Best Ways To Protect Your Online Privacy
It's more difficult than ever to lead a “private” online life because of significant data breaches and internet tracking.
You can safeguard your privacy, maintain the security of your identity, and lessen the amount of information that businesses gather about you online by taking a few easy measures.
It is a priceless skill is knowing how to preserve your privacy online. Here is our detailed explanation of internet privacy, what it means for you, and how to safeguard it.
What Is Online Privacy?
Online privacy is certainly a topic you hear about more than ever right now—and not just in the news. Governments and digital giants share a major concern about privacy, although the two frequently disagree on what it means.
What does it actually mean, though? Online privacy essentially means defending your right to keep personal information to yourself.
Surprisingly, not many places have legislation defending those rights. Even when internet privacy laws exist, not all businesses abide by them, as was the case when Cambridge Analytica used Facebook to gather massive data on American voters.
Internet security and privacy are two distinct but connected concepts. Cybersecurity typically focuses on unlawful data acquisition, whereas privacy typically deals with legal data collection (such as what you publish on Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms), like protecting your accounts from hackers.
There is, however, a lot of overlap. Privacy is improved by strong security, while strong security is maintained by improved privacy. You may enhance both by performing a few straightforward actions.
1. Make A Promise To Share Less Online
Lessening the amount of information you disclose is the best precaution against online scammers.
When it comes to sharing information, social networks come to mind first, and that's the right place to start applying some security measures. Photos of you, your loved ones' geotagged posts, or any other information you wouldn't want outsiders to know about should all be treated with extra caution.
Nearly all apps and social media sites gather information about your actions; nevertheless, they rarely protect your data as carefully as you would expect. The company's privacy infractions make headlines every few months. Here are a few examples:
Even for “anonymous” users, Zoom's integration with LinkedIn made identities and occupations visible.
Strava revealed the sites of covert American military bases in Syria and Afghanistan in an interactive map of all journeys tracked by users.
For seven years, Facebook maintained hundreds of millions of account passwords in a searchable, employee-accessible database.
Your internet footprint comprises all of these shares and data points (which scammers can use to access your sensitive information).
2. Use Two-Factor Authentication And Strong, Unique Passwords (No SMS)
The most crucial, and occasionally the only, defence we have against hackers and identity theft is a strong password policy.
Add passwords or passcodes right away if you don't already have them for all of your devices (even guest accounts).
Even a strong password, though, can be bypassed by hackers if your device doesn't lock automatically. In other words, once you power off your iPhone or activate your screen saver, ensure that the device prompts for the password as soon as possible after.
The optimal setting is “30 seconds” or “immediately” for devices that use quick biometric identification like fingerprint scanning or facial recognition in place of a code.
Use a secure and distinctive password for all of your online accounts. Since you most likely have numerous accounts, using a password manager simplifies keeping the data secure.
Last but not least, enable two-factor authentication for any account that supports it. It's a backup security technique that can keep you safe even if you give hackers your password during a phishing scam. You've used two-factor authentication if you've ever had to enter a code sent to your phone.
However, as authenticator applications are more secure than text message verification codes, it is recommended to avoid SMS and use them instead.
3. Adjust Your Online Accounts' Privacy Settings
The following and maybe the simplest action you can take is to just verify the privacy settings on the online accounts you frequently use.
Companies profit by gathering your personal information to millions or perhaps billions. Additionally, their default settings tend to favour data collection above data protection.
What you want to share and what you want to keep private will determine the settings that are best for you. However, there are a few places where you ought to exercise caution.
- Monitoring a location. Consider disabling automatic geolocation on your social media posts, images, and comments.
- Public knowledge. Consider carefully which information should be disclosed, kept private, or somewhere between. Profile data, content, and interactions with other material make up the standard three data tiers.
- Comments, shares, and likes. We frequently consider how much information we share, but typically, your “likes” and comments on other blogs are also visible to the public. Even for “secret” accounts, profile images, user names, and comments on other postings frequently appear in search results.
4. Remove Unused Browser Extensions And Mobile Apps
Being wary of every app pays off in terms of security and privacy. With fewer accounts, your risk will be lower.
Start by making fewer new accounts. Download only from reliable websites, such as legitimate app stores.
Ask yourself, “How does this app make money?”. This simple tip can point you in the direction of privacy-focused apps.
For instance, the free tool Unroll.me summarizes newsletters and subscription emails. However, following an FTC inquiry, it was made evident how they made money: by scanning emails and selling the contents. User data may hold the key to understanding how an app generates revenue.
Delete an app when you are finished using it. Delete any software you don't frequently use, including browser extensions and mobile apps.
Are You Tired Of Scams?
Even programs you've forgotten about can continue to function with hidden features. It was discovered that eight well-known Chrome and Firefox extensions had code that monitored all browser activity.
Tax records, medical information (which can result in medical identity theft), and unreleased products from firms like Tesla and Apple were among the data.
If you use Chrome, type chrome:/extensions/ into your search box to view all available extensions. Any add-ons you are not using should be deleted rather than simply disabled.
