Privacy Checklist: How To Keep Your Info To Yourself Online [5 Simple Steps]

Every day, millions of people use the internet.

They share their social experiences and they keep in touch with friends via their social networks or emails. They use their credit cards to go online shopping, book travel or gig tickets and even use the net to move money around with online banking apps.

That’s a lot of private information you put on the web every day!

Online privacy has been in the news in a big way for the past few years.

It’s not surprising really, when you consider how many people are using the web each day. A recent report by the International Telecommunication Union shows that over 3.2 billion people are now using the internet.

That’s a lot of people putting their information out there, and a lot of people who can see it.

It’s not just the 3.2 billion users you have to worry about.

Almost every site you use can view and share your information too.

Google Privacy

Ironically, as you search for articles on online privacy, your search engine may be passing your details onto other sites.

Don’t be too surprised if tomorrow you receive at least one advert or email promoting the latest online privacy tool.

What can you do to make sure your private information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands? It’s certainly worrying.

You wouldn’t walk around Times Square naked with everything showing, so why would you navigate the web in a virtual state of nakedness?

There are over 330,000 visitors a day to Times Square but that pales into insignificance compared to the 3.2 billion internet users.

Here is our checklist for protecting your online privacy.

Internet security can be broken down into password security, social network security, browser security, and network security issues.

Check how you stack up in each category.

1. Passwords

Online Passwords

Many people assume their data is secure because it’s always password protected.

But how strong is your password and how secure is it really?

The news has been full of stories of security attacks and data breaches over the past few years.

One of the largest online social platforms, Twitter, had its security compromised in 2016, with 32 million user account details being leaked online. A bug in the LinkedIn networks software allowed for over a 100 million user details to be stolen and sold online.

Every day there seems to be a new story of data breaches, with companies like Yahoo, eBay and facebook, to name but a few, being effected.

Even if you only use the bare minimum of online services, you still can’t neglect your password security. Here are just a few tips for basic password security:

Choose A Strong Password

Don’t use your child or pet’s name and avoid birthdays. All this data can easily be looked up on your social networks.

Instead, try to use a random word which features both capital and lower case characters with numbers or symbols.

Use Different Passwords For Each Site

It’s best to avoid using the same password and email combination on more than one site.

It may be easier to remember just one password but if a hacker should get hold of your details on one site, they will be able to access every site you use.

Change Your Password Regularly

Unless you are an avid follower of tech news sites, you probably won’t always be aware of new security breaches.

Only the major attacks, like Twitter, facebook or Amazon tend to make the mainstream news.

A web app called “Should I Change My Password?” has been created which can tell you if you are at risk of being compromised.

More advanced steps can take your password security to the next level.

Many websites now use two-factor authentication which locks the account to the computer you originally used to log in with.

If you should use a different laptop or, sometimes, an unrecognized location, an alert will notify you.

A simple process like an SMS is then used to identify yourself. Services like Google, facebook, Dropbox and many others use this system. If it’s available, use it!

With so many different passwords, it can be hard to remember them all.

Believe it or not, I have known people who keep them all written down on a post-it-note attached to their laptop.

Last Passes

Using a digitally secure password manager like LastPass, KeePass and 1Password can help you keep track of all your passwords.

Linked to having too many passwords is having too many apps.

If you’re one of those people who likes to try out new services all the time, just ensure you delete them when you have finished with them.

Another way of protecting yourself is to clean up the app permissions for facebook or Twitter.

The final password tip is so simple but something which can save you from being hacked. LIE!

Don’t answer any password hint questions truthfully. Use word association instead or simply choose a random answer that you can remember.

The chances of somebody’s brain working in the same manner as yours is much less than them knowing which school you went to or your mother’s maiden name.

2. Don’t Share Too Much

This checklist is not just for you, but for the whole family, especially for any children you ay have.

Social networks have recently become very popular. Everybody loves sharing their activities with the online community.

But just how many people do you want to share with, the whole 3.2 billion? Kim Kardashian loves using her Instagram and facebook, with millions of followers.

Many media critics blamed this for her being robbed in Paris.

The thieves simply knew where she was from her posts.

Don't share too much

It’s surprising just how much information people put on facebook and other social network sites.

Somebody who wants to steal your identity can normally find where you live, your birthdate, which school you went to, your parents’ names, the car you drive and so much more.

When you go on vacation and post those scenic pics, you may as well be putting a sign on the front of your home saying “vacant”.

The simplest solution is to change your security and privacy settings on facebook or other accounts, and limit who can view your details. The following YouTube video provides a detailed guide to security and privacy settings in Facebook.

Other measures include limiting the information you provide.

Although it’s always nice to receive hundreds of birthday greetings from around the world, do they really need to know your year of birth? When going on vacation, wait until you get home before posting the pictures.

If you want somebody to see what you are doing in real time, send them a private email.

3. Browser Security

Changing your passwords and social media settings is only half the battle. It’s no good if your browser is insecure and people can see you changing them, and what you have changed them to.

