10 tips on how to secure your privacy online

Don’t let your naughty secrets fall in wrong hands

Data is crucial. Personal data is priceless. And so is your privacy. The boost of internet over the past few years made many more services available through your PC and mobile, but has also given rise to data breaches.

Being attacked online is very easy if you have left your privacy details wide open. And if you have not managed your private data well, you could be in big trouble. So whether it is official or personal, your data and privacy must always be secure. Here are 10 tips on how you can do so immediately.

1. Check your social privacy settings

Do you live on social networks? Yeah — they contain a lot of information about you. Don’t be surprised to know how much of it is visible to anybody on the Internet by default. Check your privacy settings right now and decide what info you want to share with complete strangers, your friends or just nobody. Scroll through each of your social networking account settings, look for the privacy tab and make changes accordingly. You would be surprised to see what is open by default!

2. Don’t use cloud for your private information

Never use any online service that are meant for sharing information to store your private data. For example, Google Docs is definitely not an ideal place to store a list of passwords, or Dropbox is not the best option for your passport scans. If you feel the need to do so, make sure they are encrypted or password protected. Your private data is best stored on external storage drives at home.

3. Beware! You are being tracked. Go Incognito

When you visit websites, your browser releases a bunch of stuff about you and your surfing history. Marketers use this information to profile you and target you with ads. Go Incognito. Use your browser’s incognito mode, which will ensure that your lingerie shopping does not clutter your Gmail with panty ads. You could also use third-party software such as Kaspersky Internet Security that can protect you from leaving breadcrumbs along your internet path.

4. Your primary phone and email should remain a secret

And because you did that all this time, your openly displayed email ID and phone number gave you tons of free spam mails, messages and robocalls. While you cannot avoid sharing this info with Internet services and online stores, at least refrain from sharing it on social networks. The best option is to create a separate, disposable e-mail address and, if possible, a new discrete phone number for all such reasons.

5. Use messaging apps with end-to-end encryption

End-to end encryption is presently the highest form of privacy when it comes to messaging. However, they are still not 100% safe. If available, use or enable it on your messaging services so that the service provider can’t see your conversations or mine information off them.

6. Change to secure passwords

Weak passwords are the main culprit for hacks and breaches. While it is definitely impossible to memorise long unique passwords, especially across all the different online services you may use, a password manager can help you organise and remember all those passwords with just one master password. You may use password managers such as 1Password, Kaspersky Password Manager, LastPass, and few others that are reliable and robust. Ideally, create a password using around 12 characters or more and make it stronger with a mix of characters, numbers, uppercase and special characters to create something unique that is not an everyday word or phrase.

7. Review app permissions and browser extensions regularly

While apps usually prompt for permissions to access contacts, camera, location or files for full functionality, these permissions could also help others track or profile you for marketing or something even worse. It’s easy to control which apps are given what permissions from your phone’s settings, under privacy or permissions. Similarly, browser extensions also have unfortunate spying tendencies. Never install browser extensions unless you really need them and carefully check the permissions you grant them.

8. Use passwords or passcodes

Your PC, laptop and phone have the most important data that could spell disaster if fallen in wrong hands. Always enable the use of passwords, passcodes and biometrics to protect them from opening up to strangers. Now your dad won’t know whom you were gossiping with last night.

9. Disable lock screen notifications

Even if you have put in that PIN, passcode on your phone or locked it with Face ID, leaving notifications readable on the lock screen is equally foolish. Sensitive information such as OTPs could break your bank balance, or your WhatsApp could be compromised too. Disable lock-screen notifications to hide sensitive information from the lock screen.

10. Stay safe on Wi-Fi networks

Public Wi-Fi hotspots usually do not encrypt traffic. So if you are at Starbucks with your laptop, anyone on the same network can try to snoop on your traffic or get into your shared drive. Make sure you switch your network to Public in the network settings so that it creates a barrier between other users and you. Use VPNs to encrypt your data online so that your data cannot be spied on easily.

Photos: Courtesy pixabay.com