Everyone who has a computer, smartphone or other device is using the Internet. That means just about everyone is going online, whether it’s for shopping, school, news or anything else you can think of. In fact, in 2019, over 4.3 billion people used the Internet. Yes, that’s “billion” with a “B.” And each day, over the past five years, over 640,000 people went online for the very first time.
And when it comes to connecting with others, it’s done via the Internet. Social media has taken over the way we interact with people, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or another app. It’s happened at a staggering speed, and there’s no end in sight.
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It’s Time to Exercise Caution
With people using the Internet for just about everything, it has become a magnet for people with devious motives. Bad actors are trying to steal your identity, invade your privacy and even take control of people’s computers – and then ransom them back to their rightful owners for a price. It’s not only happening to individuals, it’s happening to cities, hospitals, retailers, credit bureaus and so many others. The name for this is ransomware, and it’s creeping into our computers, despite measures to avoid it.
Nobody is suggesting it’s time to give up the Internet or social media, because the will never happen. What experts are suggesting, however, is to take the necessary measures needed to protect your Internet privacy. By doing that, you’ll protect your financial information, your money, your personal contacts and everything else you hold near and dear to your heart.
But how do you protect your privacy? After all, the crooks who are always looking to steal our information are working 24/7 to find new ways to get into our computers and gain access to our most sensitive data and information. The answer is to follow some proven techniques and strategies that will help to protect you from these cyber thieves. By doing that, you’ll be helping to put those crooks out of business and keep your private information – private.
Start with Social Media
One of the best places to start protecting yourselves is social media. One of the main keys to protecting your privacy is limiting the amount of information available about you that people can find online, and unfortunately, they can find anything they want on your social media platforms.
The fact is, most social media platforms are open to the public by default, and it’s up to you to change that if you want to protect your privacy. Take Facebook, for example. While you used to be able to control the information released about you, Facebook is now only interested in making money, and they’re doing this from selling information that you post online or save to your profiles.
You can go into Facebook’s settings to protect your data, but be aware that it’s up to you to police what you post. Many users post phone numbers and email addresses, and these go to companies that want to sell you something. The information also goes to cybercriminals who want to steal something.
If you get a phone call from someone you don’t know, for example, find out who is calling you. Use a reputable online lookup service like Nuwber to check the identity of the caller. You can also use Nuwber to check the identity of someone who is emailing you. If the information you find doesn’t match up with what you’re being told, disconnect! Block their number, and never open their email again.
When you post on social media, be very careful what information you do put out. Don’t talk about where you’ve been, or where you might be going. Don’t post photos that are personal or ones that could be used to blackmail you. Never give out banking information or social security numbers. And never download anything from links that are sent to you by people you don’t personally know and trust.
Create a Strong Password
Most people still use “12345” as their password. Guess what? Cyber crooks know this, and start hacking your information with passwords that are commonly used. A “strong” password has 10 or more characters, and that means they are hard to remember.
To get around this, there are some password managers you can use to secure very strong passwords. One password manager app that helps manage your passwords is Dashlane, which stores and manages passwords for home, business, and mobile use. One of the top free password managers is LastPass, and one of the best values available is Enpass.
Here’s another tip: always use a different password for everything you do online. It may sound like it would be difficult, but that’s where a password manager can help. Once you set things up, you won’t have to remember a single password.
Become a Private Browser
You probably use Google when searching online, but you could be opening your door to trouble. Here’s why: everything you do on Google is tracked and monitored, because by collecting that information, Google can sell it to people who will send you targeted ads. But there are easy ways to prevent your searching data from being used.
Go with a service like DuckDuckGo and you’ll boost your online privacy. It’s easy to use and all you need to do is install an extension on your current browser. Another top browser that won’t keep track of where you surf is the Tor browser. There are many others out there as well, and all will keep your data secure.
Only Visit HTTPS Links
You may not be an IT nerd or understand all the techno-talk that’s out there, but before you visit a site, make sure it’s secure. The way to do that only visits sites that start with HTTPS – the “S” means it’s secure. Most sites use HTTP – and they’re not secure. That means your data is easier to hack and those sites are not safe.
HTTPS sites prevent anyone from coming between a website and a computer user. They’re safe and secure, so if for example, you enter your credit card information to purchase something, you can do it with peace-of-mind.
Consider a Virtual Private Network
A virtual private network, or VPN, helps keep your browsing anonymous. It encrypts your data and it hides your IP address, so sites can’t track you back to your original computer or location. There are many top rated VPN services you can use, with ExpressVPN and Norton Secure VPN being two that are worth mentioning.
Use Good Judgment
Whenever you’re online, protect yourself. Never give out information online that you wouldn’t want to share with someone in person. Never post photos that could be construed as too personal or could be used to blackmail you. Check on the identity of people who are trying to call you or email you using a service like Nuwber, so you know exactly who you are conversing with. Create and manage strong passwords with Dashlane or other password managers. And go with private browsers like DuckDuckGo instead of Google. Follow the tips outlined above and you’ll be safe, and secure!