A browser extension known as HTTPS Everywhere highlights secure sites and makes sure you only use the secure version when they are available.

It’s indicated by the little padlock symbol which often appears in the address bar of your browser on many of the banking, shopping and social network sites.

This extension is available for Chrome, Firefox and Opera.

If you use another browser, then either switch or see if a similar program is available for your chosen browser.

Extentions

If you share a computer with other users at home, work or college, ensure you log out of all your accounts, then log off, before leaving the computer.

This is especially important in public areas like libraries or internet cafes, where the next user could be a potential hacker.

By failing to log off, you are basically giving the next person permission to snoop on all your accounts and, at the very least, Frape you.

Be wary of emails that have come from unknown senders. Most email clients now employ strong junk email filters which will move unwanted emails to a junk folder and warn you before you open them.

Phishing scams and malware are nasty things but can be easy to detect if you keep an eye on your browser activity.

Phishers and scammers have now become very sophisticated and are able to copy logos from well-known companies and even use their name in a contact detail.

If you get a FedEx delivery notification or missed Google message in your junk mailbox, click on the contact detail.

This may say “FedEx Delivery depot” or “Google Mail Center” but, more often than not, it will show the actual email address of “[email protected]” or something similar.

Just delete the email without opening it if you’re unsure. If it is important, they’ll get back in touch.

The Federal Trade Commission have published an online guide to identity theft, which can advise you on steps to take to prevent it.

Theft of Internet Intentity

The guide also provides tips on what you can do to recover from identity theft, and resources, in case it happens to you.

Basically, if a site doesn’t use HTTPS, then don’t trust your personal details to it.

4. Stop the Web From Tracking You

It’s no secret that everything you do on the web is tracked. George Orwell’s vision of the future in his novel, 1984, has finally become a reality.

This data is used to send you ads, targeted coupons and so much more.

Adblock Plus, as the name suggests. is an extension that blocks any ads from popping up on your computer.

It’s so much more too, as it prevents sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google from collecting and transmitting data about you.

The amount of data that companies like Google and Facebook have on you is scary.

Google have even been fined a record $5 billion for the way they collect data.

Other extensions that can prevent tracking and the subsequent ads directed to your laptop include Ghostery and Do Not Track Plus.

Websites are now being directed by lawmakers to disclose the cookies they use on their website and how any information they collect is stored and used.

Tracking is now seen as an unacceptable invasion of your internet privacy by the authorities that matter.

AdBlock Plus

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are the way forward if you want anonymous browsing which can’t be tracked. These can be especially useful when using torrent sites that may contain pirated files, or if you simply don’t want to give your location away.

There are many VPNs available, just type “VPN” into Google. A VPN can provide the best way to create a secure connection over the web.

All data that passes through a VPN is encrypted and the location details can be changed.

Many people use VPNs to access services like BBC iPlayer, which may be geographically tracking your location.

5. Network Security Issues

In this article we have mainly looked at the online security which affects your privacy. Network security is a whole other topic, but we will touch on it briefly.

One of the biggest problems many people encounter is with unsecure networks. This could be either at home or using an unsecured public Wi-Fi network.

The home network issues can be pretty straightforward to fix. Ensure your router or network access point is running the latest firmware at all times and regularly change the password and security settings. Always change the default password which allows access to your router as these can be easy for a potential hacker to find online.

A detailed wikiHow can be found which explains how you can secure your home network by clicking here.

Using public Wi-Fi basically exposes anything you do online to every other user of the network.

Many resources on the internet can quite easily tell people how to sniff out other users’ passwords, but we are not going to publicize those links. We’re about internet privacy not how to hack an account.

Simple steps you can use to protect yourself include only using HTTPS websites when checking your emails or any other site which requires a password.

Cyber Security Networks

Turn off sharing on your laptop. This will prevent unauthorised users from gaining access to your files. The final option is to use a VPN on your mobile device or laptop if the network allows for it.

Turning off location services on your mobile devices can prevent many of the targeted ads that companies now use.

Remember, every time you connect to the internet you broadcast your IP address and where you are, unless you take efforts to hide it, like using a VPN.

The best advice is to not connect to a public Wi-Fi spot if you are worried about internet privacy, unless you really have to.

Can You Ever Be Truly Private On The Internet?

Deseat.me Accounts

By its very nature, you will never have full privacy on the internet.

Recent news stories about security leaks and data hacks are bound to make people anxious about keeping their information safe online.

Online security has become an important issue for everyone, from the most tech literate geeks to your everyday mom who uses the computer for online shopping and social networks.

If you’re really worried that you have been hacked then there is one extreme solution from a Swedish website, called Deseat.me.

The online tool provided by deseat.me uses your email address to bring up all associated accounts and delete them.

It will almost entirely remove your presence from the internet, as if you never existed.

Radical, I know, but nobody can steal the private information of somebody who doesn’t exist!

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