13 Tips To Protect Your Internet Privacy
This is a guide to protecting your internet privacy. Learning how to do so is key when we all use the internet with increasing regularity. The internet touches so many parts of our lives these days that it is central to how we operate.
Sadly, there are many criminals out there that seek to exploit our online life by accessing our data for their own, illegal means. It can open us up to online fraud and attack, which can not only cause us financial distress it can affect other elements of our lives like credit ratings. This does not even take into account the added stress that an online attack can have on our lives.
By taking on board the following 13 tips, hopefully you will be preventing this from ever happening by protecting your internet privacy in a comprehensive and robust way. Employing all these methods is fundamental to staying safe online.
1. Use Antivirus software
Antivirus software is essential for any computer or phone – regardless of whether it is connected to the internet or not. They are an excellent way to help prevent against online fraud or damage on your device. Antivirus software essentially helps prevent against intrusion into a computer by an unwanted party. It does so by identifying a computer’s weak spots and adding strength to those access points.
It’s important to use so that data stored on a computer or a device remains safe and unreadable to anyone other than for who it was intended.
2. Protect Against Identity Theft
Identity theft is one of the ways that online fraudsters make use of all the information gathered on a person. They use this information to pose as someone so that they can make use of all manner of elements from that person’s life. In the worst cases, identity theft can allow a hacker to access a person’s bank accounts and steal money straight out of the account without the person or bank realizing before it is too late.
Protecting against identity theft is a way of stopping this from ever happening. To do so, people should be wary of the information that they give out about themselves. Key data is information such as zip codes, first line of their address, mothers’ maiden names or bank account details. And this is just a few pieces of data that we all happily give away online when making purchases or otherwise.
Being aware of how identity theft occurs is the first step towards protecting against it.
3. Optimize your passwords
When we all first started using the internet and computers, the majority of us were guilty of using the same password across the board. We used the same few letters for logging into our desktop at work and at home as well as all the online accounts we had.
Unfortunately, this is a sure fire way to have your accounts hacked and allow yourself to fall victim to online fraud. Hackers only need to spy you logging into one application one time, and they are able to access any accounts you have online.
The best way round this is to use different passwords for everything. Those passwords also need to be optimized so that they are impossible to guess. Stay clear of using birthdays, relative names, pet names and other easy to guess combinations.
Remembering them all does sound like a headache, but there are ways around this other than storing them on your computer, which in itself is unsafe. You can use password managers which will secure hundreds of unique passwords for you. A password manager can also generate random and secure passwords when needed. We highly recommend Dashlane as a password manager.
4. Update your cookies
Cookies are how websites gather and store information about your browsing history. It means that websites are able to use that data to analyze your behavior online so they can better market products and services at you.
However, it also means that these websites can sell that analysis to a third party so that they also have the information on you. Given that we put so much of ourselves online these days, it’s good to try to keep some sort of handle on where data about us gets to.
While not all cookies are bad, it pays to slightly tweak your settings so that if a cookie is installed on your computer or device automatically, you are at least alerted. It’s a good way to know exactly who is reading your online activity.
5. Use a VPN to Make Browsing Anonymous
VPNs are perhaps one of the best ways to protect yourself online and have truly anonymous browsing sessions. They work by connecting users to the internet through another server. That connection is than encrypted by the VPN provider who has set up the Virtual Private Network for its subscriber. The encrypted connection is called a tunnel and they are incredibly difficult for hackers and spammers to infiltrate to obtain data on a person while they are online. Plus, as the data is encrypted, even if they do infiltrate the tunnel, they cannot read what is being sent over the internet anyway.
Plus, one of the benefits of a VPN is that the provider hides the user’s IP address and gives them another one once they are connected to the server. This means that a VPN can stop sites from tracking your actual IP address and therefore your location and browsing habits.
Picking a VPN is tricky owing to the huge market of them that exists. However, you can read our list of top rated VPN services, though we highly recommend ExpressVPN above all others. They provide a consistent, reliable connection that is secure at all times. It makes browsing anonymously easy as well as possible.
6. Turn off Your GPS
Turning your GPS off on your phone in its settings application is key to maintaining your privacy while online. By turning it off, it means that all your applications (of which there will be many) will not be able to read where you are. Some of these applications, especially if they are social media apps, will post this location online.
The reason that this is bad for your privacy is that it advertises when you are not home. This is a safety risk for so many reasons. Plus, it’s not always the nicest feeling to know that you can be tracked and traced wherever you go. Turning off your GPS is an easy way to stop geotagging and any danger of revealing your location.
7. Deactivate the Auto Fill Option
This may sound like overkill, but turning off your autofill option is an easy way to start protecting yourself online.
Autofill works by recognizing familiar words and numbers when you complete forms online. Have you ever noticed how when you type in your home’s number, that an autofill option comes up with your street name too? This is dangerous for several reasons, but particularly because this information to enable autofill to work has to be stored somewhere online.
