As more of our daily lives move online, so to do companies and individuals who want to steal your information. With ever-increasingly sophisticated methods for mining your data, if you're not stepping up your privacy protection, you're in a losing battle. Assuming you're using a quality anti-virus and you're avoiding sketchy websites, you're still not doing enough to protect yourself.
Online hackers, information-hungry businesses, and even potentially government agencies could all be spying on your internet usage right now. Where you go, how you behave on websites, and even your geographical location are all points of data that someone will pay good money to get. Traditional anti-virus and good browsing habits will simply not protect you anymore.
I've compiled a list of 5 key strategies to keep your private data to yourself as much as possible. By following these simple steps, you can increase your level of cyber protection to a level that provides peace of mind.
1. Stop Saving Passwords
Instead of allowing your browser to save your login information, consider getting a password security app like Vault or Lastpass. These allow you to create highly complex passwords that are then saved effortlessly in the app rather than on your browser. It goes without saying too but make sure you disable tracking cookies in your browser.
2. Use a VPN
A virtual private network is a safeguard that routes your internet connection to a remote server rather than directly to whatever websites you visit. This stops third parties from viewing what you do on the web, including the searches you make, sites you visit and games you play.
Using a VPN is pretty simple; it's a matter of downloading the software and ensuring that it's on. While there are going to be some extra intricate bits for the more tech-savvy, just running the VPN will make it virtually impossible for other people to steal your data.
There are a variety of VPNs available at different price points, but it's best to keep in mind:
● A free VPN will never protect you the way a paid service will. In fact, free VPNs often harvest user data to sell.
● You want a VPN provider that covers all of your devices. This includes your desktop, mobile device, tablets, and potentially even your router.
● Look for a provider with great customer service and quality added features like an app killswitch, dedicated servers for streaming, and plenty of servers from which to access the internet.
Utilizing a high-quality VPN will do more than any other measures you take to protect your privacy online, and a well written review will point you in the right direction to find a VPN that suits your needs. I hate to keep stressing this, but it's absolutely worth it to pay for a VPN service because free services can be worse than not using one at all.
3. Scrutinize Everything
You know not to open spam mail or to download attachments from sketchy addresses - these are basic tenants of using the net. As cyber-attacks have gotten more complex, however, you need to be extra cautious. What seems like a legitimate email from your bank or Amazon could very easily be attempting to steal your information.
Never click links in an email without verifying their safety first. You never know if it's a redirect link or simply a link formatted to look like it's going one place but will really take you to a very bad place. Things to watch out for in particular are:
● Ensuring that the web address has https, indicating it's a secure connection.
● Don't give out personal information unless you're absolutely certain who you're talking with. This is especially true if someone calls representing the "IRS" or some other agency that says you owe money. Call their bluff, because in reality, the IRS doesn't operate that way, on the phone or in an email.
● Only ever download apps from the Google Play or Mac stores.
● Avoid giving out your zip code when you check out with your credit card information if you can help it.
● Always use your browser's incognito or private browsing mode.
4. Use 2-factor Authentication if possible
Most banks are using this method when you log in online, where they send you a text or email to make extra sure it's you. You can also get an app that works with an external device, either through text messages or a fob that gives you a randomly generated code.
2-factor identification ensures that even if someone gets your password, they can't break into your accounts without also compromising your phone or fob. The likelihood of that happening without your knowledge is virtually zero, so though it can feel annoying, it's well worth it for the peace of mind it provides.
5. Be Actively Involved In Your Protection
It sounds obvious but a few things that will help keep you ahead of hackers are:
● Sign up for identity protection services
● Check your credit report weekly, even if it's through a free service like credit karma
● Ensure that live alerts are on your most sensitive accounts
Be Proactive, Be Cautious, Be Safe
Using a VPN, staying aware of your accounts and reports and not sharing any more information than you need to are all critical to keeping your private data, well, private. Did you enjoy the list? Hopefully, these tactics will make you reevaluate your activity online. If you learned something new or we missed something critical, let us know in the comments!
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