The issue of online privacy or better said, the lack of it, has become one of the hottest topics on the Internet over the past few years. While there are certain initiatives and actions to introduce dedicated and separate privacy laws, all of this is still in its early stages. In light of this, here are ten quick tips on how to maintain online privacy going into 2020.
Create Strong Passwords
While this may be surprising to read in 2019, the most popular password on the Internet is still "123456". With this in mind, all of the effort you put towards implementing the remaining nine tips would go down the drain if your online accounts aren't locked behind a good password. This is why a strong password is a basis for a secure online experience. The principles are already laid out – passwords that use over ten letters, both upper and lowercase letters and numbers.
A good way to go about this would also be to add two-factor authentication, for example, an extra verification step that includes an SMS code, or other unique identifying code. The more complex your password credentials are, the more difficult it will be for the attacker to crack them.
Don't Overshare on Social Media Sites
Whether it's for business purposes, to catch up with friends or just to impress other people, many internet users tend to overshare their information with strangers online. Whatever the case may be, it's best to restrict every piece of data that's not strictly required to set up an account on a particular site.
This especially counts when it comes to social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, as you never know for what this information can be used. As a reminder, just over a year ago, the biggest social media platform in the world, Facebook, was involved in a major privacy scandal. Their partner, Cambridge Analytica, had harvested personal information from millions of Facebook users without their consent and used it for marketing purposes.
Keep your Personal E-mail and Phone Private
You should strive to keep your primary phone number and email as private as possible. Oversharing these two will only result in you receiving countless spam messages, unnecessary robocalls and ads, and most importantly, it needlessly puts your information out there. If you have to manage accounts on many different sites, consider creating a burner email you would use just for this purpose.
Only Click on Links from Trusted Sources
Even if you safeguard your personal email and phone at a need to know basis, you can still get unwanted messages from unknown sources sometimes. While nowadays, most online users have basic knowledge of what phishing and similar scams are, these types of activities are still the number one cause of all email security breaches. By avoiding clicks from unknown sources, you can evade potential fraudulent attackers who aim to infect your device with malware or get their hands on your personal information.
Browse in Incognito ModeIncognito mode is often considered as a modern meme, mainly due to the assumptions that go into it. But, this feature is actually a great way of reducing your digital footprint when using the Internet. Whenever you finish a browsing session in incognito mode, all of your browsing history, cookies and temporary files from that session are deleted.
With that being said, the incognito mode still has a few flaws you should account for. More precisely, your Internet Service Provider and other unwanted third parties can still see what you're doing online. This leads us to the next point.
Get a VPN Service
A VPN service is a great tool to have by your side if you're going for maximum anonymity, and it pairs up excellently with incognito mode. By creating a private encrypted tunnel between you and the server location you're accessing, it changes your real IP location with the VPN's virtual server location. This helps protect your real identity and keeps your online activity far away from prying eyes. Such a service is especially useful if you are frequently traveling or often have to use public Wi-Fi hotspots. Of course, VPNs offer many more advantages that make them great for everyday use.
Install an Encrypted Browser
If you want to go a step further in ensuring the privacy of your sensitive information, you can install an encrypted browser. Although the majority of mainstream browsers offer pretty much the same security features, encrypted browsers take these features on a completely new level. These browsers often sacrifice some of the user-friendly traits to provide a more secure experience that relies only on the essential browser elements. If you're interested in going this route, the most widely used and trusted encrypted browser is Tor.
Disable On-Screen Notifications
On-screen notifications are a very convenient feature of modern smartphones, but at the same time, they can also cause privacy issues. Luckily, these notifications are easy to disable. Alternatively, you can leave them on and tailor the settings to hide sensitive information behind the lock screen. This way, you would be still able to quickly see certain data while keeping the really important information away from any snoopers.
Only use Messaging Apps with End-to-End Encryption
As we keep going down this list, some of these tips may get more advanced, but this is all necessary if you want to ensure that you're as secure as you can be. When it comes to end-to-end encryption, most modern messaging apps have this feature. But, as always, some differ from the norm, in this case, by offering a so-called "encryption in transit" feature. This means that the shared information is decrypted on the service's side and kept on its internal servers. This can be potentially very dangerous, especially in cases of data breaches. That's why it's always the best idea to go with messaging apps that offer end-to-end encryption.
Keep Tight Control of App and Extension Permissions
You should also be wary of giving certain permissions to apps that don't need them. Granted, some apps can't work unless you allow them to use certain features, but others can use this information to gather a personalized profile of your likes and preferences for targeted ads. That's why we advise you to go to the settings tab of your device and review all of the permission pertaining to geolocation, camera and microphone access, access to contacts and other important permissions.
By making habits out of these ten tips we talked about, you can maximize your online privacy and security and minimize all of the privacy risks that can face you daily. Take control of your data and protect your identity when using the Internet. If you liked this article, or have anything to add to it, leave us a comment below to further his very important discussion.
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