From scrolling through Insta Reels to shopping and banking, much of everyone’s lives are conducted online nowadays. Maybe that’s why it is challenging to scan daily news and not come across information about major data breaches threatening to expose millions of customers’ data to cyber criminals and hackers.
Having your data stolen can be a harrowing experience. It can turn your world upside down.
It may take years to correct the wrong done when unscrupulous individuals get a glimpse into your personal life and use the information against you.
That’s why everyone must follow some best practices to protect their personal information online.
If you need help figuring out where to start, this guide should help.
Create Unique, Strong Passwords
Most people make the mistake of creating passwords they can easily remember. The password is someone’s name, anniversary or birth date, etc. Unfortunately, such passwords are easier to hack.
So when you are creating a password, think beyond numbers or words that a hacker can quickly figure out. Instead, choose a combination of numbers, lower and upper-case letters, unique characters, and symbols. Also, change your passwords periodically to keep cyber criminals guessing.
Using different passwords across multiple sites is also recommended; if you need help remembering them, use a password manager.
Changing your passwords is the best way to stay secure if you have been careless about divulging your personal information online.
Browse the Web using a VPN
Web browsers like Firefox, Chrome, or Safari may collect data about your online activities. However, you can sign out of your browser and use some extensions to enhance security and privacy.
However, using a VPN or virtual private network service is the best way to keep your personal information secure when surfing the Internet. A VPN helps to mask your IP address and hide your true identity online. Therefore, sites cannot track you and your activities.
Using a VPN when using public Wi-Fi networks, like at an airport or a coffee shop, is critical. Using public, unsecured Wi-Fi networks gives cybercriminals an upper hand and makes it easier for them to steal your data. Although you can use incognito or private mode, it is less secure than you might think.
Avoid Oversharing on Social Media
Everyone has that one friend or relative who posts many intimate details of their personal life online. Apart from this being annoying, it puts their personal information at risk.
If you enjoy posting about your life on social media, check the privacy settings and tweak them so that you know the people seeing your posts are trustworthy. Also, exercise caution when posting your hometown, location, birthday, or other personal details.
Surf Websites that are Secure and Start with HTTPS
Whether it is an eCommerce or gaming website, you must check whether the site is secure before entering your personal details. Look at the top of the browser, and if you find the URL starts with HTTPS, it means the site is secure.
If unsure the website is secure, click the X icon and move on.
Set up Two-factor and Multi-factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, is a form of multi-factor authentication (MFA). It is used whenever two authentication factors are needed to access a service or system. For example, for your social media, email, and other accounts, you can set up 2FA to sign in with a password and a code sent via SMS or email.
If you need enhanced protection, you can set up MFA, where you might be asked to scan a QR code with an app to access the account.
Setting up multiple levels of authentication will protect your private data in the simplest way possible.
Strengthen the Privacy Settings for Your Online Accounts
Review the privacy settings of your online accounts that you use regularly. Companies make billions off collecting users’ personal information. Their default settings are generally collecting and not protecting users’ data.
The few areas where you must pay attention are:
- Location tracking – You must turn off the automatic geolocation data on your photos, social media posts, and comments.
- Like, shares, and comments – Likes, shares, and comments are usually public. So, even if your profile is private, it will appear in searches. So, restrict liking, sharing, and commenting on posts.
- Public information – Be careful about what information should be hidden, public, and somewhere between.
Don’t Click on Random Links
It is common to find attachments and links pop up when you are browsing the Internet. Some might be legitimate ads, but most are baits set by cybercriminals and hackers.
Don’t fall into their tap by clicking on random links. Cybercriminals will gain access to your personal information as soon as you do this.
So, always scrutinize the links and attachments before clicking on them.
Use more than One Email Account
Create and use more than one email account to protect your data online. For instance, you can have an email address for sensitive information like banking.
However, do not give that email address to anybody. Instead, create a second email address to sign up for online games and email lists or to receive retail coupons.
You can even create a third email address for communicating with near and dear ones.
Use an Antivirus Software
When you are surfing the Internet, there’s a chance your computer or phone might be infected with malware or virus. It can damage your device and give hackers access to your confidential information. It may even result in a ransomware attack.
Since cybercriminals are always looking for vulnerabilities within the software, you must strengthen your device’s security. Don’t leave any gaps for the hackers to slide in and steal your data.
The Bottom Line
Private information online is always vulnerable. It can cause significant damage, and you may never recover from it. So, take proper security measures and stay safe.
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