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5 Ways to Stay Safe and Increase Your Privacy on the Internet

5 Ways to Stay Safe and Increase Your Privacy on the Internet

Internet freedom is a concept that many people take for granted. It feels so commonplace that many forget how easy it is for that freedom to result in a loss of privacy or worse. As the internet becomes even more entangled with everyday life, it becomes more and more important to be wary of how you are protecting yourself and your information online. It is not enough to trust websites, browsers, and internet service providers to do it for you. In fact, you should not trust them because their default privacy settings are lacking to say the least. As an empowered internet user, it is your responsibility to take as much control of your privacy as you can. Here are five ways to do just that:

  1. Change Your Browser Settings

Every browser has configuration settings for privacy and security. Head to browser settings and make the following changes to improve your security: Set your browser settings to avoid accepting ‘cookies’ from sites you have not visited before. It is generally safe to accept cookies from sites you visit, but you want the option to reject them in the even you click on a bad link. Next, turn on the settings that clear cookies when you end your session or close the window. If you are looking for a plug-in with maximum security, check out the HTTPS Everywhere plug-in created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It provides encryption between your computer and the server you are connecting to. This means it keeps your browsing as close to private as possible.

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  1. Change Your Social Media Settings

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all have privacy settings that are updated regularly for both the desktop site and the mobile app. If you have not looked at your settings in the last year, now is a good time to do so. Head the Privacy Settings section on each of your social media profiles. Decide how much information you want visible to strangers, and update the settings to match your wishes. Facebook’s settings can be more difficult to navigate. Be sure to use the option to view your profile as a stranger to make sure you got everything right. Be mindful that blocking strangers from seeing your data does not protect your privacy completely. Read through your privacy agreements so you know what social media providers share with your consent. Then, tailor what you post online to match what you are comfortable with them having and sharing with other organizations.

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  1. Add Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication can mean the difference between safe data and complete and total destruction. Add it to your primary email addresses and to any other application that offers this service. It might not always be convenient, but it will keep your accounts safe. At the very least, you will be the first to know if someone is hacking your account. If two-factor identification does not work for you, create strong passwords and change them regularly. Use a secure password manager to keep track of all your passwords in one place and keep your accounts secure. For added security, you should be using a VPN to mask your IP address, which means intruders won’t be able to locate you.  Used with two-factor authentication, this strategy can dramatically increase your online security.

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  1. Install Software Protection

Spyware and malware are two huge threats to internet security. You should not be online unless you have some type of protection from these software threats. Install reputable anti-spyware products on both your computers and your mobile devices. You can choose from free open-source products or paid subscriptions. Choose the product that best suit your needs and provides the features you need. If you have a lot of sensitive information or participate in certain activities, be sure to choose protection tailored to your needs. Help your anti-virus and anti-spyware products help you by practicing safe surfing. Do not click on strange pop-up windows. Steer clear of weird links. Close windows that ask unexpected questions. Finally, be sure that you are downloading reputable applications from reputable sources.

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  1. Keep Your Software Up to Date

Software updates present themselves at the least convenient times. But updating your system in a timely manner helps protects your computer against threats. Many updates come with fixes to vulnerabilities in your software found by the software provider or by less savory characters. These vulnerabilities are a problem because criminals can take advantage of any vulnerabilities present and use them as a way into your computer and your data. Software updates address these changes and keep your information protected. Prevent attackers from exploiting vulnerabilities by keeping your software updated. There is no way to fully protect yourself from having your information unwittingly stolen by criminals or sold to advertisers or third parties. But using these five fixes and being aware of what information you provide to whom can go a long way towards protecting yourself and your private information.

Featured photo credit: Police Hub Scotland via policyhubscotland.co.uk

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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