How to protect your private data online

February 24, 2021 10:54 am7 comments

The amazing technological advances of the digital age have brought us all truly stupendous advantages. But these advances and advantages come at a pretty scary price – our very lives, with our most private and indeed intimate details, are out there in cyberspace for every Tom, Dick and sneaky tech-savvy Harry to access and exploit. 

However, you are able to wrestle back your digital privacy with some relatively easy measures. Here are some simple online security recommendations that will enable you to take back control of your digital information, and regain some peace of mind.

 

Use a password manager to protect your accounts

Keeping all your passwords straight has become a nightmare for many people, and often turns into a jumbled mess! Hackers are quick to exploit this, so ‘credential stuffing’ and account takeovers are rising at an alarming rate.

The answer lies in using a dedicated password manager. Not only will it generate effective and unique passwords for all your accounts, it will also track and manage all your passwords in a single secure location. 

It takes a bit of time and effort to set a password manager up, but it is well worth the effort. There are a wide range of password managers available, varying from paid providers to open-source free managers like LastPass, 1Password and Bitwarden.

 

Make sure your home WiFi network is also protected

Most people assume that setting up a network name and password will be sufficient for your home network, but this may well not be the case. You should also regularly assess your wireless network at home to ensure that it is still secure.  Look at the following:

  • Consider setting up a guest network if you have lots of friends or family using your network. A guest network, with a second SSID with its own password, makes good sense. This will keep others off your main network and protect you from malware-infected devices, or any insecure practices by your guests. 
  • Is your router running the most up-to-date firmware? You may need to download patches to ensure full protection.
  • When last did you change the password on your home Wi-Fi? As previously said, using a password manager to generate your password will ensure that you have a strong password. Avoid the temptation of using the brand name of your router in the password – hackers may exploit that to probe for vulnerabilities in your system.  
  • Check your network settings to ensure that your router is using WPA2. If it isn’t, you would be wise to upgrade to one that does.  

 

Employ an ad-blocker to block ads and trackers 

Adware is fast becoming the most pervasive online pestilence! It refines your digital profile as it tracks you across the Web and siphons off your location data and browsing history as it goes.

However, you need not fall victim to this cyber scourge! There are several free and convenient tools that enable you to block intrusive and unwanted ads. It will be very much worth your while to research some of the ad blockers and browser extensions like uBlock Origin, uMatrix, Privacy Badger and PiHole, amongst others. 

 

Always browse the Internet with the security of HTTPS Everywhere

Whatever the browser of your choice, HTTPS Everywhere is an open-source browser extension that will protect you from data theft and even ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks. It automatically enforces an encrypted and secure connection between your browser and whatever website you may be visiting, and it can also block and unblock all non-HTTPS connections. Developed by EFF, HTTPS Everywhere is freely available for downloading from their website, or from all the usual vendors.  

 

Why not browse the Web anonymously? 

There are many good reasons to browse the Internet anonymously. You may simply wish to avoid targeted advertising, or not be subject to government censorship or surveillance. 

A private search engine offers a great way to keep your search history private, and there are several private search engines available that will enable you to search the Web anonymously. One of these is DuckDuckGo, which will never collect, nor share any of your personal data.

SearchEncrypt is another good privacy-based alternative that uses SSLs (secure sockets layer) to keep your Web searches private. Tor browser and Brave are other options you can investigate in this regard.

Always use public Wi-Fi networks with a VPN

Public or unprotected Wi-Fi networks can be used for identity theft. Hackers have even been known to set up Wi-Fi ‘honeypots’ in these locations with exactly this in mind. If you do utilise a public Wi-Fi network, always use a VPN (virtual private network) to connect to the Internet.

 

Using a sort of virtual ‘tunnel’, VPNs sends information over the Internet in an encrypted manner, which makes it almost impossible for hackers to access your activity or data. There are various types of VPN services available.

Finally, employ some good old-fashioned common sense  

In general, common sense can go a long way towards protecting your private data online. 

  • Do not hand out your private information to said Tom, Dick, and Harry. 
  • Tweak the privacy settings on your browser accounts to protect your data. 
  • Make sure your devices are equipped with firewalls, and anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and make sure you update these protections regularly. 
  • Be circumspect in what information you divulge on social media sites. 
  • Read privacy policies – even though they can be profoundly aggravating. If they are confusing or ambiguous, rather take your business elsewhere. 
  • Before selling a computer or disposing of it, be sure you remove all your information from it. 
  • Make sure you use encrypted messaging for your email. 

 

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