The internet is a wonderful technology that has brought together people and torn down social barriers all over the world. Around 40% of the world population have an internet connection, with this number only looking to grow in coming years.
With so many people constantly “connected” and the staggering number of different devices and platforms, user privacy and security can quickly be forgotten!
What if I told you that nearly two-thirds of US adults with social media accounts have been hacked? Did you know that 87 percent of US consumers have connected to an unsecure Wi-Fi network?
Social media, Wi-Fi, The Internet of Things, and other technologies are blessings that make our lives easier, but also come with plenty of risks that everyone should consider.
Is anything on the Internet actually “private”?
While the internet has an immeasurable and extremely positive effect on our daily lives, it is easy to see the argument that it is also responsible for the slow death of privacy.
Facebook certainly isn’t known as a privacy-friendly platform, while Google saving your search history should be a scary thought for anyone. Legal cases such as Apple being forced to unlock an iPhone or WhatsApp being ordered to halt data collection help shed some light on the poor state of privacy today.
This goes without mentioning certain legislation that blatantly encourages mass data collection and surveillance. Of these laws, the US Patriot Act is the most notorious, while the UKs latest “Snoopers Charter” follows at a close second. Don’t worry, Russia, China, and Australia follow closely behind!
You probably don’t want to be tracked and have private conversations recorded, do you? Keep scrolling to see how you can avoid any problems.
Use a VPN to protect yourself
A Virtual Private Network is the best way to secure any online activity. A VPN encrypts your device’s internet connection, increasing your online privacy and protecting you from hackers.
A good way to think of VPN is as a secure tunnel between your device and the internet, keeping your data safe from any outsiders looking to access your data. Your location and the tunnel is also anonymous when using a VPN, which is great news if you are looking to avoid any sort of tracking or surveillance.
Once you start shopping around, you will notice that most VPN services come with a client. This small piece of software allows you to easily connect, disconnect, and choose from multiple VPN servers.
When deciding on a VPN, you should always consider three factors: encryption, privacy, and speed. A VPN can use various levels of encryption, while some providers don’t fully respect your privacy by keeping logs on your activity. VPNs always entail some internet speed loss, but this will also depend on the provider’s network.
Of course, like any industry, not all VPN services are equal, as there are some shady ones that aren’t completely honest with customers. Additionally, a VPN service based in a country with strict surveillance laws could be forced to comply with legal notices, which is another important thing to keep an eye on.
Using a VPN can greatly increase privacy and security when online. Read more about the technology and how it works in this VPN Beginner’s Guide.
Once the basics are setup, most VPNs will guide you through the specific routes, and steps, but on the most part, the client will provide the tools to use the VPN service. Naturally the VPN service that you choose will also depend on the specific setup method, and good VPNs will provide the specific mechanism used to login, with a step by step guide.
What else can I do to protect myself?
With the internet being such a vast place, staying up to date with current events and news regarding cyber security and privacy is one way to stay ahead of the curb.
A good way of staying up to date is to follow some of the leading cybersecurity publications around the web. Some good examples of these are Krebs on Security, Schneier on Security, or Wired: Threat Level. Supporting a non-profit such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation is also a great way to support the fight for our digital rights.
Additionally, try to encourage friends and family to be more aware when it comes to using the internet. Raising awareness of threats to online security is good for everyone!
Secure your passwords
Using a secure password manager to store your passwords is an easy way to quickly increase your online security. By encrypting and keeping your passwords in one place, you also don’t have to worry about forgetting passwords for different services.
Much like a VPN or a messenger app, not all password managers are secure! I use KeePass for storing work-related and personal passwords and fully recommend it. There are some other alternatives out there in LastPass and 1Password.
Use a Private Search Engine
Did you know that Google and others (Bing, Yahoo Search, etc.) actively collect and store data about what you are searching for? Whether this is used for advertising and marketing purposes or more nefarious reasons remains to be seen, but nobody should be ok with their search history being logged!
Consider using a private search engine instead of one of the more popular ones. Some good options worth looking at include DuckDuckGo, Startpage, and Disconnect Search. Ditch Google Search today!
Using a VPN is a great way to protect yourself against hackers, bulk data collection, and the countless other threats on the internet.
Combining this with some of the other tips I’ve mentioned above should dramatically increase your level of security. Hopefully these methods will be enough to handle anything malicious the internet throws at you!