Do you know how much of your personal information is on the internet and can be made vulnerable? If you did, then you probably would have been more calculative before sharing your details. Don’t worry, you are not alone! Online privacy is crucial, and everyone should be cautious while sharing personal details, photos, or other data.
A survey by Pew Research Center observed that 49% of Americans are insecure about their personal information shared on the internet. In fact, 64% have personally experienced a data breach.
Tips for maintaining online privacy
Where online privacy is difficult to achieve, certain steps can help protect your personal and financial information.
1. Restrict the information you share on social media
The data shared on social media can be the foremost threat to your online security. Providing too much of your information on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will help cybercriminals steal your identity. It is not a difficult task for a cybercriminal to identify your mother’s maiden name from your social media accounts and use it to change the login credentials of your financial accounts.
The Identity Theft Resource Center, in their study in 2018, had identified that around 52% of respondents agreed to have shared information about their personal identity on their social media sites. The study also pointed out that about 48% shared information about their family and children, nearly 33% shared their location, and approximately 42% shared details of their travel plans on social media.
Start restricting the amount of information shared by not adding too much information in the “About Me” column in your social media profiles.
Having strong passwords can prevent unauthorized log-ins. The password should be a combination of the alphabets of both upper and lower cases, numbers, and special characters. It should not be something predictable like your date of birth, maiden’s name, pet’s name, etc.
2. Use a virtual private network (VPN)
A virtual private network can be created from a public network connection to ensure privacy and anonymity. When you are on public wi-fi, it is extremely important to have a VPN, because cybercriminals find it difficult to breach a private internet connection and intrude on your online privacy.
A VPN does not collect information transmitted through the network, which makes the user’s activity private and anonymous. It does not track users’ personal details, their downloads, their searches, etc. Though there are many free VPN solutions available in the market, it is always recommended that you use a paid service that is trustworthy.
3. Browse in the incognito mode
Browsing in incognito or personal mode means that the browser does not save your browsing history or track your cookies. The latest web browsers offer their incognito versions to protect the privacy of your data. Google Chrome calls it ‘Incognito Window, Firefox refers to it as ‘Private Browsing,’ and this feature in Internet Explorer is known as ‘InPrivate Browsing.’
The personal browsing feature is not completely private. When working on incognito mode, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can still track your browsing activity. Even though they are not fully private, browsing on an incognito window would be a safer option, especially when you are performing financial transactions online.
4. Use effective antivirus software
Always have an antivirus installed on your system. Antivirus can help protect your system from cybercriminals trying to access your system. Many free antivirus software packages are available but, for adequate protection, use a highly recognized paid antivirus software service. The installation of antivirus won’t ensure full protection of your data. The manufacturers of antivirus packages release regular updates and patches with safety measures against the latest spyware, viruses, or other malware. Your antivirus should be updated with new versions and patches as and when they are released that assures protection from new vulnerabilities.
5. Use an anonymous search engine
For the sake of privacy, many people rely on anonymous search engines. These type of search engines does not save a user’s search history or browsing data. The anonymous search engines block ad trackers on the websites and protect the online privacy of the users. They are embedded with ad blockers and tracking blockers to prevent unauthorized access of online trackers from stealing your identity information and browsing history.
6. Stay alert of phishing attacks
By making phishing attempts, attackers try to compromise your online privacy and obtain your personal or financial information. You should be careful while clicking fake links, downloading malicious content, visiting compromised websites, or accessing responding to emails that are impersonated. The scammers use several techniques to make you a victim of phishing attacks and thus gaining access to your financial accounts or credit card details.
To avoid falling for phishing scams, you should verify the links that you are visiting or attachments that you want to download. It can be assessed by hovering your cursor on the links or attachments to ensure their authenticity. In case if you realize that your financial accounts have been compromised, you should inform your banker or credit card provider immediately.
7. Secure your mobile devices
Mobile devices are becoming an everyday internet-hub, even more so than a desktop or laptop. Hence, the security of mobile devices is as important as a computer. Online privacy on mobile devices is expected to be largely at stake as they are portable, and everything on the mobile phone is connected to the internet. To begin with, your phone’s home screen should be protected with a passcode, which is not predictable.
When downloading apps, give restricted permissions to access your phone’s data. Many apps ask for permission to access information which may not be required for the functioning of the app. Most gaming apps and productivity tools carry dangerous viruses that can quickly spread on your device and to your contacts too.
It is significant to follow all the required security measures that are discussed for securing a computer, such as keeping pace with software updates, verifying the authenticity of the emails or links, etc.
Gaining awareness of safe browsing and different phishing attacks will help you in securing your privacy online. A cybersecurity program from EC-Council has been designed to bring awareness to information security and, more importantly, to ensure your privacy on the internet. The Certified Secure Computer User (C|SCU) is a program for every computer user to introduce them to security practices and keep them safe from cybercriminals. The program is based on the fundamental understanding of various network and computer threats including, phishing scams, viruses, social engineering, etc.