How safe is your personal data? Do you encrypt your personal data before uploading it to the cloud, or to your external storage? Learn how to protect your data online with security software, random passwords, and more. Discover how to make your web browser secure, encrypt files, and protect mobile devices with simple methods!
Encrypt your emails and personal files
When it comes to the data protection principles, encryption is of utmost importance there. The encryption encodes selected information so that only certain people can read it. Both Windows and Mac OS come with a default program to encrypt files on the hard drive. Windows users have BitLocker, and Mac users have FileVault. There are also other tools, like GPG for Mail, that can encrypt your emails.
Encrypt any data you store on cloud services
How safe are cloud storage services? According to Edward Snowden, not that much. Whether you believe it or not, encrypting your data before uploading it to the cloud doesn’t hurt. Evernote, Dropbox, and iCloud are all examples of cloud services. If you are backing up personal, sensitive information, it never hurts to be safe.
Backup encrypted files on personal storage
You should still encrypt personal files if you store them on an external device. If you lose your device, someone else can plug it in and go through your information. There are also products like Pogoplug that let users run their own cloud service. Pogoplug runs off of applications for the computer, smartphones, and tablets. This company, in particular, offers unlimited storage space on your own personal cloud!
Use secure web browsing services and settings
Browsers like Tor Browser and Comodo Chromium Secure offer a more secure internet experience. Unlike other browsers, Comodo prevents tracking, stops cookies, and has other privacy features. But the Tor Browser is even more secure. It prevents websites from learning your location and prevents others from learning your history. Since it doesn’t need any installation, the Tor Browser can run off of a USB drive.
If you prefer to stick with Firefox and Chrome, there are still steps you can take to increase privacy. Try browsing in Private or Incognito mode so you browsing history is not saved. Turn off cookies in your browser’s settings, and use search engines that don’t track you (like DuckDuckGo). Install an ad-blocker like uBlock Origin to block ads and popups. Extensions like HTTPS Everywhere force a secure HTTPS connection on certain websites.
Use secure email and webmail services
If you don’t feel secure using free email services (like Gmail), there are alternatives. Fastmail is a paid webmail service that boasts of its security features. Fastmail encrypts all sent and received connections to its servers. They only allow necessary connections, and even their physical office is well guarded. They protect your data in every sense of the word!
Be creative and random with your passwords
Your password should be more than a simple word followed by a couple of numbers. Strong passwords contain upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. The longer and more random your password, the stronger it is. Sites like Lastpass and PasswordDog help you generate passwords based on data you input. You can also turn a random sentence into a password by using certain letters and punctuation.
Don’t post personal data on social networks
Social networks are fun, but they aren’t private. Assume that anything you post online is out there for the world to see. Try to make your social presence more secure by exploring privacy settings. On Facebook, check who can view your posts and what your profile says about you. Don’t post your full birthday or other personal information. And don’t upload your photos if you don’t want others to be able to see and download them.
Turn off location services on your devices
Mobile devices use location services for features like GPS, maps, and weather. But you don’t always need your location services on and tracking you for better data protection. And turning off location services will even save your battery life! Avoid social networks and apps that ask for your location information, like Foursquare. These services post your location data online for other users to see, after all.
Don’t use open WiFi networks on your devices
Public WiFi hotspots are not password protected and are accessible by anyone in range. They are convenient, but insecure networks and thus you need to be careful to protect data on public Wifi. Try to at least use “HTTPS” as opposed to un-encrypted “HTTP” connections. An extension called Firesheep allows users to steal cookies from other users. From there, they have your accessed accounts (like Facebook) and your identity. And turn off your Bluetooth while you aren’t using it, to prevent further snooping.
Use all-inclusive security software on your PC
Use secure, anti-virus software that covers all threats to your personal data and privacy. Kaspersky has a “Total Security” edition that contains all available features. It protects you while accessing the internet, protects your finances, your identity, and more. You want software that does more than protecting you from the viruses. And while you are accessing the internet, use a secured and protected computer.
Always have your Firewall enabled when browsing
The firewall protects your computer by monitoring the incoming and outgoing network traffic. They prevent remote logins, viruses, spam, and protect your identity. Check your computer settings to make sure your firewall is running, and never disable it.
Don’t forget to protect your mobile devices
Smartphones need as much protection as computers and laptops – maybe more. We take our mobile devices with us wherever we go, connect to unsecured WiFi hotspots and log into our accounts. Always password protect your devices, and encrypt your data if you can. Install a reliable anti-virus app, and only download apps from the official app store.
Beware of scam emails and websites
The internet is full of malware and scam websites. Be careful what programs you download – malware can be masquerading as free software. Try to download files from their official websites, to avoid clicking a spam link. If you get chain mail, delete it – don’t even open it. Spam email sometimes contains malware files or asks you to input personal information. Your email provider’s spam filter may not always catch malicious emails, so be careful.
Remember to check on your credit report
Check up on your credit history on a regular basis to make sure it looks okay. Credit reports show you everything about your finances – loans, credit cards, and more. Your credit history can show you if someone has used your identity to open a new account. Credit Karma is a website that provides free credit monitoring and recommendations. They even send reminder emails when you haven’t checked on your credit in a while!
With so many of us connected to the internet on a daily basis, protecting your data online is a necessity. You don’t have to be an expert to improve your online security, either. Even if you can’t follow all these tips, doing some will give you better data security and increase your overall online protection.
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