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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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