Protect Your Online Information: 5 Steps You Can Take Right Now

The internet is probably this decade’s most used resource. It wouldn’t come off as a surprise if people choose it over water. People these days can’t even imagine a life without it. We all probably visit our Facebook, sites where we shop online and our YouTube accounts more than we go to our grandma’s house. We are heavily dependent on the internet for connecting with our friends, for managing our businesses, for promoting our talents, for listening to our favorite songs and much more so much so that we live half our lives online. It’s like the internet is a sort of alcohol and we are all addicted. Alas, like the real world, the virtual one is also not a bed of roses. You can’t just hop about carelessly from one site to another without paying attention to the digital footprints that you are leaving behind that can trace back to your identity.

There are several bad people online; criminals and legit companies that can use your information for fulfilling their motives. Not only does that compromise your privacy but it can also pose a risk to your finances. You see many deceptive internet thieves are constantly on the lookout for your credit card information. Most people are naive enough to give out this essential info to any online brand they come across when they make a purchase there. You should always be way pickier than you are when it comes to buying things online. Then there are viruses, malware, phishing scams that post weird things on your behalf when they get ahold of your social media accounts. And don’t think that all legitimate companies are your friends; some of them use cookies to extract your info to feed advertisements of the products that they find relevant to your interests.

So, you see, the virtual world has holes and when wandering around online you need to make sure you don’t fall deep into one. Below mentioned are five moves you can make to protect your information online.

1. Be Wise on Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest; these places are like second homes to most people. Little do these people know online accounts can never have the basic quality that their homes do; security. Viruses aren’t uncommon on social media. We have all heard and many have even experienced cases where one wakes up to find a text message from a well-wisher alerting them of the odd post on their Facebook timeline only to find out their account has been compromised.

Don’t get it wrong, the importance of having an online presence can’t be denied. The point here is that people need to play smart on social media. It isn’t necessary to list all your details, you can leave a lot of slots blank. It isn’t necessary to fill out where you were born, where you currently reside and every single insignificant detail. Your friends and office buddies already have your email, so what’s the point of putting it up online?

Secondly, many people also have the habit of mentioning even their hobbies on Facebook, the things they are interested in and the sports they play. So much so that every time they leave their house, they feel the irresistible urge to post their whereabouts online. Such information can be used to trap you. Like discussed above there are many harmful digital intruders who can hack into your accounts or stalk you to get ahold of these bits of information and use it against you.

Apart from these measures, another thing you can do to keep your information private is not linked all your accounts to each other. For instance, many people connect their Facebook to their WhatsApp or their Gmail. One should avoid doing that even though doing so makes for convenience. Because if one account is accessed by a hacker all others automatically become unsafe and supremely easy to access for a criminal.

Take two-step authentication seriously. Some services send you a private code that is asked for every time there is a login from a different device. Don’t answer questions like “Your childhood best friend?” honestly. Stay smart to stay safe.


2. Be Password Protected

Where everybody is aware of the importance of passwords in the digital world most people make the mistake of setting up weak passwords. This is a foolish step considering how most social media platforms now encourage you to set green, strong passwords. The biggest mistake is mentioning your birth year, your favorite meal, etc, in your password. Because such details can be guessed easily if someone does thorough research on you.

A strong password is one that is a blend of symbols, numbers, and letters. You can even use a legit and renowned password generator to make sure your passwords are too complex for your accounts to be hacked. Yet another blunder people step into is when they decide to use the same password for different accounts. Make sure your accounts don’t even have similar passwords because like that a trend can be easily observed.

Also, make sure to keep your hardware secure through a password. That is your personal computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphone must always be password protected. Prepare beforehand, just in case you lose one of these to a thug or an enemy in disguise of a friend. Lastly, your wireless router or another such internet device must also have a password preventing hackers from getting ahold of it.

3. Browse securely and block cookies

Turn on “private browsing,” a major feature provided by all major internet browsers. By doing so, your cookies will be deleted when you close that window. Same goes for temporary internet files and the history of places you visited on the web. Private browsing doesn’t just hide this information from anyone else using your PC but also from potential information collectors. Almost every company online is keen on knowing about you; your social circle, your demographics, your preferences, what you would want to buy and other info to target ads your way.

