Today’s digitally reliant world requires most people to have an online presence in one form or another. Whether it’s the occasional social media post, online shopping accounts, or remote work, our relationship with the internet seems here to stay.
However, with every action taken online, an individual leaves behind a digital trail or ‘footprint’ that contains personal information about them. From their browsing history and correspondence to their purchases and location, the traces of personal data generated can leave us exposed to a variety of risks that can impact our privacy and security. These include data breaches, identity theft, phishing, and online scams. In this article, we will outline some steps you can take to protect your privacy and security online.
Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your online traffic by creating a secure tunnel between your device and a VPN server. This encryption ensures that your internet traffic is kept hidden from others, making it nearly impossible for anyone to track, intercept, or monitor your online actions.
In addition, a VPN will mask your true IP address and location, replacing them with those of the VPN server. This helps protect your online privacy and can also allow you to bypass geo-restrictions on content such as streaming services. This extra layer of anonymity makes it harder for websites, advertisers, or malicious actors to track your online activities and create detailed profiles about you, protecting you from potential cyber threats as well as from data profiling and targeted advertising.
A VPN can also keep you secure when using public Wi-Fi networks where your data is vulnerable to hackers and eavesdroppers. By encrypting your traffic, a VPN will safeguard you from potential threats on unsecured public networks, making it safe to use Wi-Fi in public areas such as coffee shops, airports, or hotels.
Use a proxy server
A proxy server acts as an intermediary between your computer and the internet. When you use a proxy server, your internet traffic is directed through it and the response from the website passes through the same proxy server which then forwards the received data from the website back to you. This helps to hide your IP address and can offer benefits like improved privacy, security, and access to restricted content.
A proxy server can be designed to act as a filter or firewall that checks the data entering and leaving your network. With your IP address hidden, other internet users will not have access to identifying information and personal data. You can learn more about proxy servers by visiting American proxies.
Two-factor authentication (2FA)
Last year, over 24 billion passwords were exposed by hackers, allowing them to gain unauthorized access to the personal data of millions of people worldwide. To counter the risk of compromised passwords and their threat to user privacy and security, 2FA has emerged as an essential tool that offers users an extra layer of protection online.
This multi-layered approach significantly enhances online security because even if an attacker manages to obtain a user’s password, they would still need the secondary factor to gain access to their account. Without this approval, which is often biometric such as fingerprint or facial recognition, a password will be ineffective and more difficult to hack. As a result, 2FA is a powerful deterrent to preventing cyber criminals from gaining unauthorized access to personal information, reducing the likelihood of breaches, data theft, and identity fraud.
Use social media wisely
The rise of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram has led people to share more information about themselves publicly than ever before. Information such as their birthdate, home address, and relationship status can all be used by cybercriminals to steal their identity and carry out targeted attacks through social media phishing.
To increase your levels of privacy and security while using social media platforms, it is important to avoid sharing excess personal information or disclosing any sensitive data which could expose you to potential personal or financial risks as well as jeopardize your privacy and reputation.
It is good practice to periodically review your privacy settings to ensure your profile information, posts and other information are only visible to the people you know. Another essential practice is to regularly review and remove unnecessary third-party permissions granted to apps on your devices.
Many social media platforms request various permissions to access the features and data on your device which then gives these apps access to your personal data. By periodically reviewing and revoking permissions to any unused or suspicious apps, you can minimize the potential for a data breach occurring.
The steps cybercriminals and malicious actors take to steal information and unlawfully access individual systems and accounts continue to evolve. Software vulnerabilities are one of the ways they can gain control of people’s computers and install malicious software or ‘malware’ onto their systems. Common examples of malware include viruses, adware, spyware, worms, Trojan viruses, and ransomware which enable cybercriminals to steal sensitive data and infect computer systems.
Outdated software can expose your system to security risks, as cybercriminals are more easily able to gain access to your computer and plant malware on it. By keeping your software updated, you will add an additional layer of protection to your computer, reducing your vulnerability to malicious actors gaining access to your system.
Use strong passwords
A strong password acts as an initial line of defense when it comes to protecting your personal information and accounts. Cybercriminals often employ software programs that cycle through commonly used and simple passwords. These programs automatically attempt numerous combinations of passwords in a short amount of time, exploiting the weak security of easily guessable passwords.
This is why it is important to use strong passwords that cannot be easily compromised. Lengthy passwords are harder to crack and should ideally include upper and lower cases, as well as numbers and symbols. Password generators like KeePass, Dashlane, and NordPass can also be very useful tools for creating strong, unique, and secure passwords.
By implementing the guidance set out above you can greatly improve your privacy and security, ensuring a safer and more secure online experience.