Whether you are a private individual or representing a business or organization, your privacy and online security can be extremely important for both your emotional and financial well-being. There are people out there who would like to tear you down or try to profit off of you, and you just can’t let that happen. For this purpose, you should read the following series of tips in order to make sure you are doing everything you can to secure yourself from onlookers and hackers trying to steal your information or use it against you.
1. Practice Good Security Habits
If you want your actions online to remain private, first you should make sure that you are generally secure on all of your online accounts. If you have even one breach of an account, that information could potentially be used against you in trying to find other accounts with similar information. If financial data is linked to an account things could wind up even worse for you.
You should make it a top priority to have high-quality internet security software on any computer you use that connects to the internet or connects to a device that connects to the internet (so, every last one these days). In addition, you should make sure to use strong passwords with varying characters, taking special care to make sure it cannot be easily guessed.
Finally, you should make sure that you are updating whatever security updates you learn about, and download them as soon as you know they are available. This includes your Windows updates, which while annoying are necessary to prevent hackers from exploiting your non-updated operating system to get into your data. Newer versions of browsers also often have added security measures in place or options that you can use.
2. Use a VPN
Public networks are the bane of unsafe internet usage, and the best way to think of them is an open pasture where you can graze on your internet usage while a hacker with sharp teeth come out without who even knowing it and taking a look without you even noticing. If you use the free Wi-Fi at the café or the gym without any protections on your device, then you are putting yourself in a lot of danger regarding your privacy, as hackers will be able to read everything you send and receive on some networks.
A Virtual Private Network is probably the service you will be looking for when using a network like that, as it will shield your connection from outside spies and will only allow others to see that you are using a VPN at best. You might want to do some research on which is the best for you as there are many options for individuals and solopreneurs. Whatever you choose, almost any VPN is better than no VPN.
3. Watch Out for Tracking Cookies and Applications
When was the last time you opened your browser settings (or the equivalent, depending on your browser) and checked to see what cookies were on your computer? Some of them are useful and will remember settings for you or save games for you if you like playing a single flash game every once in a while. However some of them can be quite dangerous and others will automatically try to link you to some sites you have no desire to go or otherwise force you onto a website.
Tracking cookies are especially dangerous because they are taking your browsing information (often linked to your IP address) and sending it to data collection agencies for marketing data. While many of these are benign (albeit still a threat to your privacy), there are others that will take other personal information and use it for whatever the webpage that placed it there’s desire. These should be noticed and deleted immediately, and if you aren’t sure about a cookie it is best to not take a risk and delete it.
There are some mobile applications or programs that will do that same thing, although you might agree to it without reading up on it. These applications might track your very location, your social media feeds, or collect other data from you in order to sell it to a company. This tracking might be anonymous, but you should do your best to research whatever is out there.
4. Protect Your Email
Your email is the hub that connects all of your accounts together as well as the service which contains a lot of your private and personal correspondence. If your email were to be compromised in some manner then you will have a much greater problem than if one of your other online accounts were compromised.
It is for this reason I emphasize to place your email security at the top of your priorities. You might even benefit from having multiple email accounts in order to better compartmentalize your life and avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket.
5. Avoid Scams and “Offers”
Whenever you are online there are probably offers you see pop up on websites or other offers in either your email or messaging service. Almost all of these are scams, money-making schemes, or other things that are simply not worth anyone’s time. Many of them will involve malware or the collection of your personal information and them flaking out on whatever it is they promised you. Just remember that there is rarely such a thing as “free” on the internet. Someone is paying a price for the sustenance of these scammers, don’t let it be you.
I hope that these tips helped you and that you do more research in the future to better provide for your own privacy and security.
About the author
This guest post was contributed by Caroline on behalf of Secure Thoughts, one of the best possible online sources for information regarding internet security and privacy.
Tom Treanor is the founder of the Right Mix Marketing blog. He’s the author of the Search Engine Boot Camp, the co-author of Online Business Productivity, and regularly speaks at industry and corporate events. His writing has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger and other leading industry blogs.