How to protect your sensitive data when browsing online

Did you know you can make yourself completely invisible? No, not literally invisible. We're not wizards here. Instead, we're talking about digital invisibility. It's an online hack for keeping your data and personal information beyond the reach of hackers, fraudsters, and unscrupulous 'market researchers.'

And you don't need to be a tech genius. It's actually simple: just follow the latest advice from VPN provider and online privacy expert Surfshark.

It created several guides on how to go invisible online when using popular web browsers, social media apps, and gaming platforms.

Let's take back control of our data.

Why online security matters

Hackers are always on the lookout for sensitive data they can sell or exploit.

They hack around 30,000 websites per day and breach roughly 22billion data records every single year. Scary.

And they're not going to stop anytime soon. In fact, the problem is only getting worse. 2021 saw a 92.7% increase in malware and malicious email attacks, and 2022 is on course to be a record-breaking year for cyber-attacks and data thefts.

What happens when hackers get your data?

Identity and data theft cause a world of pain. You'll spend weeks, months, or maybe years cleaning up the mess.

With your passwords and sensitive information, fraudsters can apply for credit cards, loans, and mortgages.

They can gamble your life savings away or use them to buy tonnes of cryptocurrency, which is then transferred to untraceable wallets and addresses.

They can open bank accounts in your name and use them for money laundering, leaving you in hot water with law enforcement and government agencies.

They can target friends and loved ones, including your children.

And, in some cases, fraudsters use your data to threaten and blackmail.

Getting hacked isn't bad; it's terrible.

But nobody's data is really safe anymore, right?

Almost everyone uses - and needs - the internet in some capacity nowadays. It can sometimes feel like our entire lives are online and that we have no other choice but to risk handing over our data.

Many have completely given up on the idea of keeping it safe.

According to research by Surfshark, over 60% of people in the USA believe they can no longer get through life without companies sucking up their data.

As many as 1 in 3 (33%) are unaware of online data protection and privacy rules.

And more than 8 out of 10 people think they are powerless when deciding who can collect their data and what kind of data they can collect.

But there is a solution.

What does going dark mean?

'Going dark' means making yourself completely invisible online without deleting all your accounts and then staying off the internet forever.

Think of it like your digital invisibility cloak - or a superpower for evading those evil hackers and fraudsters.

Selecting stealth or incognito is the quickest to surf online without leaving much of a digital footprint. But, unfortunately, stealth mode isn't all that 'stealthy' and clicking the incognito isn't the digital equivalent of a disappearing act.

In both cases, internet providers and websites you log into will still track and store some of your data. And if they can do it, so can those dastardly hackers.

Going anonymous on popular web browsers

Here are a few more tips to protect your privacy on popular browsers like Chrome and Firefox:
  • Turn off tracking data to prevent browsers from knowing where you are.
  • Block third-party cookies to stop browsers tracking every site and page you visit
  • Restrict web-tracking permissions
  • Turn off personalised ads
  • Block browsers from sending your data to their parent companies, like Google and Microsoft

Securing your socials

Social media is all about sharing, but some things are best kept private. And we're not talking about your Auntie Sue's late-night Facebook rants. We're talking about your sensitive information; the information hackers are looking to steal.

Here's Surfshark’s guide to looking after personal data on all the most popular social media apps, including Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.

Staying safe on communication apps

WhatsApp upped its privacy game when it introduced end-to-end messaging encryption. But there are things you can do to keep yourself extra (extra) safe, like limiting who can see you online and disabling the live location feature.

You can tighten up the privacy settings on all the communication apps downloaded on your phone. The infographic below from SurfShark will show you how...

Invisibility mode: going dark with online gaming

Staying safe while online gaming is a huge concern, especially for parents with young children.

But Discord, Twitch, Steam,, and Roblox all have privacy and security settings to protect contact details, locations, and contact settings. You just need to know where to find them.

And Surfshark can point you in the right direction...

Reset your smartphone's operating system

It doesn't matter if you're team Android or team Apple; both use underlying software with adjustable privacy security settings.

With a few taps and swipes, you can block ad and mail tracking, set messages to auto delete, and stop location tracking. You can also disable some really spooky data features, like face recognition ID and fingerprint unlocking.

Hackers try to access your computer every 39 seconds, and legitimate apps are always looking for new ways to scoop up your data. Don't make it easy for them. Protect yourself. Go dark online.

Read next: Android Apps Collect Way More Data Than They Admit, Here's How
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