Assuming that your information is safe online is dangerous. There are too many companies, advertisers and hackers that have too much to gain from your information to be complacent about your privacy.
Privacy on the internet is not a right, but a privilege that has to be achieved deliberately. According to a recent study, nearly 64 percent of Americans have had their private data exposed in a data breach.
Out of this 64 percent of Americans:
- 41 percent faced fraudulent charges on their credit card.
- 35 percent had sensitive information compromised.
- 13 percent had someone steal control of one of their accounts.
There are many groups that are trying to access your data. One step to take before protecting your privacy is to determine which information is most valuable to the groups trying to access it. This information is what you need to focus on protecting most.
What Type Of Data Do You Need To Protect Online?
The most important type of data to keep private is personally identifiable information. This is any information that could be used to identify you specifically. Someone could determine who you are without just your name. For example, if someone has your date of birth and your zip code, they could potentially narrow down the potential identities to just a few people.
These are some examples of personally identifiable information:
- Names – This includes your full name, maiden name, mother’s maiden name, etc.
- Personal ID numbers – This includes your social security number, passport number, driver’s license number, credit account number, patient ID number, taxpayer ID number, financial account number, personal phone numbers, etc.
- Biometrics – This includes fingerprints, retina scans, voice signatures or facial geometry.
- Addresses – This includes your email address and street address.
- Technology asset data – This includes IP addresses or MAC addresses that are linked to a certain individual.
These bits of information may seem quite exhaustive. However, it still doesn’t include all the information you should protect while going online. There are plenty of ways that you can make the internet more privacy-friendly, although they do take a little extra time and effort.
Why It Is So Important To Protect Your Privacy Online?
Prevent Identity Theft
Identity theft is when someone else is able to access your private or personal information and uses to impersonate you. He or she could then access your financial or social media accounts. And unfortunately, if someone accesses your email account, they could use that account to access your other accounts. If someone steals your identity and then commits a crime you could be held accountable.
Identity theft is that kind of cybercrime that can have long-lasting impacts on your internet privacy and your digital reputation. A recent study on identity theft found that around 6.7 million people faced identity theft in 2017. As companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook collect more and more information, identity will likely become even more prevalent.
Protect Your Financial Information
Cybercriminals can use your financial information to make unauthorized purchases, transfers, and withdrawals from your accounts. Even though financial sites use encryption, there are other ways for these criminals to access your banking information. If someone accesses your email accounts they could gain access to your credit card details rather easily.
Maintain Your Business’ Reputation
From a business standpoint, a data breach could completely diminish people’s trust in your business. Businesses need to take cybersecurity seriously or face harsh financial impacts in the event of a breach. With more commerce moving to the internet, more data is exchanged between customers and businesses than ever. This means there is more risk for customers to enter their information on a shady website or for a website to leak customer data.
How to Protect Your Privacy on the Internet?
There is no single method that you can use to guarantee your privacy on the internet. Any system has vulnerabilities that hackers could take advantage of. The internet by nature involves millions of exchanges of information. The links you click on, the sites you visit and the searches you type in are all tracked. These are a few ways to protect your privacy online.
1. Password Protect Everything
It’s important to password protect your devices. Your computer, your phone or your tablet, they all contain personal information which could be harmful if it gets in the wrong hands. If someone steals one of your devices and doesn’t have to get past a password, you’re putting yourself at unnecessary risk.
The same concept applies to online accounts. Most of your online accounts, especially social media and bank require a password. The big challenge though is creating a strong password. Here are some tips you can follow to make a strong password:
- Make sure that passwords you will create are at least 10 to 20 characters long.
- Add capital letters, symbols and numbers to make the password stronger.
- Don’t use your personal information, for instance, family names, anniversaries and birthdays, as passwords that contain personal data are easy to guess.
- Don’t use the same password for different sites. Otherwise, it could compromise all your online accounts if one website or account is hacked.
- Avoid making passwords that are based on the patterns of the keyboard, for instance, “qwertyuiop”.
Strong passwords are difficult to remember, but it is important for your online privacy. You can write down all your passwords and store that paper in a safe place. A better alternative is to use a reliable password manager tool. These will store your passwords in encrypted form and you’ll only have to remember your one password for the password storage.
You should also enable Two-Factor authentication, which helps keep your accounts secure even if someone gains access to your account.
2. Keep Your Computer Malware-Free
Malware and viruses not only are a big inconvenience, but they also can compromise your personal information. Some malware is designed for the sole purpose of scanning your devices for private data to steal your identity.
There are a number of anti-virus and anti-malware tools available that make it simple to keep your system free of these threats. These tools are also available for smartphones, which can also get infected.
Some of the most recommended anti-virus programs you can use are:
- McAfee VirusScan
- Webroot SecureAnywhere
3. Secure Your Browser
Your browser is basically your gateway to the internet. If you aren’t using a secure browser, you’re putting all your browsing data at risk. A browser without privacy protection measures could make it easier for websites to track you.
One easy step to keep advertisers away from your browsing behavior is to disable third-party cookies. Advertisers use these cookies to track you, not only on their website but also on other sites you visit.
Next, you can use browser plug-ins or extensions for additional privacy and security. For example, HTTPS Everywhere forces your browser to use the encrypted, secure version of websites that support HTTPS.
4. Use a Virtual Private Network
VPNs are one of the best methods available out there to protect your online privacy. They can help you to make browsing anonymous. They protect your privacy by connecting you to the web through a virtual, remote server. Further, VPNs encrypt your connection to keep your browsing secure.
That encrypted connection is a tunnel and are quite hard for spammers and hackers to access. In addition to it, even if someone accesses your network data, then he or she can’t read the data as it is encrypted using a VPN.
There are a number of benefits of using a VPN, including:
- Enhanced security
VPN comes with a lot of benefits to boost your online privacy and safety while using the web not just from spammers and hackers, but also from the government too. The VPN service hides your true IP address and provides you with another one once you are connected to the server. It means that VPN can help you to stop websites from monitoring your true IP address and browsing habits and location too.
- Protection over public networks
Using public network is risky, even if you are using a passcode to connect to a public network. Your data can be read, intercepted or stolen by hackers when you are using the public Wi-Fi at hotels, cafes or airports. This includes information like emails, logins, phone calls, passwords, and chats.
But, a VPN will create a hidden tunnel for your information and it encrypts your web traffic within encapsulated data packets and creates your own private connection over a public network.
5. Disable Your GPS
Disabling GPS on your smartphone is another good approach to maintain your internet privacy. The most private method is to disable all location tracking.
Further, it isn’t always a good thing to know that your location can be monitored and traced.
6. Make All of Your Social Media Accounts are Private
By default, social media accounts are public and it means that it is easier to collect information about you and develop a bigger picture that leads you to online danger or fraud.
Facebook is one example of a company that collects and exploits user data to make a profit. You can always delete your Facebook account, but that’s not always a realistic option for people. If you want to keep your Facebook account, you should go through your settings and make sure you aren’t giving Facebook unnecessary access to your information.
7. Beware of Spam Emails
Phishing emails are another threat to your information security. These emails appear to come from a reputable source, like someone you know or a business you have worked with. These emails attempt to coerce you into sharing your private information.
The best way to avoid getting taken advantage of by these emails is to always check the sender’s email address. An email may claim to be related to your bank account but the email address won’t be from your bank’s domain.
Staying secure and maintaining some level of privacy on the internet has become crucial. It’s like locking your home’s front door – it should be second nature and doing so will help keep you safe. The above steps can help enhance your privacy or at least make it more difficult for hackers to access your network or your personal information.