Your data contains information about everything about you. That doesn't just include your financial data, but personally identifiable information (names, addresses), and even information about your relatives. Data can be used to engage in scam calls, steal money from your bank, open credit in your name, or even attack your employer.

But you are ultimately in control of your data.

Think about everything that contains personal data in your life. Your smartphone, your tablet, your laptop, your desktop, your work computer, maybe even your smart system in your car. From your Internet of Things devices to your television, everything has to be secured.

With that in mind, here are some of the top data protection tips everyone should know.

Secure Your Home Network

Your data could be secured on your devices, but what about data being transmitted? Take the time to properly configure your router to encrypt your data — and make sure that it's set with a good password or passphrase. Many people setup their router once and never configure it, which can leave it vulnerable to people who are searching for open connections. If someone else connects to your network, they can access the devices in your home.

Use a VPN

What is VPN? A VPN is a virtual private network. It operates as a layer between you and the internet, protecting all communications you send back and forth. Using a VPN can protect you wherever you connect, because you're connecting to the VPN first. VPNs can perform a variety of functions, ranging from anonymizing your web activity to stripping out potentially harmful malicious programs and links. If you want to make sure that you aren't accessing anything dangerous on the internet (and that people can't browse your history), then a VPN is the perfect solution.

Avoid Public WiFi

Likewise, avoid public WiFi unless you're using a VPN. WiFi can be offered by anyone; you could be connecting to a WiFI account that's specifically designed to collect information from you. If the WiFi isn't completely protected, someone could be viewing your data as it's being transmitted. Again, a VPN can help with this, because the VPN will provide a layer of encryption between yourself and the WiFi signal. But directly connecting to public WiFi such as at the library or a coffee shop can be dangerous.

Lock Your Mobile Devices

Your mobile devices should be set to lock whenever you're not using them. Use a passcode, biometric information, or something else that someone could not possibly guess. Otherwise, if you lose your phone, someone could have access to all your apps and information. Things like social media accounts often don't log you out, so they might be able to get into your accounts and get more information from there. Your email is particularly vulnerable, because most people have their email addresses always connected, and email is usually connected to financial accounts.

Configure Your IoT Devices

Do you have smart lights or smart televisions? Make sure they're password-protected too, and don't forget to configure them. Your IoT devices could be a vulnerability into your home. Today, many IoT devices are hacked and used as botnets (robots for malicious attackers) because they're usually not very well-secured. IoT devices can be quite powerful when they're used en masse in this way; you don't want to be party to a DDoS attack!

Never Share Passwords

It can become a habit to share passwords with a spouse or in a small office setting, but it's very dangerous. First, your passwords should all be different; if someone has a password to your Hulu account, it shouldn't mean they also have the password to your email. But even so, you should create separate accounts for everyone when you need to, and you should never share passwords or accounts. Sharing accounts makes it more difficult to trace things if an account does get compromised.

Protect Your Email

As mentioned, your email account is actually one of your most significant vulnerabilities. Most people use their email address every day and don't really think about the fact that a lot of information is held within it. You can get order histories, financial information, personal information, and more from a simple email account. Change your passwords frequently and always turn on two-factor or multi-factor authentication.

Learn About Proper Passwords

Passwords can be unintuitive. A password like this: "p@ssw0rd" is actually fairly easy to hack today. People can check to see whether a password is viable by brute force. When they brute force something, all that really matters is length. So a good password is actually more likely to be something like "This is 1 password." It contains letters, punctuation, and a number, and is much longer. It's also easier to remember so it doesn't have to be written down.

Back Your Data Up

You should frequently back your data up in multiple locations. Many people have syncing turned on their computer which means they're backing their data up on a cloud service. But what happens if they lose connection to that cloud service? It's always best to back your data up on one virtualized source (the cloud) and one physical source (an external drive). Similarly, you shouldn't rely on an external drive; if a fire happens, you could lose both your computer and your backups. Set your backups to occur automatically and make sure you keep multiple backups, so they don't overwrite each other.

Keep Your Systems Updated

It's easy to just pass on an operating system update if you don't want to reboot your computer immediately. But you do need to keep your systems updated. Vulnerabilities are often found in even older systems and if you aren't patching your system, you could become a target. And it's not just your computers. Your smartphones, tablets, and even game consoles should be regularly updated, because all of them could have personal or financial information on them. You can set your devices up to automatically update, too, so you're sure that they have the most current versions of their patches.

Use Your Antivirus

Don't just set and forget your antivirus. Use it regularly. Run your antivirus scans and look at anything that could be suspicious or send up an alert. Make sure to quarantine items as needed, and don't just bypass the antivirus when you're installing things; there could be an exploit or a worm. Your antivirus solution should do the bulk of protection itself (these days they're quite advanced), but you should still check to see what could be threatening your system. If you're experiencing a large number of threats all at once, it could be an issue with something you've recently installed or something you've been doing.

Get Identity Protection

Identity protection services today will alert you if someone is trying to use your identity elsewhere. But they can do more than that. They can also scan the dark net to see if your accounts have been compromised. This will give you information on accounts that you might need to stop using, such as email accounts, or accounts that you need to properly secure. Today, information is often traded in the dark web, and once it is there it's there forever. People will purchase email address and password pairs and will use that to log in and comb for data.

Learn About Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks can seem very realistic. You might get an email from your bank saying that your account has been compromised and you need to change your password. Well, the form that asks you to change your password will also ask you for your current password. You'll send the information in, and then the person who actually sent the email (who isn't the bank) is going to have your actual, active login information. Learning more about phishing attacks is critical because most phishing attacks can't be properly identified by malware programs; they often just look like a regular email. Social engineering can be more dangerous than actual, malicious attacks, so learning more about phishing attempts will protect you both on a professional and personal level.

Educate Your Family

If you have children, make sure they also know about data protection. Many people today do a lot of work at home and that means their work information can be compromised through their home networks. Your children will also need to know how to secure their data, as otherwise they could be compromised, and their compromised devices could spread to your network. Children should start learning more about data protection whenever they start using the internet, as this time is critical for forming good habits.

Keep Work and Home Separate

Likewise, it's important to separate networks for home and office devices. Using a VPN for your office connections and a separate connection for your home system can help you maintain a wall between your personal data and your business data. This goes both ways. Not only is your business more protected, but your personal information is more protected, too; your company information is a more significant target and you don't want your own personal information getting compromised because someone is looking for information about your company.

Data protection is becoming everyone's responsibility. Today, people have to deal with their own data and their company data, and many people haven't been specifically trained on data protection or data collection. But with the above tips, and the right technology, you should be able to protect yourself from most data threats.