It’s more difficult than ever to lead a “private” online life because of significant data breaches and online tracking. It’s not likely, though.
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 steps.
A priceless skill is knowing how to protect your privacy online. Here is our detailed explanation of online privacy, what it means for you, and how to safeguard it.
What is Online Privacy?
Online privacy is probably a topic you hear about more than ever right now—and not just in the news. Governments and tech behemoths share a top concern for privacy, and the two frequently disagree on what it means.
What does it actually mean, though? Online privacy essentially refers to defending your right to keep personal information to yourself.
Surprisingly, not many places have legislation defending those rights. Even when there are online privacy laws in place, not all businesses abide by them, as was the case when Cambridge Analytica used Facebook to gather a massive amount of data on American voters.
Internet security and privacy are two distinct but connected concepts. While cybersecurity focuses on illegal data collection (like defending your accounts from hackers), privacy typically deals with legal data collection (like what you post on Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms).
There is, however, a lot of overlap. Privacy is improved by strong security, and strong security is maintained by improved privacy. You can enhance both by taking a few straightforward actions.
8 Tips to Protect Your Online Privacy
1. Decide to share fewer things online.
Lessening the amount of information you share is the best precaution to take against online scammers.
When it comes to sharing information, social networks come to mind first, and that’s a great place to start. Photos of you or your loved ones, geotagged posts, or any other information you wouldn’t want strangers to know about should all be treated with extra caution.
Nearly all apps collect information about your activities in addition to social media platforms, and they rarely protect your data as carefully as you would like. Another company’s privacy violations make headlines every few months. For examples:
- Even for “anonymous” users, Zoom’s integration with LinkedIn made names and occupations visible.
- The locations of covert American military bases in Syria and Afghanistan were revealed by Strava in an interactive map of all routes recorded by users.
- For seven years, Facebook kept hundreds of millions of account passwords in a searchable, employee-accessible database.
Your online footprint is made up of all of these shares and data points, which scammers can use to access your private data.
Here are some strategies for avoiding online oversharing:
- Share less on forms. Leave out any “optional” details, such as a middle name or phone number.
- Create a throwaway email address. On the Dark Web, email lists are frequently rented or sold, and they might end up in the wrong hands. Create a disposable email specifically for subscriptions.
- Limit collaborative folders, albums, or playlists. Your data is more likely to be leaked or compromised the more people who have access to it.
- Protect your Wi-Fi password. Numerous sensitive pieces of information, including passwords and financial data, are handled by your router. Your information could potentially be stolen by anyone with your Wi-Fi password and malicious intentions.
2. Use Strong and Unique Password Plus 2-Factor Authentication
The most crucial, and occasionally the only, defense 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 (including guest accounts).
Even a strong password, however, can be bypassed by hackers if your device doesn’t lock automatically. In other words, once you turn off your iPhone or activate your screen saver, ensure that the device prompts for the password as soon as possible after.
The best setting for devices that use fast biometric authentication, such as fingerprint scanning or facial recognition, rather than a code, is “30 seconds” or “immediately.”
Use a secure and distinctive password for all of your online accounts. Since you most likely have numerous accounts, using a password manager makes it simpler to keep the data secure.
Last but not least, enable two-factor authentication for each account that supports it. It’s a backup security measure that can keep you safe even if you gave hackers your password during a phishing scam. You’ve used two-factor authentication if you’ve ever had to enter a code that was texted to your phone.
However, since authenticator apps are more secure than text message verification codes, it is recommended to avoid SMS and use them instead.
3. Browse Online with a Secure VPN
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.
In order to protect sensitive information on your Wi-Fi network, HTTPS Everywhere forces encrypted connections on sites that it supports. Websites cannot track you using ad blockers or tracking blockers.
By using a secure VPN, you can encrypt your browsing data and prevent hackers from reading it. If you must use public Wi-Fi, such as at a coffee shop or airport, you must use a VPN. (Keep in mind that using unsecured or public Wi-Fi networks carries a number of risks.)
Additionally, you can use incognito or private mode, but it’s less secure than you might think.
All of your browsing activity is still recorded by your internet service provider (ISP), and websites are able to gather specific information about your computer, including your IP address.
Using a different browser, like Brave, is the final step in ensuring online privacy. Tor, which conceals your location and browsing history through multiple layers, is the most secure browsing option. Tor offers unparalleled privacy but a slower browsing speed.
4. Keep Updating Your Software
Most privacy breaches are not the result of recently found bugs. On computers that haven’t installed the fix, they instead exploit known vulnerabilities that have already been fixed.
Unpatched vulnerabilities were among the main causes of Windows systems’ vulnerability to attacks, according to a Bitdefender report from 2021 [*].
Setting your operating system to install updates automatically is the first and most important step. Set up automatic updates for Google ChromeOS, Apple macOS, and Microsoft Windows by following the setup instructions.
To guard against malware like spyware, which secretly gathers information like credit card numbers, you can also download antivirus software.
5. Disable Ads and Data Tracking
Your personal information is primarily gathered online for marketing purposes rather than for fraud or data breaches. You can disable many of these trackers with a few easy steps.
First off, ignore pop-ups that ask if you want to share your data.
6. Removing pointless connections to third-party apps
The security of all your apps can also be increased by fencing them in, or limiting the connections they have to 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-ons (SSO) with distinct logins.
However, it goes beyond logins. We frequently link apps so that calendars can sync, social media posts can be shared across platforms, and more. Although these features may be useful, it is a good idea to review what is connected and revoke access for anything you don’t require.
7. Tighten Privacy Settings
The following and possibly simplest action you can take is to simply review the privacy settings on the online accounts you frequently use.
Companies profit by collecting your personal information to the tune of millions or even billions. Additionally, their default settings tend to favor data collection over 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 areas where you ought to exercise caution.
- Location tracking. Take into account disabling automatic geolocation on your posts, images, and comments on social media.
- Public information. Consider carefully which information should be disclosed, kept private, or kept somewhere in-between. Profile data, your content, and your interactions with other content make up the typical three levels of data.
- Likes, shares, and comments. We frequently consider how much information we share, but typically, your “likes” and comments on other posts are also visible to the public. Even for “private” accounts, profile images, user names, and comments on other posts frequently appear in search results.
The good news is that the majority of the steps you can take to safeguard your online privacy are under your control, despite the fact that 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.
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