Updated: Jul 15, 2021
Ed. Note: We hope you grownups find these tips useful! They are topics we teach students about in Cyber Civics.
Nearly everything today is done online, from ordering groceries, buying home necessities and new clothes, and almost anything else you can think of. You can also have game subscriptions, movie streaming services, pay bills, and more with the technology of today.
While this is great and offers an antidote to all our old problems of wasting time, gas, and money to get to one place to buy what we need or to watch a movie, this also comes with some risks. The main risk is the loss of privacy when browsing online.
For example, anyone who knows how to encrypt or decrypt information could easily get into your bank account from your shopping accounts if you are using public wifi. Or, even if you are using a secure wifi connection, cookies can track your every move and target you with unwanted ads. Do I have your attention now? Good. Here are ways you can protect your privacy online.
Limit What You Share On Social Media
In this day and age, everyone is on social media, even your mom and grandma. With that being said, TMI (too much information) about you may be floating around cyberspace. Most social media sites ask you for basic information, such as your name, birthday, email, and more when you sign up.
While your personal information is used to build your profile, some of the information gathered is sold to advertisers. Within the settings, you can choose to make your accounts private and limit the type of ads shown to you. Also, it is a good rule of thumb to never share your location when you post.
You should also manage your digital reputation. Ask yourself if you’d want your mom or favorite teacher to read what you are about to post. Sometimes, we are the greatest harm to ourselves!
Use Multiple Search Engines
When you only use one search engine or web browser, it can be easy to track all your information or see what you are looking for on that browser. All the searches you have committed will be locked in the history of that web browser, more so for ease so you can easily retrace your steps in case you need to go to a site again, but it also allows people to view what sites you go to and where you share your info.
This would be more difficult if you use multiple search engines. That way, you aren’t always using the same browser or search engine to find what you’re looking for, and your information would be harder to track. You can even one-up this process by deleting your browsing history, unless it is necessary for you to keep it.
Be Careful What Links You Follow Online
Clicking on a web link is often the fastest way to get to another place on the Internet without entering that site’s web address in the address bar. So, of course, most often you’ll find yourself clicking on links to easily access what you are looking for.
The danger in this is that you are going straight to the website and also opening your browser to whatever may be there. It only takes a second for the hacker’s software to encrypt itself into your computer through the Internet, and once it’s there, depending on the type of virus, it can be a challenge to get rid of.
To limit this, you can refrain from clicking links you do not trust or that are foreign to you. Often certain web browsers will give you a warning page if you click on a website that has been reported as untrustworthy or has been labeled a virus or problem.
Using A VPN To Help
With the advancement of technology and want for protection on the web and cyberspace, many companies or businesses have started developing Virtual Privacy Networks or VPNs. VPNs are ‘tunnels’ that encrypt your data once you start browsing the web. What this does is make it harder for people with malicious intent to track your IP address or get into your data.
Most VPNs come at a cost, which can either be a monthly, yearly, or one-time fee, depending on what provider you are using. Most of these providers also offer a free version, meaning you can try it out and see how a VPN can help protect your data! Narrow down a list of VPN providers and do your research on a few.
Take Advantage of the Incognito and Private Modes
One of the simplest ways to make your information more private and protect your IP address would be using the Incognito mode or private mode offered via your web browser’s service. While this isn’t 100% private, as your internet provider will still see search results and site visitation, your history will be automatically deleted. Any information such as passwords, bill information, etc., will be removed.
This is a short and easy shortcut for a little more privacy, depending on what you’re doing. While it doesn’t offer you 100% protection as your visitation is still seen by your provider and your IP could still be found, it does offer some basic protection.
Follow The Same Protocols On Mobile Devices
You may think that with a mobile device such as your phone or tablet you could disregard some of these safety steps, but that would be the wrong way of thinking. Most hackers or people who encrypt viruses with malicious intent seek to do so via mobile devices, as they are the most popular browsing device in recent years.
If you look, everyone has a phone, and many times people are on their phones using social media or purchasing something, meaning their information is constantly being shared! To protect against this, you should follow the same procedures listed above on your mobile device and not just your PC.
Find Trusted and High-Quality Anti-Virus Software
In case some malicious software does get to your computer, you should always have a wall of protection. This can be done by having anti-virus software to help protect your computer from any invading virus. Most anti-virus software will detect when a new program is installed or when foreign things visit your computer, meaning it will detect and start battling a virus right away!
Not only will it help by defending your computer from a virus once it has started spreading, most anti-virus software has started to become more and more advanced by defending your computer before the virus gets there. Meaning it would warn and stop you if a website with malicious software or other possibility of danger was detected.
Your Privacy Is Important
In this day and age, your information is being shared more rapidly than it has ever been in the past. Anyone can easily search up the age and other personal information about a person if they know just small details about them and, even worse, even pose as them to gain more information or get into their accounts. This means defending your information and privacy is a priority nowadays.
To defend your privacy and information from being shared, hacked, or exploited, you should follow the tips offered here. Be careful what you click and share, use private modes if available or doing things that risk your information, and find trusted and high-quality software with the intent to defend your privacy and information from malicious intent.
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About the Author
Gabe Nelson is a content specialist with more than 7 years of experience. Just out of high school he set off crab fishing on the Bering Sea in Alaska. From there he went back home to finish his college degree at the University of Montana. He has written hundreds of content pieces in numerous niches.