Strengthen the Walls of Online Privacy with these 10 Tips

/ December 18, 2020 | 6 Mins Read

Strengthen the Walls of Online Privacy with these 10 Tips

Strengthen your internet privacy and safeguard personal details from being mishandled. Click here to know what you can do to protect your online privacy.

A few days back, I was searching for a jeweler near me. I clearly remember not mentioning my phone number or my email address. However, within a few hours, I got calls from two trinket stores and received around a dozen emails (on my secondary email ID) from jewelry stores all over the city! Sounds creepy, right? I almost had the urge to go ghostbusting at my house. Well, this isn't anything paranormal. It is called a PRIVACY BREACH.

Today, a little bit of online digging can give away sensitive information, like your phone number, email address (just what happened in my case), and even your residential address. If that doesn't bother you, this sure will.

A survey found out that it takes less than 2 minutes to figure out a person's assets and break through the security questions into a bank account. The bottom line is your information is not safe unless you take the right measures. So, how do you protect yourself from an online breach? On that note, let us first understand how is data mishandled.

How is data gathered and used?

Suppose you are a student and you sign up with an academic website that offers assignment help. Inevitably, you have to share your email ID, name, and other personal information like the college you study in. What is happening out there is data mining. While the primary motive of mining data was to serve you "better", things can go south if your data gets into the wrong hands. 

Hackers worldwide await that one slip from your part to break in and use the personal details to hack through your bank or credit account. This is precisely the case behind Edward Snowden's whistleblowing. Despite the online privacy laws, you cannot avoid threats like identity theft, online blackmail, and spam calls altogether. However, it isn't all hopeless, and a certain amount of power still rests with you.

In what follows, I will give you 10 tricks to protect your online privacy. Let us dive in before someone hacks into your account, shall we?

10 Steps to Improve Your Online Privacy

1. Set up two-factor authentication

When you visit an ATM vestibule, you need two things to transact money – swiping your card and the debit card pin. This is what two-factor identification is all about. The 2FA system confirms that it is you using two factors. So, even if someone gets hold of your pin, the person would still require your physical card to make a transaction.

Most Google accounts give you the option to use 2FA. You must have received a notification on your phone from Google when you sign in to your account on another device. This is the safest way to figure out a dark web breach. Here is all you need to know about two-factor authentication.

2. Monitor the dark web

A hospitality mogul like Marriott due to a dark web breach. The data included customer names, credit card numbers, and a lot more. Now, if a successful brand like Marriot can be breached, you are not safe either. So, what can you do to save yourself from this nightmare?

Well, there are several dark web scanners that you can use. You can try ‘Have I Been Pwned' to determine whether your information has been compromised. The scanner will give you a report of the accounts hackers have tried getting through, and you can take the necessary steps.

3. Start a Google privacy check-up

Eventually, all your information is linked to your Google account. Think it through – your Facebook account is linked to your Google account, and all your passwords are saved in Google. So, you need to protect the mother ship at all costs. To protect your data, you can run a privacy check-up and see how far are the reaches of your Google account.

Turn off the permission given to Google to track your browsing history. If you use Google Maps, then limit the settings not to track your location history. Also, make sure that your voice recordings are not saved in Google Drive. Use Incognito mode and tools like Tor for browsing.

4. Audit your social media

You have no idea how much data we let loose on our social media sites; let alone the pictures we share. Any day, all the information you share can come back to bite you and reduce your reputation to dust. If you do not want that to happen, you need to limit what you share.

Also, you need to change the settings such that only people you personally know can see what you are sharing. Make your account a private one so that people can see it once you have permitted them. You can change your social media account privacy settings by clicking on these shortcuts - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat.

5. Stay private when using a Wi-Fi connection

Since public Wi-Fi networks do not encrypt traffic, anyone using the same network can pry into your traffic. And by snooping into your traffic, I mean getting hands on login data, passwords, and so forth. So, try and avoid using public Wi-Fi as much as possible if you do not want to be the victim of the next hackers' swipe.

If you cannot help using public Wi-Fi (like in the college library or city hotspots, you can use a secure VPN connection. A VPN like AnchorFree or Nord will encrypt your data and hide your IP address.

6. Secure your devices with strong passwords

Since your computer and phone store a lot of private data, protecting them with robust passwords is a necessity. That means you cannot use your birthday and birth year as your password. Also, count out your phone number too. Your passwords should be unique – a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.

You can take it a notch higher by using fingerprints for biometric authentication instead of six-digit PINs or screen lock passwords. Even for the security questions, make sure the answers are something that people cannot guess. Preferably, use facts that have no online connection. You can use a password manager like LastPass or 1Password to remember all the passcodes if you find it difficult.

7. Avoid using public cloud storages

While cloud storage may seem a viable option to save your photos and other documents, it can take one hacking attempt to get access to all the load you have there. So, steer clear from Google Drive and such similar public cloud services as much you can.

Some of us write our passwords and save the document in Google Docs. That isn't safe at all. If necessary, save such docs to your hard drive. Also, do not use online software and tools to scan valuable documents, like your driving license or passport, unless the tools use an encrypted archive.

8. Create secondary mail IDs and phone numbers

If you remember my anecdote earlier in the blog, I can tell you why I wasn't much concerned. That is because I use my secondary mail ID to surf the internet. You will see several sites advertise how you can get a reward just by sharing your email address and phone number. Such sites pawn data collected to corporations and other entities.

“In this age of online shopping, you cannot avoid sharing your email ID and phone number. However, what you can do is create a separate email address and buy another SIM card that can be disposed of in case of a breach.", says Alicia Reynolds, the Data Manager at MyAssignmenthelp.com.

9. Use texting apps with end-to-end encryption

When you send an SMS, the message you send is encrypted in transit. This means your messages are decrypted by the network provider and is stored on its servers. As inferred, hackers can always get access to the servers and read what you are sending. While at it, do remember that the risk isn't the same when you are receiving messages. So, your bank OTP messages are perfectly safe.

Now, coming to encryption, it is better to choose modern messaging apps (like WhatsApp) that use end-to-end encryption. That way, there will be no risk of a third-party prying into your conversations. Also, remember that Facebook Messenger and Google Allo do not use end-to-end encryption.

10. Review permissions for mobile apps and browser extensions

When you download an app on your phone, you will see that it asks you to grant permissions to the app to access different functions on your phone, like your camera, microphone, and so on. Do not make the mistake of taking this lightly and allowing the apps to draw over.

Unless the app HAS TO use the function (like, photo editing apps need to access the image folder and camera), reject the permissions. The same applies to permission requests from browser extensions, which also have spying tendencies. Always make sure that the functions are necessary before choosing YES. For example, a scanning app should not need access to your phone contacts.

Endnote:

From what we browse to the data stored on our mobile devices to the IoT products installed at home, hackers can break through the walls and invade our privacy and personal security. With online breaches at a historic high, you cannot tread upon this matter lightly, thinking you have nothing to hide. So, please take it in your stride to implement the steps mentioned above to keep yourself safe from cyber-attackers and scam artists.

Suhana Williams, a marketing expert and an active blogger, is associated with Assignmenthelp and extends assignment help to students pursuing business studies and Marketing Courses.

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