Privacy in the digital age is a hot topic at the moment. After a honeymoon period, people are starting to realize how much of their data is stored digitally, and what the consequences can be.
If you’re active online, chances are your full name, identification number, addresses, phone number, credit card details, etc. are stored online somewhere. On top of an invasion of privacy, if someone accesses this data, it can leave you vulnerable to further attacks. Your finances, relationships, and even your future can be at stake.
We’ve even seen the heads of massive tech companies, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, hauled before the government to answer for how they handle our personal info.
As we go deeper into the digital age, people are also getting more invested in the “Internet of Things.” From phones to home assistants to smart TVs, refrigerators, and even washing machines – everything is becoming connected. A leak in your privacy can allow someone to disrupt your entire life.
Are You at Risk?
Unfortunately, there are always opportunists on the lookout to take advantage of people online. Put simply: if you use the internet at all, you are at risk. However, knowing what the biggest risks are can help you try to avoid them or take the necessary precautions.
- Do you regularly use public WiFi? For example, in a coffee shop, restaurant, or while traveling?
- Are you very active on, or do you use multiple, social media platforms?
- Do you work a lot online, or do you frequently visit different/new websites?
- Do you have to download/upload documents or other files on a regular basis?
- Do you use/own multiple devices connected to each other and the internet?
If you said yes to one, or more, of these questions, you should probably read up on how to protect yourself online. However, even if you don’t use the internet that much, attacks can be targeted or random and en-masse.
How to Protect Your Privacy Online
Before you throw out your WiFi and swear off the internet forever, hold on! There are many commonsense steps you can take to protect yourself online. Most of these methods are entirely free, and there are even free (or trial) versions of anti-virus or VPN tools. However, if you think about what’s at stake, it’s a sound investment to upgrade your security for a small fee per month/year.
Invest in an Anti-Virus
Anti-virus software is becoming increasingly focussed on online protection since this is where most malware and attacks on privacy comes from. Anti-virus tools like Bitdefender can block unauthorized background connections, warn you about suspicious sites, and pick up any phishing activity.
Hide From Prying Eyes With a VPN
VPN services create a secure connection between your computer and a server over the internet. This prevents third-parties from being able to intercept your browsing activity. If you regularly use public WiFi, a VPN is a must-have. It will also hide your location and can be used to access region-locked websites.
Be Smart on Social Media
Yes, social media is all about sharing your life with the people you know. However, you should carefully think about what information you actually need to share. On Facebook, for example, you can change the settings so only certain people can see certain info. It’s advisable that you hide all personal info from people who aren’t friends. Carefully read the terms of a social platform carefully to know what rights they have on your info and who they share it with.
Go Incognito When Browsing
Most browsers have a private mode that doesn’t save your browsing history, cookies, or other temporary internet files. If someone manages to hack (or steal) your computer, they won’t be able to dig up your past browsing habits. However, this may not work on a public or work computer, and your service provider will still be able to track your activity.
Other Privacy Tips
- Keep your eye on the news. If a service you use has been hacked, immediately change your login credentials and assess the potential damage.
- Always use strong passwords not based on your personal information.
- Use different passwords for each account. If it’s too much trouble, get a password manager or wallet.
The Risks Are Real – Don’t Learn the Hard Way
If you’ve never been on the receiving end of a privacy leak or digital attack, it probably feels like something that only happens to other people. However, the consequences can be very real. Just look at this timeline of some of the world’s largest hacks and data breaches.
If you use any of these services, someone may already have your personal info. How does that make you feel? Hackers or opportunists like easy targets. Make yourself harder to exploit, and you should be safer than most other people.