Fraudulent emails, stolen identities, stalking – have any of these cyber crimes ever affected you? Are they things you worry about? Today more than ever (who can forget the Facebook scandal where big companies were given access to users’ data without their permission) we should be extra cautious about the risks posed to our online privacy. Want to take positive steps to protect your personal information? Today’s post takes a look at six of the ways you can improve your online privacy in 2019.
Use a VPN
Are you familiar with a VPN or ‘Virtual Private Network’? This highly versatile technology allows you to access the internet privately, as well as providing many other benefits such as downloading and file sharing safely and using public WiFi hotspots securely. The VPN app connects your device (such as a PC, laptop, or smartphone) to a server run by the VPN provider. All data travels between your device and the VPN server and it is encrypted to ensure that no-one else can view it; you can read more about VPNs here.
Lock your devices
This is such a simple yet effective way to protect privacy. It’s so easy to lose a mobile phone and if you don’t have a passcode on it, anyone could pick it up and easily access all sorts of private information. Similarly with your laptop or PC, make sure you have a passcode to keep personal stuff, banking information and all the apps and websites you’re signed into secure.
Protect your computer from viruses
It’s essential to have antivirus and malware protection on your laptop or desktop computer. Don’t be tempted to disable automatic updates; these software updates are important and you should allow them to run in the background, ensuring you’re device’s security is kept up to date, that bugs are fixed promptly and any security holes patched up.
Use strong passwords
With so many passwords, codes and numbers to remember these days, it’s tempting to stick with the same memorable one you’ve always used, but this is a bad idea. If there’s a security breach with one of the services you use, you’re effectively giving hackers access to all your other accounts. Don’t make it easy for them; instead, consider using a password manager which will automatically generate passwords and keep them safe as you browse.
Don’t overshare on social media
We have become so used to sharing information online. Posting photos, details of holidays, birthday celebrations, locations – rich pickings for someone wanting your information. Don’t overlook your privacy settings – you may want to create safe sharing groups, e.g. friends and family, to restrict who sees your posts. Don’t announce you’re jetting off for two weeks’ holiday, effectively broadcasting the fact your house will likely be empty for the duration. Employ common sense and of course ensure your kids are clued up about social media do’s and don’ts, too.
Avoid internet scams
Be wary of unsolicited approaches and on the alert for deals, offers and anything that sounds too good to be true. Emails from scammers may look official at first glance, but check the sender’s email address -is it legitimate? Make sure you do some checks. (You can read how university students were scammed with fake tax refunds here.) Also don’t click on any links or download programmes and documents unless you are 100% sure they are genuine. Be wary of unusual payment requests and don’t send money or give credit card info.
Hopefully these tips will ensure you get plugging any gaps in your online security – don’t let hackers and scammers steal your private and personal information. Tighten your security and you can then enjoy using the internet safely and with confidence.