Browsing the web can feel liberating, but it’d be a much better experience if you didn’t have to constantly worry about your data being in danger 24/7.
What Threats Endanger Your Data, Exactly?
- Unsecured WiFi networks that make it easy for hackers to steal your data.
- Malware infections that are around every corner.
- Phishing attacks – usually shady emails that redirect you to phishing web pages.
- Governments and ISPs that log all your traffic.
- Weak passwords and websites compromised by cybercriminals.
How to Protect Your Data Online
Here are five useful tips that should help you out:
1. Use Password Managers
Coming up with strong passwords is hard enough. But keeping track of them and using a different one for each account is where most people just give up or make mistakes.
That’s 100% understandable – I used to struggle, too. I had a notebook with all my passwords, which is hardly convenient with tens or even hundreds of accounts.
Thankfully, I started using a password manager.
Simply put, it’s software that acts as a digital vault for all your passwords. It encrypts them, keeps them safe, and you only need one master password to access them all.
But it gets better – password managers also have auto-fill features.
So if you ever end up having to use a public computer to log into one of your accounts (it happens), you don’t need to worry about keyloggers stealing your passwords since the managers fill out the fields automatically for you and block false pages.
2. Use a VPN
VPNs are a must if you want to keep your data safe nowadays. It’s an online service that hides your IP address, and encrypts your Internet traffic. Essentially, the VPN secures your traffic by turning it from a readable format into an unreadable one.
Only the VPN server and client can decrypt it – anyone else who tries to spy on your traffic will just see pure gibberish.
How does that help you?
Pretty simple – it means that:
- Cybercriminals won’t be able to freely monitor your Internet traffic – even when you use public WiFi with no encryption!
- ISPs can no longer see everything you do online – what websites you look up, how much time you spend on them, what files you download, and what you type on unencrypted platforms.
- ISPs can also no longer sell your browsing history to third parties for a profit.
- Government surveillance agencies won’t get to spy on your online activities anymore.
Of course, don’t neglect the “hide your IP address” part. That’s equally important.
For starters, by hiding your IP address, a VPN makes sure nobody can learn private stuff about you – like what country and city you are from, what your ZIP code is, and who your ISP is.
It also means that cybercriminals can no longer harvest your IP address, and add it to a huge database which they later sell on the dark web to other hackers and scammers.
What’s more, advertisers won’t be able to use your IP address to spam you with annoying personalized ads – which can also become malicious if they fall in the wrong hands, by the way.
You’ll only get those perks if you use a quality VPN, though.
With hundreds of providers on the market, making a good choice can be tough. To make things easier for you to make an informed decision, these VPNs are all highly rated.
3. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication on All Accounts
Multi-factor authentication basically adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts – or multiple layers, really; it all depends on how many options you have.
The idea is that you’ll receive a randomly generated code (either through SMS or through an app) which you’ll need to type in after you enter your username and password.
So, even if a hacker were to somehow get their hands on your login credentials, they wouldn’t really be able to do much with them. They’d also need access to your phone to complete the login process.
Ideally, you should use multifactor authentication with online banking and payment processing websites, and for your email accounts. But don’t shy away from enabling it on your social media accounts, video game libraries or anything else you want to protect.
4. Use Antivirus/Antimalware Programs on All Devices
Malware is no joke – roughly 360,000 new samples hit the web each day.
Having antivirus/antimalware software installed on your devices is no longer a matter of preference – it’s pretty much mandatory.
Otherwise, hackers can easily steal your data with rootkits, Trojans, spyware, and ransomware.
Now, there’s no exact difference between antivirus and antimalware programs – they both do the same thing since a virus is a type of malware.
Just make sure you always update the software and your operating system. If you don’t, new malware strains might bypass it.
5. Use Security-Oriented Extensions
Securing your passwords, web traffic, and devices is great – but you should also make your browser safer to further protect your data.
That’s where secure extensions come into play. There are many to choose from, so here are the ones I found to be the most efficient:
- HTTPS Everywhere – A nice extension that automatically upgrades connections to HTTP websites to HTTPS if possible.
- uMatrix and uBlock Origin – Websites often run background scripts that seem innocent at first, but can sometimes be malicious or have a tendency to eat up a lot of your memory. Well, both extensions let you decide which scripts get to run, and you can even use both simultaneously.
- Stanford’s Anti-Phishing Extensions – A great collection of extensions that protect you against phishing attacks.
- Disconnect – It’s a great way to block annoying websites, requests, and trackers that violate your privacy. Plus, the extension makes websites load faster, and doesn’t log your IP address at all.