If it stored online, it is open to a data breach by online criminals and hackers. To stop this even being a possibility, simply turn your autofill option off. The feature may save you a few seconds here and there, but ultimately you can survive without it and it protects your identity online.
8. Using Private Browsing Modes
In answer to the increased need for online security and staying anonymous online, some browsers have a private browsing feature. These features help users protect themselves when using the internet. A good example is Google Chrome’s Incognito function. Many people will recognize it from the icon that looks like a hat and glasses. It certainly has its limitations, but if you don’t have a VPN it’s better than nothing.
Other anonymous browsers that are worthy of mentioning are TOR or search engines like DuckDuckGo. Neither of them allow cookies or pop ups, plus they use a secure and encrypted method for browsing. This means that neither of them track a user’s online activity which further addresses online privacy.
9. Only Use HTTPS Links
HTTPS is a form of tech jargon that very few people actually know the true meaning behind. There is actually very little need to know the technicalities behind it in any detail, other than you should always ensure that a website uses this as part of its address. If it simply says HTTP or any other derivation, it is not safe to use.
The reason that it is not safe is that a website that is not HTTPS can have malware installed on it by a cyber criminal or fraudster. This means that they can gain access to the communications between the user and the website. Hackers can then obtain sensitive data on website users.
HTTPS ensures that users cannot do this by preventing intruders tampering between a website and its users.
10. Make Sure All Your Social Media Accounts Are Private
This is fundamental to limiting the amount of sensitive data that is available about you that is online. Securing your social media accounts is essential as these days most are public by default. This means that it is far easier to gather information on you and build a bigger picture that opens you up to online fraud.
Facebook is a prime example as it is no longer an application where users are in full control of their internet privacy. Instead, it is a huge money making company that makes a profit from the data that its users post online or save to their profiles. It is possible to change your settings so that the company cannot sell your information, but users should also be aware about what other information they post.
For example, some users are guilty of inadvertently posting sensitive information such as phone numbers or email addresses. This is helpful data to so many marketing companies out there as well as online criminals. Or many, if not all, of us will post pictures of our vacation while actually on that vacation – thus revealing that our homes are empty. This is a massive security risk.
By changing your settings to the utmost private ones available, you are helping protect your internet privacy no end. This needs to be done across all your social media accounts.
11. Remember to Log Out
It sounds so obvious, but so many of us simply don’t log out of our accounts when we sign in online. This means that our accounts stay open and running in the background. It opens us up to a security breach. This is because those accounts or websites you are logged into can then read everything else you are up to online.
Importantly, closing the window of the account that you have logged into is not enough. A social media giant like the aforementioned Facebook can read everything you are up to, even if you have shut the application or window you were accessing Facebook through. Facebook then stores what you have got up to online which then becomes a precious commodity to third parties, Facebook itself, and online hackers. You have no control of what happens to that precious commodity either.
To stay untrackable, simply log out each and every time you access an online account. Again, it may take a few moments to do so, but the time you have spent may save you a great deal of pain further down the line.
12. Beware of Spam Emails
Spam emails are an easy way to avoid being hacked online. By deleting them immediately the moment they get into our inboxes, we are protecting our internet privacy no end. Online users who open suspicious emails are ones that often fall victim to online fraud.
The problem is, fraudulent and spam emails are becoming harder and harder to spot. Essentially, when opening any email, we should be very cautious of clicking any links that are contained within them. It is by clicking those links that we open ourselves up to a malware attack on your device. This malware can then access your private information.
13. Use Public Wifi and Hotspots With Caution
Public wifi seems like a good way to save our data allowance with our internet provider when out and about. But accessing the internet through a hotspot or public wifi on our handheld devices makes us extremely susceptible to online attack. This is particularly true if we use that public wifi to log on to any online accounts – social media or otherwise.
Public wifi has no means of encryption so that anyone who is using the same wifi as you, can read whatever data you are transmitting. This therefore means that accessing any financial data, bank accounts or financial applications is a total no no. It can be so tempting, but it is just not worth it due to the danger of exposing passwords and sensitive data to prying eyes.
However, if you need to use a public wifi to access your bank or any other extremely sensitive data, ensure you are using a VPN at the same time. A reputable VPN will make that public wifi a secure network for you so that your data is encrypted. As ever, we recommend using ExpressVPN above all other VPN providers.
Staying Safe and Private Online
Staying safe and maintaining privacy while on the internet is now as important as shutting and locking your front door. We are just as likely to be robbed online as we are with a physical burglary – if not more.
Employing all the above steps will help improve your protection while online so that it is close to impossible to hack into any accounts or connections to view a user’s sensitive data. One of the easiest and most secure ways to do so is with a VPN and through antivirus software. Adopting good habits while online is also fundamental to ensuring you are safe against online trouble.
In doing so, users can be assured that their data and information will always stay safe while they are connected to the internet.