away. The page gives you direct links for each website's password change page to make things easy. It also shows on which sites you have reused passwords and which ones have a weak password.
3. Is your browser tracking you?
Most of us do not realize this, but our browser is one of the most prominent invaders of privacy. It tracks you for browsing history, activity, location, advertising and analytics, which is data you would not like to share with random websites without your permission.
We recommend that you start using privacy focussed browsers such as Brave Browser or Tor for desktop and Firefox Focus on mobile. However, if you prefer to use Chrome, we recommend installing a few privacy plug-ins such as Adblocker, uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger, or Disconnect. With the help of these, you can identify which websites are asking for what kind of information and block them.
4. Check what Apps are accessing on smartphones – Smartphones today have become the center of our universe, and they come with multiple apps pre-installed, plus we install several apps for various purposes. Trouble is most users don't look at the kind of information and data access these apps require on your smartphone and agree to everything. This makes you susceptible to privacy leaks, and to avoid that, it’s recommended to manage app permissions on your device. Android users can install the Permission Manager app by Vnova Mobile to easily view and manage permissions. For iOS users, head to Settings > Privacy, and you will be able to see which apps have access to various kinds of permissions. You can revoke permission for an app from the settings for security.
5. Identify Spam/Fake emails, SMS and calls
Thanks to various apps and tools available now, it’s relatively easy to identify fake or spam notifications. For incoming calls and messages, install Truecaller on your smartphone. It identifies incoming call numbers and shows a warning if its spam or a fraud caller. Truecaller also sorts out your SMS inbox, but there are other alternatives like Microsoft SMS Organizer and Mezo that do a great job in detecting spam SMS. For email, your mailbox has a junk folder where most of the spam goes automatically.
However, some emails reach your inbox and the general rule of thumb to identify spam is to look at the sender email id – if it's not from someone you recognize, then avoid opening it. Even for emails from banks or subscription services, always check the sender to see if it's from an official address. Other easy to identify traits of spam email include misspelt domain/company name, poorly written message and offering something too good to be true.
Also, never click on any links or download any email attachments from unknown senders, as this can lead to the installation of virus/spyware. Once you identify a spam email, report it as spam as well as delete it immediately for your security.Karan Bajaj is a senior tech journalist based in Delhi.