Are you up to snuff on the key points of internet privacy? Is your online security important to you? How much do you do to safeguard it? In order to keep yourself safe and protect your data, check out our top ten tips for smarter internet use. Give this list a quick check to make sure you’re doing everything you should to protect yourself
Always Log Off
You’ve probably trained yourself to lock the front door of your home whenever you leave it. Treat your online bank accounts and social media profiles the same way! It’s the work of a moment, and it goes a long way toward protecting your personal data from prying eyes.
Don’t fall into the mistake of thinking that your account is secure if you simply close the browser window you were using to access your account. A closed window will still leave your account logged in from the specific device you were using, and that makes your data traceable / trackable. Make certain you’re protected by taking the time to explicitly log your accounts out. This is especially important when you’re using a shared device or a public network.
Don’t Use Public Connections/Devices For Sensitive Accounts
As an extension of the point we just mentioned, it’s a good practice to simply refrain from using sensitive accounts (like bank accounts) entirely when you’re using a machine or network connection you don’t trust. It’s impossible to tell whether or not your data is secure on a public network: It might be collected by third parties or even resold by the network operator. You might lose your personal information or have malware, adware, and viruses introduced to your device.
Avoiding the use of public networks or shared devices is the best way to keep yourself and your data safe. However, if you absolutely must get onto your social media accounts or conduct online banking in public, the best way to do so is:
Using a VPN
When you connect to a VPN, every bit of data is sent to and from your device through a secure, encrypted connection. This protects every bit of your data from surveillance either by rogue agents or by your internet service provider. Any attempt to steal your data will merely deliver useless garbage.
VPNs also make it possible to access content that might be restricted by internet service providers or local governments. They even save you money by shopping. This is because a VPN replaces your physical IP address with a more anonymous one provided by your network. All in all, the use of a VPN offers you considerable benefits for every sort of online activity. You can check the best ones out on VPN Analysis.
Exercise Caution When Individuals Solicit Personal Information For Contests
There are an ever-growing number of sites that invite you to enter a contest or get access to “exclusive” content by turning over your email address or other personal information. Though this might seem like a harmless solicitation, the truth is that this information – even something as innocuous as an email address – can be used, exploited, and even resold for marketing purposes after you provide it.
Get into the habit of taking a moment to think things through carefully before providing your email address under any circumstances. How much value are you really going to get in exchange for your contact information? Are the odds of winning anything in a contest realistic? The most likely situation when it comes to contests is that you will get nothing while an online marketer gains a lead that can be monetized in any number of ways. One excellent way to pass these sorts of email gateways is to create pseudonymous email addresses that you use exclusively for contests and throwaway offers.
Protect Your Location Data
Modern social media platforms encourage you to share your location a little too freely. When you finally arrive at that destination resort you’ve been dreaming of, it’s very tempting to announce that fact to the online world with a proud Facebook check-in. If you’re out for a romantic dinner and the restaurant serves up some delicious entrees, why not snap a photo or two and upload them (complete with location tags) to Instagram?
Adding location data to your social media posts is easy and fun. This is one situation where you need to take a more realistic view of the potential drawbacks. You have no idea what sort of unscrupulous third parties might be tracking your location and what they intend to do with that information. For a very sobering example, consider the news reports which detail the way armed robbers have started to entrap victims by offering up rare Pokémon to unsuspecting Pokémon Go players.
Cut Suspicious Emails Off Cold
Even without entering contests or signing up for lists as described above, your inbox is going to receive more than a few pieces of spam email. All you ever need to do with fishy email is send it straight to the recycling bin. Opening such messages, clicking links within them, or replying to them will simply open up your device and your personal information to unwanted attacks.
You might think that replying to suspicious emails is a viable way to get your address removed from a mailing list. This does not work. It actually causes you further harm by confirming to the list owner that your email address is valid and regularly read by a living user. Thus responding to spam only serves to increase the amount you receive in the future. You can even end up reducing the effectiveness of the spam filters used by your email software and even your service provider. Corresponding with spammers will indicate to the programs involved that you value these sorts of emails. In the future, your filters will end up passing more and more spam on to your inbox.
Use Strong Passwords
Passwords cannot be viewed as simple irritations making it harder for you to access your online accounts. They’re an important part of your online security system, and you owe it to yourself to use good ones.
Do not use easily-guessed words or personal details in your passwords. Make sure all of your passwords include special characters, letters, and numbers. To keep passwords for multiple accounts straight, consider using advanced solutions such as password managers, two-factor authentication, and Diceware.
Keep A Handle On Cookies
Cookies aren’t just a delicious after-dinner treat; they’re also an insidious tool that can rob you of the online anonymity you’re trying to preserve. Cookies are tools used by the websites you visit to profile your behavior. Companies that specialize in tracking online activity can use your cookies to direct targeted advertisements at you.
The best way to defend yourself from unwanted cookie activity is to use browser add-ons designed expressly for that purpose. Examples include Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin.
The Value Of Anonymous Browsing
Once you start to really value your security, it’s time to start learning more about powerful tools that will help you safeguard it. A dedicated browser to keep you anonymous is an excellent idea, and the current industry standard in this department is Tor. (You can learn more about Tor here.) Use a no-tracking app for handling mobile searches, too. DuckDuckGo makes an excellent one. Of course, these sorts of tools work best when combined with a VPN.
Exercise Common Sense About Information Sharing
Remember that unscrupulous parties can only start using your information if you choose to give it up. Here’s a basic checklist of common-sense privacy protection practices:
- Do not submit your primary email address to contests or unfamiliar websites.
- Do not use personal information on shared devices or public networks.
Remember that even when you’re using a trustworthy connection, information that you release onto the internet can’t be removed later. Take a moment to Google yourself to see what information is already available.