5 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy

Beat The Hackers Protect Your Online Privacy

Antivirus software was the only protection you needed against hackers a decade ago, but the scale and sophistication of cyber crime today means that this is only the start. Direct attacks on your computer or mobile devices can be prevented, but modern hacking threats involve other methods. For example, criminals target central services, such as social media platforms, that are used by millions of people. To protect your online privacy today, your security tactics must evolve too.

Personal data is the new gold for cyber criminals. They use it to commit a variety of offenses from identity theft to blackmail, and it’s become a global problem. Law enforcement agencies lack the resources and expertise to tackle the scale of the problem, so it’s down to the individual to understand the risks and take necessary precautions to protect their online privacy.

The following five methods will protect your digital privacy against the rising wave of digital crime.

1) Create and manage secure passwords.

Used correctly, passwords are one of the most powerful tools for online security. Hackers use so called ‘brute-force’ methods to defeat passwords, and these are only effective against weak and obvious ones like ‘password1.’ Most cyber security experts recommend a mix of upper and lower case characters combined with numbers and symbols. Passwords should be at least ten characters long.

Creating secure passwords is relatively easy, but remembering them can be a challenge. You should never use the same one for a series of accounts, as they may all be compromised if one is breached by a hacker. Software tools like Lastpass can generate secure passwords and auto-fill websites for you, making the whole process simple to manage your privacy online.

2) Be weary when using Wi-Fi away from home.

One of the techniques used by hackers involves setting up free Wi-Fi hot spots as a trap to steal personal data. Using wireless networks when you’re out and about is a convenient and fast way to stay connected, but it carries risks. Public networks often open without security and ask you to create login details once you’ve joined. The next time your device sees the network it will automatically log you in, and it could be a copy set up solely for data theft.

Always verify the name of a public Wi-Fi network before connecting. For example, restaurants and hotels will usually have signs stating the name of their network. Once you’ve finished using a public network, delete the details from your device or use the Settings options to make it forget.

3)Always use two-factor authentication.

Two-factor authentication provides an additional layer of protection, and security experts strongly advise it’s used when available. Apps, SMS messages or dedicated USB keys are used in the two-factor process. The SMS option is popular and means a criminal will need access to both your passwords and smartphone to be able to access your accounts. Facebook now offers two-factor authentication, and activating it can give you peace of mind that your personal data and messages have some of the best online security protections currently available.

4) Don’t forget physical security.

Passwords and other online security tools can only do so much, and it’s important to consider physical security risks. For example, writing your passwords in a notebook and leaving it on your desk is like leaving the door open to criminals. Any time you upgrade your smartphone or computer you should make sure data is deleted from the old device before selling or disposing of it. The factory reset option available on most devices is a quick way to clear the memory and prevent your personal data from getting into the wrong hands. Hard disk information on laptops and PCs is easy to delete using the ‘Fresh Start’ option in Windows 10.

5) Be vigilant for scams.

If they can’t access your data online, criminals may resort to other more devious methods to obtain it. Telephone scams require less technical knowledge than hacking computer networks, but they can be just as profitable. A common example involves a caller pretending to be from Microsoft and warning that they need to install some software on your computer as there’s been a security breach. Callers may also claim to be from your bank and ask you to confirm your password or other security details.

Scams can be sophisticated and convincing, but staying vigilant can protect you most of the time. Never reveal personal information over the phone to a cold-caller. If someone claims to be calling from your bank, end the conversation and call back on the number you know is genuine. Check email addresses before replying, and ignore messages with suspicious content.

Cyber crime comes in many forms, but the methods described in this article can block the majority of attacks. The key is to understand the value of your personal data in the digital world and to take the necessary precautions to protect your online privacy.