Even if you occasionally visit a website, it's safer to use your browser to access it rather than downloading the app to your device.
5. Don't Let Search Engines Track You
Your search engine gathers a ton of information about you personally. And Google is the search engine of choice for 92% of us. The two biggest search engine providers, Google and Bing, also run the well-liked browsers Chrome and Edge, respectively. (They thereby collect a lot of data.)
Getting rid of your data is the first step in enhancing search engine privacy.
Google: Delete everything from the My Activity panel.
For Microsoft: Bing and Microsoft Edge data must be cleared separately.
For Yahoo: You can remove data from the administration of your search history.
Unfortunately, Google tracking cannot be completely turned off. A different option is to utilize a search engine that prioritizes privacy, like DuckDuckGo.
6. Utilize A Secure VPN To Browse The Web
Your web browser, such as Safari, Google Chrome, or Firefox, may also gather information about your online activities.
Start by thinking about closing your browser. Use a few browser extensions after that to enhance security and privacy.
HTTPS Everywhere mandates encrypted connections on sites it supports to protect sensitive information on your Wi-Fi network. Websites cannot monitor you using ad blockers or tracking blockers.
Using a secure VPN can encrypt your surfing data and prevent hackers from reading it. If you must access public Wi-Fi, such as in a coffee shop or airport, you must utilize a VPN. (Keep in mind that using unsecured or public Wi-Fi networks carries several risks.)
Additionally, you can utilize incognito or private mode, but it's less safe than you may believe.
All of your surfing activity is still recorded by your internet service provider (ISP), and websites can get specific information about your computer, including your IP address.
Using a new browser, like Brave, is the final step in securing online privacy. Tor, which conceals your location and surfing history over multiple layers, is the most secure browsing choice. Tor offers unparalleled anonymity but a slower browsing speed.
Be cautious as well when browsing in public. Shoulder surfing is a trick that hackers employ to observe you type personal data on your gadgets.
7. Keep Up With Software Updates
Most privacy breaches are not the result of recently found flaws. Instead, they exploit previously patched known vulnerabilities on unpatched computers.
According to BitDefender research from 2020, 64% of hackers targeted flaws at least two years old.
The first and most important step is automatically setting your operating system to install updates. Set up automatic updates for Google ChromeOS, Apple macOS, and Microsoft Windows by following the setup instructions.
You can also download antivirus software to guard against viruses like spyware, which secretly gathers information like credit card numbers.
8. Disable Data Tracking And Ads
Your personal information is mostly acquired online for marketing purposes rather than for fraud or data breaches. You can disable several of these trackers with a few easy steps.
First, ignore pop-ups asking if you wish to share your data.
When visiting websites, avoid accepting cookies. You can prevent cross-app tracking on an iPhone or other Apple mobile device running iOS 14.5 or later.
Finally, you can turn off ad personalization for all the apps you use, including Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google search, other Google services, Facebook ad settings, and third parties that use Facebook data.
Although many of other websites also utilize tracking, the worst offenders will be eliminated if these bigger companies are disabled.
9. Encrypt Data To Protect It From Spying Eyes
You could believe that emails, texts, and computer data are secure. But you might be mistaken.
Start by safeguarding the data on your PC. Even though a password protects your computer login, hackers can steal your disk, connect it to another computer, and access anything. Setting up encryption on Windows and Mac will make the data useless to anyone who doesn't know your password.
This one is the default encryption method for all current Apple and Android mobile devices.
And, of course, keep in mind the obvious: delete the device's data and reset it to factory settings before selling or giving it away.
Reduce the amount of data you save in the cloud. If the images were solely stored on personal devices, the iCloud celebrity hacks would not have occurred.
The most secure messaging choices are those that use end-to-end encryption, such as WhatsApp, Telegram, or Signal (though WhatsApp still has other privacy concerns).
Text messages and Facebook's Messenger program are two examples of non-encrypted communication channels that feature “back doors” that let outsiders access what you transmit.
By turning off “smart features and personalization” in Gmail and other Google Apps, you can increase your privacy protection against email hacker attacks.
Again, perform a straightforward but frequently neglected action: turn off message previews on your lock screen. A burglar can learn who is contacting you and even use two-factor authentication without having your PIN if previews appear on your phone's lock screen.
10. Disconnect From Pointless Third-Party App Connections
The security of all your programs can also be increased by fencing them in, or limiting their connections with other apps.
For instance, if you sign in with your Facebook account, your Spotify account is only as secure as your Facebook account. Therefore, the first step is to switch out any single sign-on (SSO) with distinct logins.
However, it goes beyond logins. We frequently link apps so calendars can sync, social media posts can be shared across platforms, and more. Although these features may be useful, evaluating what is connected is a good idea and revoking access for anything you don't require.
A list of third-party applications linked to Slack, Microsoft, Apple (choose “Sign in with Apple”), Google, Facebook, and Apple is visible.
