Online safety means more than just adjusting the security and privacy settings of your Facebook account, clearing cookies or deleting your browsing history. While these basic measures to protect yourself are still valid, there are other things that you need to do in order to ensure that your information is truly safe. The truth is that most internet users don’t fully understand how to improve the security of the tools that they use on a daily basis including browsers, search engines and social media websites. Many people are still taking online privacy and security for granted but in this guide, we’ll explore the list of things that you can do to boost the security of your data.
Basic security tips
Although some of these rules may seem obvious, some people are not taking them into consideration so it is worth to go through them.
When you create an account on a website, avoid signing up for emails and newsletters as many websites use this to track you. Unless you really want to receive this information, you will end up receiving a lot of spam.
If you have previously signed to receive emails by several services or simply didn’t have the option to cancel, try to opt out to stop receiving this information. Companies have a lot of data about you, particularly if you previously bought their products or services. You can also try to create a new email per service and associate them to find out which services are sending spam or unwanted emails. Just keep in mind that creating a new email address for every service is time consuming.
In cases when an email address is required to resister for a service or download an app, but you prefer not to provide your real email address, you can consider using a temporary email address. You can create one of these emails within seconds and it will be automatically deleted after certain period of time. This is a practical solution for people who want to avoid spam completely and for websites that you will only use once.
Use a VPN
Using a VPN is one of the most effective ways to protect your privacy and security when you are connected to the internet. With a VPN, your online activities including the content you access, stream or download, as well as your conversations, are encrypted. By encrypting your traffic, a VPN helps you to prevent others from seeing what you are doing. Considering that your ISP, as well as government organizations, hackers and other parties can try to access your online data, it is very important that you keep yourself protected. A VPN also masks your IP address, allowing you to keep your identity safe. Apart from offering strong security and boosting your online privacy, a VPN also allows you to overcome geographical restrictions. By changing your IP address and rerouting your traffic through a server in the location of your choice, a VPN will help you to access content that is blocked in your country. Some of the best options available include ExpressVPN, NordVPN, IPVanish and VyprVPN.
It is also important to ensure that your browser is secured as it keeps a great deal of data that could put your privacy at risk. While having your browsing history, saved passwords, autofill options and other data handy, can be very convenient and can save you time when you are online, they can also be detrimental for privacy. Keep in mind that Chrome tracks you and in order to stop this, you need to go to the Settings and enable “Do not track” to stop it from keeping track of your activities.
While the incognito mode is not the most effective solution to avoid being tracked all the time, it can help to stop website from keeping cookies. In addition, when you use the Incognito mode, the browser doesn’t save browsing history and web cache is disabled.
It should also be noted that HTTP cookies are pieces of data that are stored on your computer. Third-party cookies are malicious and are used to keep track of your browsing history. In order to avoid this, you can go to Chrome’s Advanced settings, Cookies and Content Settings and click to enable the “Block third-party’s cookies” section.
As you may know by now, Social media can pose a huge threat to privacy as it gives away a lot of your personal information. These apps are free to use, but they need to make money and they do so through advertisement and also by selling your information. As they say, you may not pay for a product, but you are the product. Facebook is the major culprit as it gives your data to apps, websites and other parties. At this stage, Facebook is so popular and widely used that it is unlikely that it shuts down, in spite of the outrage caused by the mishandling of data and the concerns about its privacy policies. If you can’t or don’t want to leave Facebook for good, there are some things that you can do to improve your privacy a little, at least.
Whenever possible, avoid signing up with Facebook on multiple websites and apps. It may be convenient, but it affects your privacy since it provides access to information that is usually restricted. It is also important to edit Apps others use (Apps, Plugins and Websites). The data that is checked is everything that your Facebook friends share about you. This is what it is advisable to uncheck everything to make sure that your personal data can’t be shared by your Facebook friends.
If you don’t know what kind of websites or what apps have access to your Facebook profile, in the Settings, Apps section, it is possible to check your Facebook’s historical access and check the apps that had access to your data. In addition, Facebook’s integrations on third-party apps and websites are used by default, but it is possible to disable Facebook’s platforms including Websites, Apps and Plugins.
You have probable noticed that Facebook ads are not only an annoyance, but that they also track you. It is very likely that you see an ad for a website that you previously closed in another tab. In order to prevent this, go to Settings, then Ads and in the ad section, change the first two options that appear there to “No”. If you prefer not to see ads that your friends liked or similar data, you can go to the “Ads related to social actions” section and switch the setting to No one. Your Facebook friends won’t be able to see if you liked some pages or not. Also, don’t forget basic Facebook settings that depend on your personal preferences, such as who can see your posts, tag you in photos or send you friend requests. Make sure that you check who can search for you on Facebook based on the email address and phone number that you provided.
Secure your Operating System – Windows 10
There are security weaknesses in every operating system, but Windows 10 has come under scrutiny due to the fact that it sends users’ information to Microsoft and it also attaches IDs and uses Cortana (its virtual assistant) to collect data. In spite of its flaws, Windows 10 offers many options when it comes to controlling your privacy. The default options may not be the best, but you can change the privacy settings to improve your overall security and privacy when using this platform.
To get started, you need to check the basic Windows privacy settings. Make sure that you opt out from “Send Microsoft how I write” and “Let apps use advertising ID”. While the first option may not cause a lot of issues, it is advisable to disable it. The second option will prevent Microsoft from targeting you with specific ads.
If you prefer not to be asked to provide feedback, simply head to the Feedback privacy settings and select “Never” in “Windows should ask for my feedback”. You also need to select “Basic” in “Send device data to Microsoft” and limit the data that is sent to the company.
You can take things to the next level by turning off the camera and microphone completely or selecting what programs can access them. You may prefer to select apps that really need to use them such as Skype.
It is also advisable to disable the location for the device and the location services. This will prevent that your address or general location are tracked and Microsoft won’t be able to display ads based on your location. Check other settings and make the necessary changes to improve your privacy.
Dealing with Google
Google is a powerful force in the internet and at it is likely that it already knows a lot about you since it collects your personal data in a consistent and invasive manner. We use Google on a daily basis for many different purposes including researching information for work or school, checking our emails, browsing the web and watching YouTube videos. Google services are very convenient, but they can be a nightmare to privacy. Thankfully, there are a few ways to reduce the risks.
While logging in with Google simplifies and speeds things up, most people forget to check what kind of information you are giving away when you sign up. Most websites require basic data about you, but there are some that are after your contacts and even confidential information. In many cases, we don’t even take some time to read and understand what kind of information is being requested.
If you don’t know what kind of apps or websites are connected to your Google account of what information they can access, this can be checked through your Google account in Sign-in & Security, Connected apps & sites. It is possible to find a variety of security, activity and privacy related settings in your account. Make sure that you check all of them and read through them carefully.
Switching off the ads and ad personalization will also allow you to reduce Google’s snooping. To opt out of Google’s ads, you just need to go to “Ads Settings” in your Google account settings and disable “Ads Personalization”. This can help you to avoid ads completely or to reduce them significantly. In the “My Activity” section, you will see how all your internet traffic can be easily seen and will find out how Google tracks your location through maps. Taking a look at this section can be scary since it even displays exact coordinates. Make sure that you check “Manage your Google activity” and “Activity controls”, where you will see all the activity available including the videos watched on YouTube, Google searches and Google maps locations. We recommend you to delete the data that has been already accumulated and pause the tracking in every section.