It’s a scary world out there. With the Internet, you are no longer protected by distance and physical barriers from your enemies. With just an email address or phone number, someone can find out more about you than they could in days of old when all you had to worry about was a nosy neighbor. And with so many people online nowadays, it is likely that at least one person will be able to figure out who exactly you are and what your secrets might be.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to keep yourself safe on the Web; this article outlines five of them:
1. Don’t give up too much information on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter
This is very important because you don’t want to be one of those people that stay connected with everyone they have met in their entire lives. It makes you a prime target for manipulation as even the least tech-savvy person can try and find out more about your life from these social media sites. Social media sites are also a good place to look for information.
For example, if you have someone’s social media username on Facebook and they put their phone number down as public information, then you can go ahead and call them up to talk. You might even be able to find out where they live or work based on the places that they frequently visit or mention in their newsfeed. And remember that everything you post online is permanent and cannot be deleted (except through complicated processes like asking Google to delete your entire account).
2. Use a VPN
Using a VPN service is one of the most important things you can do to protect your online privacy. A VPN allows you to create an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a server run by your VPN provider. This means that all of the data that leaves and enters your PC is encrypted (and thus prevented from being read). It also prevents websites from seeing who you are or where you are located, making it appear as if you’re in another country on the other side of the world. Also, the VPN hides your IP address, which is another way for someone to find out who you are. You can find a list of the best vpn services curated by Forbes.
3. Don’t email pictures of yourself or any other information that could be used to identify you!
Because of the sheer amount of information that you can obtain from a single email address, emails are one of the least secure ways to share information! It is particularly important not to include pictures or any other kind of identifying information in your email.
If you must send an email with personal information attached, consider using encryption software like PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) that will allow you to encrypt this data so that it cannot be read if intercepted. In even more extreme cases, some services like Hushmail offer completely anonymous accounts where no traffic logs are kept at all.
However there are several situations when sending an encrypted file is not enough: for example, when multiple people have access to the same device and they might extract the files while spoofing your identity.
4. Use the right browser settings so that your activities are not tracked by advertisers, search engines, and others
This is important because most websites can track your activities on their site in several ways. The tracking software might be embedded in the website code or it may come from a third-party service like Google Analytics. Either way, you need to make sure that both your browser and any plugins/extensions are configured so they do not transmit data about what web pages you visit or which search terms you use.
To do this with Chrome, click the Customize and Control icon, then Settings (under Privacy) > Show advanced settings… > Content Settings > Manage exceptions. You will see a list of domains; simply remove those that you don’t want to send information to by clicking on the Remove button on the right side.
5. Use search engines that do not track you.
This one is a bit tricky since even the Google search engine tracks your searches. In addition, most of the alternative search engines can be configured to use encryption so that they don’t store local copies of your data and it is sent directly instead of to their servers. You can also search directly from the address bar if you don’t want to use a browser plugin.
For example, if you’re using Chrome, install the Startpage extension and configure it by clicking on Options (under Identity). Then click Customize on MyStartPage and then Privacy. In the Never send personal information to these services section change both of them to Google Search (it will be automatically selected). To use this type of encryption for DuckDuckGo, Firefox or Startpage simply add “https” in front of the URL while leaving off “www.” (e.g., https://duckduckgo.com/ )
6. Don’t use open wifi if you want to protect your information.
This one is important because it doesn’t come down to how well or poorly a company encrypts the data that passes through its servers—the simplest way would be just to not send any of it! This also applies to corporate networks, where many employees use VPN software and other encryption technologies already in place for their security needs.
However, these same tools can also prevent an employer from monitoring employee-side traffic (e.g., using GeoLite2 IP databases to geolocate broadband subscribers). So always think twice before logging on with your work account on the local coffee shop’s free wifi!
7. And finally, don’t assume that anything you send or store is secure and can’t be hacked.
While this might seem like an obvious one, many people have gotten into trouble in recent years by thinking that a service was secure when they actually weren’t. Again, there are two sides to the story. Companies must do as much as possible to protect user-information from outside attacks, which sometimes means sacrificing convenience (i.e., forcing users to use longer passwords).
Protecting Your Privacy Online
If you follow these tips carefully, anyone who wants to find out more about you will run into brick wall after brick wall trying to get information about you; at least, this will buy time for you to protect your privacy more fully if you decide to do so.