9 Steps to Improving Your Personal Online Safety

by Jones David

Online privacy is becoming more important than ever before, and it’s not just an issue for big companies. In fact, you should be aware of your privacy, even if you are using the internet for personal use. Failing to set strong passwords, for example, for services like online banking and other online accounts, could see you have your information stolen and hackers get up to no good with your data. Thankfully, there are several things that you can do to protect yourself from online threats and ensure that your online privacy is as strong as possible, regardless of what you are doing online. 

Ensure You Use Strong Passwords

One of the simplest and easiest ways to protect your online data is to use strong passwords that are difficult to guess whenever you sign up for any kind of online account. Most people don’t realize just how much data is shared about them online; even if you’re signing up to a simple online shopping account, there’s going to be information about you like your address, telephone number, and even your financial information that could easily be used by hackers to steal your identity or your cash. 

A strong password should be at least eight characters long and have a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. You should avoid using any words that are easy to guess like your child’s name or your pet’s name, as these are all too common passwords and it might only take a quick visit to your social media for a hacker to figure out what your passwords are. Finally, you should never use the same password twice. If you’re wondering how you’re ever going to manage to remember all these strong passwords, a secure password manager tool can help. 

Protect Your Devices

Hacking and identity theft online isn’t just carried out by hacking into online accounts and getting your information online while you have no idea. In fact, there’s a whole lot of risk that your information could be stolen if your devices are left unprotected. All it takes is for somebody up to no good to be able to access your device, whether it’s stolen or simply left unattended, and all your data could easily be copied across. So, make sure that all your devices are protected with passwords, too. You should set as strong protection as possible on devices like your smartphone; use Touch or Face ID if available for that extra level of security. 

Use a VPN

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of using a virtual private network (VPN) every time you access the internet, but it’s especially important to do this if you are going online through a publicly available Wi-Fi network. Public Wi-Fi is handy and available in towns, restaurants, and shops, but it is also notoriously unsecured and easy for hackers to get into and access the devices that are connected to the network. Visit anonymania.com to learn more about VPN security and why it’s so important to use VPN protection whenever you go online using a public Wi-Fi network. They have a wide range of resources that you can put to use when choosing a VPN to use and staying safer online. 

Be Alert for Phishing

Phishing emails can fool the best of us – sometimes they might be obvious, but on other occasions, an email that’s designed to get sensitive information out of you might be more subtle. If you receive any emails that are requesting you sign in to an account via the email or reply with sensitive information, it’s always worth getting in touch with the company that the email appears to be sent from in order to double-check that it did indeed come from them. Hackers will design phishing emails in such a way that they appear to be from a trusted source, conning you into handing over information as you think that you are giving it to a person or company that you trust. But in reality, you’re giving information to a hacker who can then use it to commit a crime. So, when it comes to checking your emails, be as vigilant as possible. 

Check for Site Security

Most people don’t know what we did before online shopping was available, and being able to get anything you need from the comfort of your own home is certainly a big convenience. However, when it comes to online shopping, there are also some risks to be aware of. An unsecured site could be a gateway to hackers who are collecting payment information that they will then use to steal your money or make purchases using your credit or debit card, so always be wary of any eCommerce sites that do not have SSL encryption, particularly at the checkout stage. You can easily check site security by looking for the padlock symbol in the browser bar. If in doubt, stick with well-known and trusted sites like Amazon.

Change Your Passwords

As if creating strong passwords wasn’t enough, it’s also important to make sure that your passwords don’t stay the same for too long. The longer your password is the same thing, the weaker it will become. That’s why it’s a good idea to change your passwords around every 90 days to help minimize the risk of them being guessed and having your accounts hacked into. 

Use Two-Step Verification

Two-step verification adds an extra layer of security to your online activities and should always be chosen whenever there is an option for it. Using two-step verification, you will have an additional step to verify your identity whenever you sign in to an online account, which can prevent cybercriminals from accessing your data if they manage to figure out your password. When you – or somebody else – attempts to sign in to the account, you will receive a text message or email asking you to confirm that it was indeed you, and steps to take if you believe that somebody else is trying to log in. 

Share Information Selectively

These days, we share more information about ourselves online than we realize, and social media tends to be a huge culprit. If you are an avid social media user, it’s important to be careful about what you share in order to avoid inadvertently giving your information out to the wrong people. It’s a wise idea to make sure that all your profiles are private and locked down so that you have to manually approve anybody who wants to follow you and can deny anybody that you don’t know or trust. And, be careful of the personal information that you share online. 

Keep Up to Date

Last but not least, while software updates might be inconvenient when you’re in the middle of something, they are absolutely necessary to keep yourself safe online. As hackers come up with new and more sophisticated ways to steal information and commit cybercrime, software needs to keep up with new security updates and fixes to ensure that your information is well-protected. Whenever a software update is available for any of your devices, you should do it as soon as possible. 

Staying safe online is just as much of a concern for individuals as it is for businesses. With these simple steps, you can ensure that your data is well-protected and secure. 

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