Such companies can use codes embedded in banner adverts to collect your info such as where you are located, the sites you visit, and more. The social media sharing icons on most sites enable these networks to access the information on your online profiles even when you aren’t logged in or don’t even have an account, to begin with. You can improve such online security by going anonymous which can be done by hiding IP addresses.

Web proxies, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) or Tor can be helpful in this regard as they drive you through a network of servers operated by global volunteers before landing you where you were headed. Another way you can go anonymous is by blocking cookies even though that can be a tad bit inconvenient. This would make it hard for websites to track your info. Also, enable blacklisting on your web browser though not all browsers support this feature. Blacklisting would keep you away from harmful sites, making available only safe to access websites.

Delete cookies to clear browsing data religiously. Most people have the habit of not logging out of their email or social media accounts. Don’t be among them; be sure to sign out of all accounts when they aren’t in use.

4. Be careful about online shopping

Saw a product online that you have been on the lookout for since quite a few days when it pops up on your screen and beckons you to buy it? It would be very silly of you to speed to the online shop, spend a few bucks there, enter your personal information and move on. The intelligent individual would be very picky about the online shopping platforms he visits and even pickier when it comes to enlightening a site with his personal information such as credit card details. Cons are always waiting for you to give them this information so that they can use your money, damage your credit card score and even take loans in your name.

When you go to an online store to make a purchase make sure the transaction page is encrypted. Encryption keeps your info safe from the cyberworld’s criminals. Make sure you use the same credit card for all online transactions and that your credit card is indeed a credit card and not a debit card. That is because if debit card information is gained by the hacker your bank account info would be at risk. Stay safe online and while shopping, be sure that the sites are authentic.

Another recommended measure is to choose to pay with cash rather than credit cards. There have been talks about how credit card companies can sell customer purchase data to internet advertisers. If you don’t want to give out information regarding your buying preferences and also don’t want to risk your financial details, opt for cash on delivery instead of online transactions.

Many shops; physical and digital, also ask for your zip code number when you make use of your credit card. Avoid giving out your zip code number at all costs because that along with your name mentioned on the credit card can be used to fish out further info of yours such as your address, email address and your phone number which could all be fed to the marketing database or worse.

5. Follow the basics

There are some rules that basically every individual is aware of. Such as making the use of firewalls and antivirus services. There are many renowned companies that you can rely on in this regard. Security programs like Norton and McAfee are examples of virus protection suites that are popular for protection against malware. Employ a private data protection suite to keep confidential info safe. Also, don’t open emails, particularly the attachments they include from unknown senders who can turn out to be potential threats. Emails and messages that talk about too good to be true offers can be tempting but are scams.

Another thing that people do not pay attention to though awareness about it has been spread before as well is that your cameras, the ones on your laptops and other such devices can be used to spy on you. Even just a regular person can download a software tool and furtively install it on your smart gadget when you aren’t around and bam! They can receive live footage via the camera despite the camera seeming off to you. Even if you think you don’t have any such people in your life who could do such a thing just know that a camera is an eye and someone is watching you through it.

People disregard this fact giving the reason that they have nothing to hide. But even the average man who is morally and ethically perfect in his ways can be targeted just because he has different views. Either way, you should be careful about such little things as no one wants their private life to be exposed to anyone regardless of how innocent it is. A step that can be taken is that a sticker or a band-aid can be attached to the camera lens. Same goes for microphones, but stickers don’t work for those. What you can do is leave your device outside your room.

Verdict
So, you see, the digital world has as many conniving individuals as the real world. You must, therefore, always be cautious. With the ever-increasing use of the internet, cybersecurity has become a concern. Though security providers are also trying to cope with this, the number of ways your data can be stolen has also increased. One would think that a famous search engine like Google would be safe but in truth, it is not as secure for users as they would like. At the end of the day, the only one who can protect you is yourself. Being unconcerned about such essential privacy issues can walk you to trouble. Remember, better safe than sorry.

Author Bio:
Angela is a freelance writer, experienced blogger and a professional social media coach. Currently she’s working with smiletutor which provide online tuition Singapore. Furthermore, Angela assists in businesses creation and controls social media content planning

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