10 Ways to Protect Privacy Online (and Threats to Watch For)

Using anything involving the internet can result in your information getting shared. Worse, it can end up for sale. At the very least, your data is somewhere on the cloud, accessed by people you don’t know.

In addition, the more connected devices you own, the more privacy and security risks you face. After all, each of these gadgets links to your personal information. You may not be counting, but the average household has 25 connected devices.

Fortunately, you can still keep your data private. This guide details the top tactics on how to protect privacy online, so be sure to keep reading.

1. Understand How Online Security Affects Digital Privacy

Online or cyber security is the practice of defending IT devices and all the data they contain. Whether it’s a computer, a mobile device, or a network, you need to secure them from malicious attacks.

Digital privacy, in turn, pertains to the rights you have over personal information. These include permitting another entity to access and use your data. You have the right to bar or allow these parties access, and you also have the right to choose the info to share with them.

Unfortunately, a cyber security breach can result in the exposure of your data. That makes your personal information available to unauthorized entities. So, you also lose your privacy because your data is now accessible to unscrupulous folks.

That’s why you need to practice good cyber security habits to protect your privacy online.

2. Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an account security verification method. It’s the protocol that requires you to verify yourself when you log in to an account for the first time on a new device. Aside from your password, it also requires you to input a code before granting you access to your account.

As such, it’s a wise move to enable 2FA in all your accounts that offer this security protocol. Amazon, Apple ID, Google, Microsoft, Paypal, and Twitter are just some examples.

Smart devices, like iPhones and Android phones, also offer 2FA/MFA with biometrics. For example, you can set up your Face ID and a passcode on an iPhone. In addition, you can make Face ID take precedence over your passcode, so only your face can unlock your phone.

In any case, 2FA/MFA helps protect your internet privacy as it adds a layer of security to your digital data. With at least two verification methods, you can cut the risks of your info getting exposed or leaked.

3. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) When Possible

MFA is pretty much the same as 2FA, except it requires three or more verification factors. An example of a company offering MFA is Amazon Web Services, offering five MFA options. AWS users can stick to 2FA, but they can use at least three verification methods for greater security.

4. Avoid the Cookie Trap

We’re not talking about lip-smacking cookies (but you’d want to eat those in moderation, too). Instead, we’re talking about cookies on web browsers designed to track internet sessions.

HTTP cookies, also known as internet cookies, are tiny text files with small bits of data. The details they carry, in turn, identify each unique website visitor. Web developers use these details to give visitors a more convenient, personalized experience.

For example, when you visit a news website, they’ll likely tell you that they’re using cookies. In this case, the text files will store data about the specific news articles you read. They can identify a pattern, such as if you read more news about health than sports.

The next time you visit the site, you might notice that the web pages load faster. You may also see more news about health rather than sports or other categories.

Those are the type of cookies that make your internet experience more enjoyable. After all, nobody likes slow-loading pages. You don’t want to get bombarded with news articles you don’t want to read, either.

The problem is that cyberattacks, such as cookie hijacking, can occur due to cookies. Hijacked cookies can allow criminals to spy on you or even change your browser settings. It may sound like a new threat, but it’s been around since the late 1980s.

One of the best ways to avoid those risks is to decline cookie tracking on a website. Another is to enable the Do Not Track setting built into your browser. Finally, you can go incognito whenever you use a browser.

5. Block Spies Out With a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

According to https://securethoughts.com/what-is-a-vpn/,a VPN provides data encryption. It’s a security product that codifies the data you send and receive via your devices. By encrypting your data, a VPN makes the information harder to read with machines.

For example, a VPN can help block an internet service provider (ISP) from tracking your info. It can also help stop websites and browsers from accessing your browsing history.

6. Read the Fine Print Before You Agree (Or Disagree)

A survey found that 30% of US consumers never read privacy policies before agreeing to them. Roughly the same percentage read them sometimes, while only 9% say they always do. If you’re in the first or second group, it’s time to rethink your habits, as you might end up agreeing to the sale of your data.

7. Prevent Spies From Targeting Your Kids

Kids from 8 to 12 years old now get an average of four to six hours of screen time each day. It’s even higher for teens, as they look at their screened devices for an average of nine hours each day.

All that screen time makes children a prime target of malicious attacks.

As a parent, it’s vital to know that federal laws exist to protect children’s privacy online. One of these is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Under COPPA, websites marketed to kids younger than 13 must get consent from parents. For starters, these sites must specify the types of information they collect. Parents then decide if it’s okay for the websites to access their child’s information.

8. When In Doubt, Don’t Click

From January to February 2020, phishing attacks grew by a staggering 510%. Many of the perpetrators behind these threats rolled them out the usual way: a link in an email. However, others were in the form of attachments, including image files like JPG and PDF.

Regardless of the method, phishing erodes privacy as it leaves sensitive data exposed. From personal to bank account details, this crime makes your private information vulnerable. Many schemes even involve selling your stolen data to the black market.

So, for your privacy and security, always identify email or message senders. If the sender or the content of their message seems shady, trust your gut and don’t click.

Instead, report the email, number, or profile of the suspicious actor right away.

For instance, if it’s a Gmail account, send a note to Google Support so that they can look into it. If it’s on Facebook or Messenger, report them to the platform’s security and privacy team. You can also file a complaint to Facebook about privacy violations or abuse.

9. Mind What You Post

Speaking of Facebook, one of the best ways to protect your privacy online is to limit what you post on such sites. Yes, everyone has the right to free speech, but so you know, FB comments and tweets have landed people in jail.

So, before you click on that post button, read over what you’ve typed. Be sure it doesn’t violate online community rules. Most importantly, make certain you’re not sharing too much personal information.

10. Restrict Your Viewers

Fame, according to Lady Gaga, makes you “belong to everyone else.” For Amanda Seyfried, it felt “like life or death.” These are just a few confessions from celebrities on what it’s like to be famous.

After all, prominence deprives you of privacy.

Unfortunately, you don’t even have to be a Hollywood star to be a subject of stalking. For instance, a 2019 study found that 46% of the respondents were victims of cyberstalking.

That’s enough reason to consider limiting who can see you and view your posts on social media.

For example, you can tweak your FB privacy settings so that only your friends can see you on the platform. You can even set restrictions on who can send you friend requests or messages.

You can’t hide your profile or bio on Instagram, but you can control who sees your posts. For example, you can set your account to private so that only your IG friends and followers can see them. You can also block and report the profile of someone who keeps pestering you on Instagram Direct.

Follow These Strategies to Protect Privacy Online

As you can see, practicing good online security is the first step to protect privacy online. From there, use a VPN, and set up restrictions and parental controls. Lastly, don’t forget to read the privacy policies and decline unnecessary cookies.

All that may sound tedious but remember: it’s your privacy on the line, and you surely don’t want to sell it.

Ready for more educational guides on online safety, security, and tech? Browse our up-to-date blog posts for more informative articles then!

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