Many of our day-to-day life is conducted online, whether that’s answering emails, paying bills, or checking social media to pass the time during a commute. As we find ourselves increasingly using the internet to connect with others, as well as take care of personal and professional matters, more of us are considering internet privacy and how to keep our information safe online:
According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans report that they believe their cellphones are being tracked almost all or all of the time by tech companies, advertisers, or other companies. Furthermore, 79% are concerned about how the data companies collect is being used. This paints a picture of the confusion and uncertainty that surround our ever-evolving online lives.
One of the best steps you can take as an individual to improve your internet privacy and protect your personal information online is to be aware of the risks of being online and take steps to mitigate those risks. Let’s look at some easy steps you can take to protect your online privacy today.
Share less on social media.
Audit your profiles for personal information, especially your phone number and email address. Use a site like Nuwber to check what sort of information is available about you from just your phone number. Once you know what’s out there, take steps to improve your privacy settings or even set your accounts to private. In general, avoid sharing personal information like your phone number, address, and the like.
Take a moment to log out.
With every site requiring a unique password with a symbol, a number, and three capital letters, logging out and back in can seem like a major hassle. What’s worse? Staying logged in, which allows your account to continue running and gathering up whatever data you’re generating as you move on to another site. Not only is your data being harvested, you’re also opening yourself up to a potential security breach. It’s worth the extra minute to log out of any account each time you use.
Avoid public WiFi.
Public WiFi is convenient and sometimes necessary, but to the extent you can, it’s better to avoid it. Because public WiFi is not encrypted, anyone on the network can see the data you’re transmitting while you’re using it. Due to the sheer amount of the sensitive information we have on our phones these days , from personal to financial information, it’s usually just not worth the risk to connect to a public network. If you do need to use a public hotspot, never log into bank accounts or similar applications while on the network.
Use a VPN.
A virtual private network, better known as a VPN, is a wise investment if you find yourself frequently in need of public WiFi. A VPN protects your IP address which keeps your online activity almost completely untraceable. Beyond public WiFi, you can use a VPN all the time to keep your online activities and your data to yourself.
Use secure passwords AND store them securely.
You might be tired of hearing it, but strong passwords are a crucial component of internet security. Use longer passwords of 12 characters or more and avoid using names, birthdays, and other personal information when crafting a password. Also important is how you store your passwords. Don’t upload them to a public storage service – seek out a reputable password manager if you need your passwords at the tips of your fingers.
Beware of spam emails.
Spam email isn’t going away – in 2019, it accounted for over half of all emails sent. Because it’s so prevalent, it’s hard to overstate how important it is to be cautious when it comes to opening emails, especially if it’s coming from an unknown source or arouses your suspicion in any way. According to the FBI, business email compromises accounted for $26 billion in losses over just three years. This certainly isn’t a problem that will be going away any time soon.
We are living in an increasingly online world, and the challenges that face us in terms of privacy and security are likely only to increase. You are your first and best defense when it comes to protecting your internet privacy. Adopting good habits when online and actively securing your accounts and personal information are paramount to protecting yourself on the internet. While you can’t prevent a data breach or hack, there are plenty of easy ways to protect yourself today to avoid becoming a target tomorrow.