The internet has transformed our lives in myriad positive ways, but it has a dark side. Personal privacy has vanished, leaving your data at the mercy of unknown online entities, internet service providers and potential hackers. Data and privacy breaches are the most legit concerns. Account information of millions of users is getting leaked when large companies face hacker attacks. Take the example of Zoom and Canva data breaches. It impacted over 3 billion user accounts. But why do hackers target the accounts of individual users? Personal information ends up being sold on underground forums at miserably low prices. But there are steps you can take to limit the exposure of data you have shared online.
1. Enable Two Factor Authentication
Take security one step ahead by enabling Two Factor Authentication. It makes logging in even more challenging for anyone trying to gain illegal access to your account. After setting up 2FA, people receive a short code to their mobile phone or registered email address, rather than a single passcode whenever you log into an account. Using 2FA, the hacker first needs to access your number and private email ID and then log into your account. It provides a second layer of protection by requiring a code. Receiving a passcode through SMS is much better as it decreases the probability of cyberattackers accessing computers, accounts, and other resources.
2. Use a VPN Extension While Browsing
Most users browse on Google Chrome, which is more convenient and user-friendly than other browsers. However, Chrome collects your browsing data and sells it to companies. The best way to browse safely is to use a VPN for Chrome. It helps the users to hide their activities, and their IPs are not exposed to any ISP or companies. VPN provides an unlimited bandwidth, which allows you to enjoy fast speed while surfing. It also offers you to change your servers anytime you want to unblock geo-restricted content. VPN for Chrome encrypts your data to protect it against third-party intervention. It also blocks unwanted advertisements, which do become annoying for users and introduce adware to devices. A VPN like iProVPN is paramount to digital safety especially if the user is browsing the web on a public Wi-Fi.
3. Keep a Check on Your Social Media Privacy Settings
The users should simultaneously review their privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn and make necessary changes in case they notice over engagement from specific accounts. Also review if you have allowed access to software apps to use your facebook profile information. Users are suggested to review their settings at least once a month to see who can view their private data.
4. Use an Antivirus Program
An antivirus program provides device-level security by scanning for malware and diagnosing potential risks before users download certain apps. Reliable antivirus programs don’t crash with a VPN running in the background. They don’t show advertisements and notify users if certain apps are abnormally consuming excessive battery or data. For maximum security, you can choose Bitdefender or McAfee Antivirus: both support multiple devices, generate diagnostic reports, scan Wi-Fi networks for security standards and don’t sell user data to third-parties.
5. Create Strong Passwords
The majority of the people using social media use their personal information in their passwords: For example, date of birth, favorite team, a favorite show, or even their spouse’s name. Hackers with access to your personal information can quickly crack such passwords more conveniently. Experts recommend using unique complex passwords to shield an account. You should create a phrase that is 8 characters or more with unique symbols and numerals. You can also use password managers to create and autofill strong passwords because remembering long and unique passphrases might not be easy for all users.
6. Use a Secure Email Provider
Though Gmail is user-friendly, it is not as secure and private as you think it to be. Emails exchanged through Gmail are only lowly encrypted and can be viewed by intermediate online entities whose hacking attempts go successful. Consider using a secure email provider, especially if you are a freelancer, remote worker or simply exchange your work documents through your personal email ID. Secure email providers have their main data centers in safe jurisdictions, because of which they are not required to share user data with governments. With a little price, you can rest assured that your email bodies, attachments as well as the subject lines are not open for unauthorized access.
7. Avoid Opening emails from unknown senders
When you receive an email from an unknown source, don’t rush to open it right away. If you’ve opened it, avoid clicking suspicious links. These links are sent as part of phishing attempts to steal sensitive user data and information. Most of the phishing attempts aim to steal user IDs and passwords. One-click can invite several malicious viruses and other malware forms to your computer or network. Similarly, do not download attachments from an email if it is from an unknown sender.
8. Practice Social Media Etiquette
If you or your children spend a substantial number of hours on social media, then it is imperative to follow certain social media habits for security and privacy. Firstly, avoid oversharing personal information on social media: this personal information includes your photographs, check-ins, school or work address, personal email IDs or libraries you visit frequently. Review your privacy setting every once in a while, identify catfishing / fake profiles who have engaged with you recently and report or block if needed. Enable 2 Factor Authentication on Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp. Avoid engaging on posts that aim to bully an individual or group because of geographic or ethnic background. Also, keep talking to your children about online hazards and cyberstalking.
9. Verify Credentials before Using Public Wi-Fi
Hotels, libraries, or airports that provide free Wi-Fi services usually display their Wi-Fi credentials: Network IDs and passwords on either billboards or welcome printables. Carefully check the network name and then connect to the Wi-Fi network that has exactly the same arrangement of uppercase and lowercase alphabets. Attackers create dummy Wi-Fi networks to stealthily obtain sensitive information. Once a user connects to a fake network, all the private data can go into wrong hands.
10. Avoid clicking malicious websites
We often choose to click the first result we see in the list, without checking whether the website is secure or not. When browsing, make sure the website starts with HTTPs. Secure websites also have a padlock icon in the beginning. If you have already clicked a malicious website, do not fill any form to proceed navigating the website: it will either obtain your email ID or password, or store harmful cookies in your browser to track your overall online behavior. Such website developers usually process the data, decipher patterns of online activity and then sell it to third-party marketers.
Online freedom and privacy are the fundamental digital rights of internet users. While you can’t completely avoid sharing information and data on social media profiles and other platforms, you can follow the steps mentioned above to ensure your digital identity is protected and not at risk. Using the right tools like VPNs and antivirus programs and following healthy password management habits and social media etiquette can really make a difference.