Massive data breaches and constant surveillance of what you are doing online are some of the annoyances threatening your privacy. As if that is not enough, marketers are tracking your every step online. Truly, privacy is becoming a rare commodity with each passing day.
Sometimes, people assume that their personal information is actually private. They would be surprised at how much private information is available online. If you are still in denial, just search for yourself on Google or people search directories, such as Pipl.com. You will be surprised at how much personal data is out there.
While some may not see any danger in sharing their information online, there is a downside to it. Look at it this way, when you have so much private information out there, you automatically become vulnerable to financial fraud and identity theft, among other commercial exploitations. Your personal information, such as your phone number, email address, social security number, and bank details, is worth a lot of money to bad guys and legitimate companies alike. Businesses want to know as much about you as possible so that they can serve you with customized ads. Likewise, cybercriminals want to take advantage of every opportunity to steal from you.
With that said, you shouldn’t be completely hopeless; you still have control over your data. Whether you are worried about identity theft or the idea of somebody watching your every move online, there are practical ways to protect your computer privacy. Here are some steps you should take to protect your personal information.
1. Use Strong Passwords
It is crucial to protect all your devices, including laptops, smartphones, and tablets, with passwords. You should also do the same for your online accounts. Regrettably, most people often use predictable passwords because they are easier to memorize. Using a generic password to secure your sensitive information is as good as displaying that information to passersby. Obviously, remembering long and unique passwords is not always easy, especially if you have several of them. But you can fix this problem by using a password manager. With a password manager, the only password you need to memorize is the master password.
Here are other tips on how to protect your system with passwords:
- Use a different password for each account or service.
- Use a mixture of numbers, letters, and symbols.
- Generate long passwords. Probably 12 characters or even more.
It is also recommended to save all your passwords on a Google spreadsheet and create a password to protect the spreadsheet. Here’s how to password protect a Google sheet.
2. Use Two-Factor Authentication
Another trick you can use to minimize intrusion is using two-factor authentication to lock down your online services, such as Dropbox, Facebook, Gmail, Apple ID, Twitter, and Microsoft, among others. Luckily, most online services like Gmail, which usually have valuable information, offer two-factor authentication.
What two-factor authentications does is add another layer of authentication, on top of your username and password. It may use something you know or something you have. Here, something you have could be your mobile device. Popular services like Gmail often ask you to enter a code sent through a text, call you with verifications details, or even ask you to tap a confirmation button. Recently, Microsoft and Google have embraced the use of a physical security key as a form of authentication. There are many guides online explaining how to add two-factor authentication to your Gmail account, bank account, WhatsApp and more.
3. Keep Your Social Media Activities Private
If you are active on social media, you should be careful not to share too much personal data. These platforms have a lot of information about you, and the most worrying thing is that this information is visible to everyone by default. That’s why it is necessary to configure your privacy settings. From here, you can decide which information you want to share with your friends, and which you can share with everyone else. If you can’t avoid sharing information on these networks, keep your email address, phone number, and other personal details private. The less information you share, the better your protection.
4. Scan Your Computer with a Strong Antivirus
Digital security and online privacy are closely correlated. We will demonstrate that in a minute. If a virus or malware entity has found its way into your computer, attackers will find it easy to gain access to your system and steal valuable information. Some of them may even lock your device and demand ransom to unlock it. Another trick that these criminals may use is to bundle free software with malware, then fool unsuspecting users to install the software.
The best way to avoid these risks is to install anti-malware solutions on your computer and keep it updated to remain protected at all times. On top of this, you should delete junk files on your devices. Use reliable Windows error solutions or Mac cleaning tools to accomplish this task. For more PC repair tips and tricks, be sure to visit Software Tested.
5. Reduce Your Online Footprints and Secure Your Communications
A majority of people interact with the digital world through a web browser, so you should be careful not to leave a trail of footprints when using this utility. When you visit a website, your browser discloses some crucial information about you, such as your IP address, the pages you visit, and what you search online. Marketers use this information to profile you, and then send you targeted offers. Even more alarming is that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and governments can use the information to monitor your online activities.
The first step to keep advertisers at bay is turning off third-party cookies. It is quite to clear cookies from any web-browser. Private browsing mode deletes your browsing history, cookies, and other temporary files when you close the browser. Unfortunately, you can’t prevent most of the tracking with just Incognito mode. You can only do so with special tools, such as a VPN. A reliable VPN will not only hide your identity, but it will also encrypt your data. This way, there is little chance for hackers to steal your personal information.
6. Use Secure Wi-Fi Connections
Public Wi-Fi networks are open to many users and usually unencrypted. What this means is that everyone on the same network can snoop on what you are doing. For this reason, you should avoid transmitting confidential information, such as your credit card details, login credentials, phone numbers, and so forth, while using public Wi-Fi. And if it is impossible to avoid public Wi-Fi connections, use a VPN to secure the connection and protect your information from prying eyes.
7. Be Mindful of the Apps You Install
Part of improving your computer security is being smart about what you install or click. Many people have fallen prey to clickbait. Sometimes, phishing scams may masquerade as secure sites, hoping to trick unsuspecting users into handing over their credentials. Similarly, some criminals may bundle software with malware entities and offer them as freeware.
To stay safe, avoid clicking links in text messages or emails unless you trust the source. Even then, you should be cautious because some trusted sources might be compromised. The same goes for suspicious freeware. A single rogue app could punch a hole in your system protection. If an application is free, it means you are paying for it in some way, and in most cases, it’s with your data.
Today, surveillance has practically become part of our lives. Unfortunately, most people don’t take their privacy seriously. Bad actors can take advantage of this weakness to wreak havoc. Thankfully, making your devices secure doesn’t take much effort. Follow these security tips, and soon you will worry less about computer security and privacy. Besides implementing the above protection measures, never ignore system updates when they are available.
Author Bio: A Computer Engineer by degree and a writer by profession, Cathy Trimidal writes for Software Tested and Outbyte. For years now, she has contributed articles focusing on the trends in IT, VPN, web apps, SEO, and digital marketing. Although she spends most of her days living in a virtual realm, she still finds time to satisfy her infinite list of interests.