8 Ways To Up Your Online Privacy

We’re surrounded by computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, smart watches and other devices that connect to the internet. While they make our lives so much simpler, and help us connect more than ever before, they also make a lot of our information more freely available, or accessible to those with the right know-how. Here are a few simple steps to up your online privacy where it matters most.
Privacy

1. Encryption is Key

While there are those working hard to overcome the encryption barrier, experts say there’s still value to encrypting sensitive information whenever possible. So what is encryption? In simple terms, it takes text and scrambles that text into unreadable code that can’t be read by anyone else without a password or key. Below is an example of an encrypted sentence:

ORIGINAL TEXT
Keep things private through encryption.

ENCRYPTED TEXT
EnCt245a360779f2b48d72f6d5243ec78e01601770f2e45a3607-79f2b48d72f6d5243pEG3GUmdMwBIR7yvDlrCIEf1pJLy4tpzA-sFyUVi25FSmp53/Sv9Iu9gjWAzy+LgepJFpJHYgIwEmS

 

Some chat services, including WhatsApp, already have built-in encryption, ensuring only the people you send messages to will see them. Online shopping sites also encrypt your payment information to keep your personal details private.

 

Encryption isn’t just limited to what you do online. You can also protect files and folders on your computer by encrypting select parts of the computer or the entire computer system. Both Windows and Mac computer systems come with a built-in encryption tool. We suggest you ask an expert to assist in setting this up if you’re not sure how to go about it.

 

For the more tech savvy individuals, end-to-end encryption is the way to go. By installing off-the-record (OTR) messaging software, you ensure your online conversations are hidden. Keep in mind that you as well as the person you are chatting to need to have OTR software installed in order to fully encrypt conversations.

 

2. Password Protection

While surveillance groups will most likely not rely on your passwords to gain access to sensitive information, it’s still good practice to keep your accounts well protected with strong passwords. Make use of a password manager to not only store your passwords, but help generate random passwords for your accounts.

 

3. Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is also a must when it comes to keeping things secure. This means that, whenever you sign into an account, a separate code is sent to your mobile phone which you have to enter before gaining access to the account. Sites including Gmail (and other Google sites), Apple, Facebook and Twitter all offer two-factor authentication and it’s easy to set up.

 

4. Keep Things Updated

In most unwanted surveillance cases, a known security flaw within a certain program or service is used. Therefore, it’s crucial to always update all software whenever a new software update is available.

 

5. Anti-Virus is Your Friend

It’s one of the most basic methods to keep your system safe, but so many people still don’t have anti-virus on their computers and smart devices. A reliable (and updated) anti-virus program can serve as a first line of defence. Most good anti-virus programs are free to download, so get it installed today.

 

6. Location, Location, Location

You probably have a multitude of apps on your mobile devices. Chances are, they’re tracking you right now. Yes, apps love knowing your exact location and, if you’ve enabled location tracking for that app (willingly or not), it could pose a security risk. Fortunately, addressing this issue is simple. Just go to Settings and disable location services for all apps.

 

 

7. Think Before You Click

The next time you receive an email with an attachment, ask yourself if it can be trusted. The days of simply opening up any attachment are long gone. If you don’t know the sender, avoid opening the attachment. If the attachment comes from someone you know, give them a quick call to verify that they did indeed send you the attachment as email addresses and names can be mimicked.

The same rule applies to websites. Don’t just click on random links and images. In many cases, access to your data can be gained by making use of malicious code hidden within an attachment or link. The moment you click on that link or open that attachment, you essentially open the door for them and invite them in to come and take a peek. When in doubt, throw it out or check it out.

8. Go Offline

For extremely sensitive information, it’s better to keep it offline entirely.  Also never upload any sensitive information to a public hosting service. Rather save everything sensitive on a USB flash drive and encrypt it.

Sources: Electronic Frontier Foundation, Harvard Cybersecurity