It’s possible that personal information security is not your first thought when you wake up in the morning. That’s probably a good thing. Though, at a time when we hear plenty about high-profile data breaches, fines being levied at international companies and the ongoing conversation about ‘surveillance capitalism’, it’s worth wondering: are we spending enough time thinking about security in our personal lives?

It’s true that many of us are now completely reliant on our devices and internet connectivity. But how much consideration do we give to the fact that just about all our information is out there – floating around in cyber space? With four and a half million cyber crimes committed in England and Wales a year, 72% of those being fraud related, its reasonable to take a few moments and think about how and where you use your personal information.

For instance, how often do you connect to an unknown Wi-Fi network? Do you properly remove data before disposing of a device? How is your home network configured? And what is ‘too-much’ when it comes to sharing on social media?

Whether you are at the office or at home, you should try and remain vigilant regarding information security, and cognisant of the real threats that can affect us all. Here are some simple questions to consider when assessing personal information security:

How secure is my home Wi-Fi network?

When setting up any new network, make sure that you are using the most secure forms of encryption available on the device, change default passcodes to something secure, disable the Wi-Fi Protected Setup once installation is complete, and avoid leaving routers in areas visible to those who you would not allow access.

How much to share?

Most of us now have at least one social media account, though it is important to remember: offering up personal information to the public can aid malicious actors in all kinds of ways. Consider recovery questions, often personal in nature, you should avoid making public anything that may compromise your security. This may be birthdays, places of work, locations or any other manner of things.

Though it may be tempting and even gratifying to share things with your networks, over-sharing and making private details public can easily compromise many aspects of your life, so stay careful and ensure that your privacy settings are configured to your preferences.

What if I’m receiving phishing emails?

A common method of gaining access to victims’ accounts is to falsify emails to look authentic, but which direct you to inauthentic websites where you are prompted to enter your details. It is very unlikely that any organisation will request sensitive information via email, so remain suspicious. Likewise, look out for the small details that can give a scammer away and always check where a link goes – before you click on it.

How should I dispose of hardware?

When disposing of hardware, remember that even if sensitive information is deleted from storage, this information may still be recoverable. Digital shredders can be useful tools in helping to ensure data destruction, though if your information is particularly sensitive, it is advised that HDDs are physically destroyed before proper disposal.

What if I receive threats or I am being blackmailed?

Should you receive emails that threaten or blackmail you into paying sums of money: do not pay the sum demanded, do not respond and don’t follow any links within the email. You should also remember that this is most likely a mass email and not to be believed. Should the email contain any of your passwords, or ‘proof’ of account compromise: change your passwords, get in touch with the compromised organisation and contact the proper law enforcement entity (Action Fraud).

Though the general lessons learnt here can be applied in many different aspects of personal information security, these questions address a very small portion of the information security issues that we will all likely face. With the frequency and sophistication of attacks compounding each year, it is up to you to do what it takes to keep yourself safe and ensure that you’re not playing into the hands of malicious actors.