Identity theft impacts almost 60 million Americans. Keeping your personal information private and secure when you’re online is critical to avoid becoming part of that statistic.
Let’s look at 10 easy ways to improve your online privacy and security.
- Use a Password Manager
Strong passwords are one of the most important factors in how to protect your internet privacy. It’s also critical that you don’t reuse passwords on more than one site.
A password manager will help with this. It will generate strong passwords and help you track them without having to memorize a new one for every site.
- Install an Ad Blocker
The internet makes it easy to connect different services and tools to improve your workflow but that connectivity can also work against you. Companies can track your activities across the web through ads on different websites.
An ad blocker stops that from happening and keeps your browsing habits private.
- Use a Secure VPN on Public WiFi
When you connect to a public wifi network such as a coffee shop or airport, anyone else connected to that network can “sniff” your data to see everything you do. A VPN, or virtual private network, will stop that.
A VPN creates an encrypted connection between you and the server so your data won’t be visible to prying eyes.
- Audit Your Privacy Settings on Social Media
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have a lot of personal information about us. Most people expect them to keep it private so only your friends can see it but that’s not always the case.
Go through your privacy settings on those sites regularly and make sure they’re configured to only let your friends and connections see information about you.
- Set Up Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds a second layer of security beyond just a password. When you log into a website or service with 2FA turned on, you’ll have to enter another code after confirming your username and password.
The code will get sent to your cell phone by text message or you can use an authenticator app to generate the number. Not all sites offer 2FA but you should turn it on for any that do.
- Turn Off Location Tracking
Location tracking can be helpful when you want to find something nearby or share your location with friends or family. But it can also be a privacy and security risk if you post your location somewhere you don’t want it to be.
Check the location settings on your mobile devices and for websites like Facebook and Twitter. Turn off location tracking for anything that you don’t want it shared with.
- Be Careful of Unknown Links and Attachments
One of the most fundamental online security tips is to never open an attachment you’re not expecting or click a link that you’re not sure about. This is a common method for hackers to spread viruses and other malware.
If you receive an attachment that looks like it’s from someone you know but you weren’t expecting, check with them to make sure they actually sent it before you open it. And if you get an email asking you to log in and verify something, make sure the link is legitimate.
If you’re not sure about the link, go directly to the website instead of using the link in the email. Log into the site manually and see if you get a message. If the email is legit, you should see a message when you log in as well.
- Protect Your Mobile Devices
Remember that you need to protect your mobile devices, like a smartphone or tablet, as well. They typically have more built-in protection than a computer but there are still potential security risks if you don’t set them up properly.
Don’t jailbreak these devices and make sure you keep the operating system and apps up to date to patch any security flaws. Don’t plug them into public USB chargers and use a strong passcode lock, not a simple 4-digit code.
- Manage Your Web Browser’s Privacy Settings
All major web browsers have security features built-in but they’re not always turned on by default. Go through the settings page and check everything to make sure you know what you could be sharing without realizing it.
You can also delete cookies on a regular basis to help limit websites tracking you. Cookies have information about websites you’ve visited, login information, and other things about your browsing habits. They can improve your web experience by “remembering” things when you return to a website but they can also get used to track you.
- Don’t Post Personal Information Online
Above all, remember that once something gets posted on the internet, it’s potentially archived there forever. Even if you delete it, there could be copies saved in various places, including:
- Other search engines
- The Internet Archive
Anyone who has access to it while it’s online could have saved a copy as well.
The best approach is to assume everything you upload to the internet is available for the public to see, and will be forever. If you wouldn’t want your friends, family, potential employers, or anyone else to see it, don’t put it online in the first place.
Protecting Your Online Privacy and Security Is an Ongoing Task
Online privacy and security is a cat-and-mouse game. Hackers are constantly looking for new ways to steal information and exploit security flaws and websites and other services are trying to stop them.
These online privacy tips will help you stay safe but it’s not a one-time job. Make it a habit to check your settings on a regular schedule to be sure your privacy is safe. You don’t need to be paranoid about using the internet but be aware of the potential threats so you can avoid getting caught off guard.
Be sure to check out the rest of our site for more helpful articles about keeping yourself safe, both online and in your day-to-day life.