According to statistics, around 68% of Internet users think that the current laws don’t do enough to protect their privacy.
Considering that governments are dying to log any user data they can, search engines like to get a bit “too friendly” with users, and online freedom of speech is being trampled, that’s hardly surprising.
No need to feel distressed, though – there’s a way to fight back. Here are six things you can do to protect your privacy on the web:
1. Use Powerful Antivirus/Antimalware Software
With new types of malware popping up every 4.2 seconds, you can’t afford to not use antivirus/antimalware programs.
Without them, hackers can easily steal your personal data (credit card info, bank account details, and login credentials) with stuff like ransomware, spyware, worms, rootkits, and Trojans.
So you should secure all your devices with solutions from providers like Malwarebytes and ESET.
And make sure you run regular scans and keep the software up-to-date at all times. If you miss even a single update, you risk making your device vulnerable to a new strain of malware.
2. Make Your Social Media Profiles Private
Social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, but it’s also a surprisingly easy way to leak personal data to the wrong people. Not to mention the platforms themselves are already harvesting tons of your data, and doing who knows what with it.
While you can’t do much to stop social media websites from logging your data, you can prevent strangers from learning personal things about you by setting your profiles to Private. To help you out, here are some useful links:
At the same time, don’t share too much personal information on social media. Nobody needs to know your exact location when you’re not at home. That’s the kind of info burglars use to target victims, after all.
3. Use a VPN Service
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is an online service you can use to hide your IP address and encrypt your Internet traffic, effectively making it unreadable to anyone who tries to monitor it.
VPNs are a must if you want to protect your privacy on the web. Here’s how they help:
- They make sure nobody can see your real IP address, and use it to find out what country you are from, what city you live in, who your ISP provider is, and what your ZIP code is.
- They prevent ISPs and government surveillance agencies from keeping an eye on your online traffic. With a VPN, you’re the only one who knows what you do on the Internet.
- VPNs make sure ISPs can’t violate your privacy by selling your browsing history to third-party advertisers.
- VPNs prevent hackers from stealing sensitive information if you use unencrypted websites and networks.
- VPN services keep advertisers from collecting info about your browsing habits, creating advertising profiles for you, and targeting you with “relevant” ads.
- A VPN ensures other people downloading/uploading the same torrent as you can’t see your real IP address. Also, with a VPN, you don’t need to worry about getting into any legal trouble for downloading torrents.
Just make sure you pick the right service since a secure VPN is essential. Private Internet Access, for example, offers you all the features you need to protect your privacy on the web – a no-log policy, powerful encryption, obfuscation, a Kill Switch, and P2P support.
4. Try to Avoid Public WiFi
Sure, public WiFi is extremely convenient – it’s right there when you need it, after all.
However, it’s very dangerous as well. That’s because many public WiFi networks don’t use encryption, which makes it very easy for cybercriminals to position themselves between your device and the network, effectively intercepting all your data.
Alternatively, hackers can just abuse the lack of encryption to try and eavesdrop on your traffic. If they’re successful, they can see what you type on various websites, or what messages you send to your contacts.
What’s worse, it seems that not even encrypted networks are 100% safe since there is actually a way to break WPA2.
So, it’s better to just use your mobile data instead.
If you’ve got no other choice than to use a public WiFi network, at least make sure you’re using a VPN. That way, even if the network doesn’t encrypt traffic, the VPN will still secure your data.
5. Use Privacy-Oriented Extensions
If you want to protect your online privacy, you need to make sure your browsers are doing their part too.
For starters, you should install either uMatrix or uBlock Origin (or both). They are open-source script blockers, so they prevent scripts from loading on websites without your approval.
Basically, they can prevent annoying ads from popping up. But that’s not all – they also prevent malicious links and scripts from starting up and exposing you to malware and virus infections.
Disconnect is another extension you should consider adding to your browser since it can keep you safe from clickjacking and session hijacking.
Lastly, you should also use Stanford’s anti-phishing extensions. They can help you avoid phishing websites and messages, come up with phishing-resistant passwords, and prevent context-aware phishing attacks from targeting you.
6. Avoid HTTP Websites
If you browse HTTP websites, there’s a good chance a lot of the things you type on them can be intercepted. After all, these websites don’t encrypt your connections, so there’s nothing protecting your traffic and data.
That basically means cybercriminals could steal your login credentials or eavesdrop on your online communications – just like they do on unsecured WiFi.
That’s why you should only access HTTPS websites. It’s easy to tell them apart since their URLs starts with “https” instead of “http.” Also, they have a green padlock icon on the left of the URL address bar.
A good idea is to use the HTTPS Everywhere extension. It forces websites that normally support HTTPS but default to HTTP to accept HTTPS connection requests from you.