Tools To Keep Your Privacy
The good news is that most of the procedures you can take to safeguard your online privacy are under your control, even though there are many of them. The most crucial thing is to keep your sharing to a minimum and to let businesses know how to handle your data.
1. Have I Been Pwned?
Over the past ten years, numerous businesses, including Equifax, Facebook, Home Depot, Marriott, Target, Yahoo, and many others, have had data breaches and password leaks. If you have any online accounts, at least one of them has likely had data stolen by hackers.
Are you interested in learning which of your accounts have been compromised? To compare your email address with hundreds of data breaches, type your email address into Have I Been Pwned?
2. Password Managers
The most effective way for people to safeguard their privacy and security today is to utilize a password manager to create and remember unique, complicated passwords for every account. The password managers we recommend the most are LastPass and 1Password.
Both can generate passwords, keep an eye out for security lapses, recommend altering too simple passwords, and sync passwords across your computer and phone. Although installing password managers can be daunting, once you've done so, you can just continue using the Internet as normal.
The password manager records your passwords as you log in to accounts and proposes updating weak or repeated passwords. You wind up with new passwords for most of your accounts after a few weeks.
Change the default passwords for any home appliances that still use “password” or “1234” as their passwords, such as smart light bulbs, security cameras, and home routers.
Additionally, everyone should implement two-step authentication for their online accounts whenever it is feasible.
This choice is offered by most banks and significant social media platforms. Two-step authentication involves two steps, as the name implies: inputting your password and a unique access code.
For instance, the first step is entering your username and password to log into Facebook. In the second stage, you receive a temporary code from Facebook through a text message or, preferably, through an app like Google Authenticator, which you enter to log in.
3. Blocking Advertising
Websites and businesses monitor everything you do online. Your location, browsing history, and other data are collected by every advertisement, social network button, and website. More than you might anticipate is revealed about you in the data collected.
You could think you're clever for not revealing all of your religious convictions on Facebook or never tweeting about your health issues.
Still, chances are excellent that the websites you frequently visit already have all the information marketers need to know about you. This is part of how targeted advertising continues to be among the most frightening inventions on the Internet.
They gather with a browser extension like uBlock Origin by blocking advertising and information.
Additionally, the uBlock Origin plugin stops malware from operating in your browser and provides a simple method to turn off ad blocking when you wish to support websites you are confident are safe.
Ads won't follow you around as much if you combine uBlock with Privacy Badger, which disables trackers.
Disable interest-based advertisements from Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter to cut down stalker ads even further. Many websites have ways to decline data gathering, but you must do it manually.
For popular websites like Netflix, Reddit, and others, Simple Opt Out provides direct links to opt-out information. While doing this will greatly reduce the quantity of data gathered, it won't totally solve the issue.
Install the HTTPS Everywhere addon as well. When a website supports HTTPS Everywhere, it will automatically take you there. This makes it more difficult for an attacker to track your online activity, especially if you use a public Wi-Fi network like a coffee shop, airport, or hotel.
Some may use a virtual private network (VPN), but not everyone will need one. A VPN is helpful if you frequently use public WiFi since it increases your browsing security when HTTPS isn't available.
It can also assist reduce tracking based on your IP address and offer some privacy from your Internet service provider.
However, as the VPN provider's servers still handle all of your Internet traffic, by utilizing one, you are choosing to put your trust in it rather than your ISP to not keep or sell your data. If you want a VPN, we suggest IVPN, but first, make sure you understand the advantages and disadvantages.
4. Install Antivirus Software On Your Computer
Viruses still exist, even though they may not seem as common as they did ten years ago. On your computer, malicious software can do all sorts of damage, from intrusive pop-up ads to underground bitcoin mining to personal data scanning.
Installing antivirus software is worthwhile, especially on Windows PCs, if you're prone to opening dangerous links or sharing a computer with others in your home.
If your computer runs Windows 10, you should use Windows Defender, a built-in Microsoft program. After consulting with various experts, we concluded that Windows Defender provides more than enough security for most users and is the primary antivirus choice we recommend.
The second layer of security might be required if you utilize a shared computer or are running an earlier version of Windows (even though we strongly advise updating to Windows 10 or even 11.
Malwarebytes Premium is the best option for this purpose. In contrast to most antivirus programs, Malwarebytes is non-intrusive, integrates well with Windows Defender, and doesn't send out a ton of obnoxious notifications.
Most Mac users are comfortable with the security features built into macOS, especially if you only download apps from Apple's App Store and limit your usage of reputable browser add-ons.
There is also a Mac version of Malwarebytes Premium if you do want an additional degree of security. You should strictly avoid antivirus programs on your phone and only download reputable apps from authorized marketplaces.
Although keeping your online privacy may seem overwhelming, it is basically about following a few ground rules that will help you maintain your privacy on the internet. You may avoid many privacy-invading activities if you develop a low-key, skeptical phobia about new apps and services. The changing times demand developing new habits, after all.
I trust you enjoyed this article on the Best Ways To Protect Your Online Privacy. Would you please stay tuned for more articles to come?
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