Three Simple Ways to Boost Online Privacy
Online privacy is more important than ever; with widespread hacks occurring regularly, now is the time to protect yourself online. But making sure that you have all your bases covered can be an overwhelming task. If you've just started to focus on your online privacy, don't worry; there are some basic steps you can take to protect your personal information when using your computer. In this article, we'll outline three simple ways to boost your online privacy and improve your online security.
Use two-step verification and account alerts
One of the easiest ways to improve your security online is to enable two-step verification and account alerts for all of your online accounts.
Two-step verification, also known as two-factor authentication or 2FA, adds an additional layer of protection to your online accounts. Almost all accounts offer an option to set up two-factor authentication, and it's a simple added step that helps protect you and give you peace of mind online.
2FA involves sending a code to the contact information you put on file, whether it be a phone number or an email address, when you attempt to log in to your account. In order to log in, you need to enter the code that was sent. Once you successfully enter your password and your two-step verification code, you'll be able to get into your account.
You've probably seen this when trying to log into PayPal or similar banking applications, as those are high-risk accounts and typically enable 2FA by default. But 2FA benefits any account, big or small. It ensures that you're the only person logging into your account. Furthermore, if someone does try to log into your account, you'll know; you'll get a text or email with a two-step verification code even though you haven't tried to log in, which indicates an attempted hack or cyberattack.
Similarly, account alerts send you notifications whenever someone is trying to access your account from an unrecognized device. You may have seen this when logging into an account from a computer or tablet that you don't normally use. Like two-step verification, account alerts add an additional layer of security to your online accounts. These two things don't require any technical knowledge, and they aren't difficult to do. Check your accounts to see how you can enable two-factor authentication and account alerts.
Use a VPN to boost online privacy
Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are an excellent privacy measure to implement. A VPN keeps your network connection anonymous and private by encrypting your Internet traffic via secure tunneling protocols. As a result, it changes your IP address so that it appears to be coming from a different location. This makes it so that your actual IP is hidden from your Internet service provider (ISP) as well as potential hackers.
Using a VPN offers additional benefits as well. They allow users to get around regional blocks, like on Netflix, and browsing restrictions set up at work or at school. If you don't want to pay for a virtual private network, proxy servers also offer similar benefits; they allow you to browse online with a hidden IP address, keeping you private from the rest of the people on a network.
There are both free and paid VPNs out there, but the paid VPNs offer the best protection and security. Many free virtual private networks actually collect data from users, monitoring their browsing history and their IP address. This defeats the purpose of using a VPN for privacy in the first place.
Use secure browsers
We use browsers all the time to get online, but unfortunately, browsers aren't always entirely secure. Cybercriminals can hack into browsers to compromise your activities on the Internet. They can get access to your browser history, DNS cache, usernames and passwords, browsing habits, and more. So what can be done about it?
Internet users have two options: use a secure browser or bolster your regular browser's security. If you want the easiest approach, just switch your normal browser - like Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge - to a secure, anonymous browser like Brave or Epic. These browsers are as focused on privacy as you can be. They're different than Incognito Mode; they don't track you during searches or save cookies to your browser, and they hide your IP address each time you go online.
If you like using your current browser, however, you can also opt to just improve your browser's security. Try security extensions on Chrome like Adblock Plus or Ghostery. Adblock Plus blocks ads, but it can also block trackers, malware, and suspicious domains on the browser. Ghostery has additional features that can be useful, such as a pop-up blocker. Both these programs help bolster your current browser's security so you can keep up with your day-to-day online activities.
Additional steps to protect your online privacy
The three steps above are a great start to protecting your privacy online. But if you want to go even further, consider taking one or two of the following measures to make your online experience even more secure.
- Download secure antivirus software. Antivirus software protects your device from malware, viruses, and other problems. Find a good program and make sure you keep it up to date to prevent your information from getting stolen in a data breach.
- Limit the information you share on social networks. It's easy to overshare on social media, especially when everyone else is. But keeping private information offline is one of the best ways to protect yourself. Information put on the web is there forever, whether you want it to be or not. Refrain from sharing personal information like your address or current location, and think twice about the pictures you post.
- Use a password manager to create strong passwords. Password managers are a great tool for keeping track of passwords, and some, like Roboform, help to generate strong passwords too. You can also use the Password Generator Tool to create strong passwords that keep your accounts and your privacy protected.
These are some first steps you can take to improve your online privacy. Even if you aren't a computer tech, you can protect your online privacy with these simple changes.