5 Unusual Tips for Protecting Your Privacy Online

Most folks are aware of the threat of hackers and criminals and the damage they can do to our smartphones, tablets, and computers. Many people are also aware of the basic precautions necessary to avoid trouble, like creating detailed passwords and keeping phones in our pockets and out of the hands of thieves.

However, as we depend more on the internet and technology for our work, fun, and extracurriculars, we are giving criminals more opportunities to hack into our systems and upload viruses or steal our data. Basically, if you ever go online, then you are at risk and you need to improve your cybersecurity game. Here are some tips for staying secure in this radically advancing world.

1. Install a Virtual Private Network

If you ever bring your devices into a public place like a restaurant or coffee shop for work or play, and you depend on Wi-Fi for your internet needs, then you are immediately putting yourself at risk. Hackers are constantly trying man-in-the-middle attacks, which are fake Wi-Fi networks that look like the real deal, but if you connect to them, you are really connecting directly to the criminal. These fake networks can be incredibly deceiving, so in addition to asking an employee at the establishment for the correct network, you should install a virtual private network (VPN.)

A VPN will essentially disguise your location so hackers cannot see your device even if you are in the same room. The idea of a VPN may seem like a complex technology to some, but these networks are very easy to install and they can be a true lifesaver. As an extra tip, even with a VPN or any other security installed, you should avoid going into bank accounts and other sensitive websites while using public computers.

2. Be Extra Cautious When Gaming

When we say that you need to be cautious at all times when you go online, we mean it, and that even goes for when you are trying to blow off some steam by playing your favorite video games. Hackers have many methods for breaching your devices and stealing your data. They can hack the location services that you activate when playing with other gamers outside of your home and use them to install malware and spyware. They can also hack into the main game server. You would likely have no control over that, but if the criminals use that server to infiltrate your specific computer or gaming console, you could be in trouble.

To stay clear of viruses and spyware, be sure to turn location services off if you don’t need them, always use secure Wi-Fi when you game in public and install antivirus software on your devices so you can catch malware before it can cause irreversible damage. 

3. Prevent Companies From Sharing Your Data

You have probably visited a website just to be greeted by a message about enabling cookies or sharing your information, and if you just pass by those messages without thinking about what you are reading then you could be in big trouble. The reason they inform you of this upon entry is that when you shop online, the company is collecting the information you provide for marketing purposes, in addition to selling it to other companies. 

The companies aren’t only saving your product preferences but also your personal information, and if that company is ever hacked, the criminal will have direct access to your private data. To prevent any company, from Apple to Facebook, from collecting your info in the first place, make sure to look within your account details for the privacy settings and make the proper adjustments so your data remains secure.

4. Be Stricter With Webcam Usage

With remote work on the rise, more employees than ever are working from home, and a big part of that is attending virtual meetings with online platforms like Zoom. The problem is that if you are not cautious with your webcam, you could be inviting hackers right into your living room, and from there, they can listen in on conversations and steal any data that is within view, such as that list of passwords that you keep by your computer.

To stay protected in this regard, be sure to turn off your webcam when not in use and enable a firewall so the hacker cannot gain access in the first place. Again, the importance of installing antivirus software cannot be understated. Having that software enabled will allow your system to detect threats immediately and prevent additional harm.

5. Don’t Go Overboard On Social Media

While social media is great for sharing memories and reconnecting with old friends, it is important to remember that the information you share online is typically there forever. Talk about the good times, but make it a habit to avoid sharing personal information about yourself and your family. In addition to avoiding disclosing your birthdate and phone number, you should also be cautious about sharing the name of your community, your kid’s name, etc. 

While the friends you have online may be harmless, hackers can use that information for many malicious purposes, including sending phishing emails and guessing your passwords. 

In the end, it may seem like the only way to retain privacy online is to stay off the internet altogether, but that isn’t necessary. By having smart passwords and taking the precautions listed here, you can confidently enjoy the internet and all that it has to offer.

Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash