The world is more wired than ever, with more and more Internet users on the horizon – based on statistics, there are about 5 billion Internet users worldwide and 4.65 active social media users. With such numbers, it becomes clearer and clearer that digitalisation is real and evolves quickly.
Everything from social activity, play, and work has started to be done in the online environment, and this comfort can only be appreciated. But like anything else, digitalisation comes at a price: browsing the web is not only about fun and games but also about data breaches, identity theft, and spyware. Even if you refuse to think that you’ll never be a victim of cyber-attacks, learn that they are pretty common nowadays and can happen to anyone, anytime.
Your online payments and social media posts expose valuable information that you don’t even pay attention to. But you’re not the only one in this situation: thousands of individuals take online privacy for granted, and most are unaware of how much information they’re involuntarily giving away.
Cyberthreats have become so widespread that special technology has been developed to help in this regard. Although you can’t have access to this technology, you can still protect your online privacy by following some simple rules. Keep reading to find out how you can improve your data management so that you can have a safer online experience:
Set up a virtual private network (VPN)
A virtual private network is one of the most effective (and simplest) ways to protect your web privacy. It’s helpful to know that anytime you’re surfing the web, especially in a public place, your browsing history and important information like personal and financial details are exposed. That means anyone wanting to steal certain data or files from your laptop or mobile device can access them if your network is not secured. Are you wondering how it works? Well, a virtual private network encrypts your Internet traffic, making it invisible even to your internet service provider. With this option, you have the certainty that no one will be able to scroll through your browsing (that would be so weird). Some VPN popular choices among users include Private Connect, ExpressVPN, and Private Internet Access. There are great options for Mac owners, too, so you have plenty of choices if you decide on going the VPN route.
Build strong passwords
Forget about passwords like “name1234” because these are the easiest to decode or crack. You should avoid creating passwords that contain words or numbers that can be associated with you. We know that you want to create a password that can be easily memorised, but this will only help hackers access your accounts. Think instead about using combinations of random numbers and words and even phrases, upper and lowercase letters, if possible, to prevent data thieves from stealing your personal or financial information. It’s also highly recommended to use different passwords for different websites or accounts – cybercriminals will try all kinds of password-checking techniques, and if it ever happens to crack the password of one of your accounts, they will definitely try their luck with it elsewhere. Be one step ahead and create a password for each of your accounts, and if you find it difficult to memorise all these passwords, consider using a password manager, such as LastPass or Dashlane.
However, if it happens to be the victim of a data breach, it’s helpful to know what is to be done. Depending on the type of information that has been stolen from you or the circumstances in which it was stolen, you can make a claim for a data breach and get compensation for your losses. The damage can be both material (hackers accessing your financial account can and most probably will steal money from you) and psychological (this can emotionally affect you, make you fearful about surfing the web, give you anxious thoughts, etc.).
Beware of phishing emails
Phishing is one of the most annoying types of cyber-attacks – you’re basically directed to some untrusted links that will infect your device once accessed. Emails are the most used method when it comes to phishing and come usually in the form of a financial institution request to complete details about your bank account. These emails are designated to look like they come from a trusted, genuine source, but you know what? There will, more often than not, be accompanied by typos that don’t look right, so they should be easily recognisable. Anyway, proper education on the risks of phishing is required, particularly if you work in an organisation where the exchange of information is a common habit. To avoid being the victim of a phishing scam, think twice before clicking a suspicious link. If you receive an email from your bank, for example, consider typing the address of the respective financial institution on the search engine before opening the untrusted source. This way, you see if there are any discrepancies between the link in your email box and the authentic one.
Install antivirus software
More often than not, cybercriminals will resort to malware software to steal your personal data. Even if it seems the most basic method to protect digital data, it’s one of the most efficient. Antivirus software offers real-time protection, preventing malware of any kind from infecting your system. Not only do antivirus programs prevent viruses from entering your system, but they also get you rid of the existing ones.
Other significant methods to reduce the risk of a data breach include:
– private browsing that you may know the as incognito mode
– more attention to what you post on social media
– using an encrypted app for messaging (WhatsApp is an excellent option)
– using two-factor authentication
– making online purchases from secure websites
Believe it or not, the Internet is full of dangers, cybercriminals lurking in the shadows. But there are ways to keep you safe in the online environment, and we hope you find the above-mentioned ones helpful.