how to protect your online privacy

Online Privacy Guide – How To Keep Your Data Safe {2023}

Search Encrypt contributor Christian Stewar talked about how to secure your data on the Internet and recalled the difference between online privacy and security.

Security and privacy: what’s the difference?

Security and privacy are closely related, but still quite different. The service can be very secure, but not confidential.

how to protect your online privacy

What is online privacy?

The essence of confidentiality is that other people do not have access to you or your data. You control access to your information.

What is security?

This is the protection of information from third parties. The essence of confidentiality is to keep certain data from outsiders, security is to keep the information confidential after it has been collected.

Privacy is, in a sense, related to your personal level of comfort – to what extent you are comfortable sharing data. Security is how organizations store and protect your information.

How to maintain your privacy on the Internet?

Use a VPN To Protect Your Online Privacy

Use a VPN

VPNs are very popular tools for bypassing blocking and bans. However, they also offer data protection to their users. These tools move your internet connection to a different location, making it difficult for sites that track you to identify you.

By combining trusted VPNs with other privacy tools, you can better protect your information.

Create and use complex passwords

Your password is the first defense against hackers seeking to gain access to your account. Don’t use passwords that are easy to guess (like password1). Create long passwords made up of letters, numbers, and symbols. Do not include your name and other information about yourself in the password, which can easily be found out by hackers.

Use password managers

When you use unique and complex passwords for all the websites you log on to, it’s very difficult to keep them all in your head. Password managers can help you solve this problem. They can generate long passwords and keep them safe, and you don’t have to remember them all.

Good and trusted password managers include KeePass, LastPass, and Apple’s Keychain.

Turn on two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication means you need one more confirmation besides your password to sign in to your account. This can be a code sent to your phone or email. The second layer of protection will keep your data more secure if third parties gain access to your password.

Encrypt everything

Encryption is very important for the security of data on the Internet. Encrypt everything you send over the network. This way, outsiders who track your online activity will not be able to view the information you enter on the sites you visit.

Use incognito modes for local privacy

Many people believe that your online activity will remain completely confidential if you sit in incognito mode. It’s a delusion. This feature is very useful when you access the Internet from a public computer. So another person who will sit at the same computer after you will not be able to see your activity on the Internet.

Use tracker blockers

Most sites on the internet use something like tracking or analytics platforms. These trackers allow sites to track their marketing performance and get information about how many users visit their site. Unfortunately, these trackers also collect information about you, such as IP address, location, and device type.

Use ad-blockers

Ad blockers are similar to tracker blockers in that they identify and block ads on pages. In addition to protecting your data, they speed up the loading time of the site you visit.

Use messengers with encryption support

There are several companies that offer top-notch products with a strong focus on privacy. ProtonMail and Hushmail offer encrypted webmail services.

Telegram, Signal, or Wickr messengers are also considered safe.

Use HTTPS everywhere

HTTPS encryption protects the data you enter on websites from being transmitted over the network in readable text. Check the URLs of the sites you visit and make sure it is HTTPS before sharing information that others should not be able to access.

  • HTTPS – the site is safe
  • HTTP – the site is not secure

Clean cookies regularly

Cookies are small text files that are stored on your computer. They contain small bits of information related to your network activity and device. Websites use cookies so you don’t have to re-enter your username and password every time. They contribute to greater convenience and at the same time open up the possibility of unwanted tracking of information.

Read carefully what the application is requesting access to

When you download an app to your phone and open it, it asks you to grant certain permissions. Please pay attention to these conditions, as the application may request access to your camera or microphone.

Use social media to a minimum

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social networks seem like a convenient way to connect with friends, but they collect a huge amount of data.

Facebook operates one of the largest ad networks in the world and uses all the data you share for targeted ads. Provide only the necessary information on the site.

Go to the Internet through TOR

TOR is an acronym for The Onion Router. The onion network was named because it employs multiple layers of encryption to protect users’ online privacy. In fact, TOR offers more security than a VPN because it prevents any of the nodes through which the signal passes from seeing your IP address.

TOR is also available as a browser that already applies all the technology and you don’t need to install any software.

Update apps, operating systems, and devices frequently

Updates often include bug fixes and security improvements, so you should download them as often as possible. As software and devices age, security errors begin to occur more often. By constantly updating your device and software, you will better protect your privacy.

Use Google alternatives

Google offers a wide variety of web services but collects information about you and your use of their products. Here you can read what you can use instead of Google.

Use private search engines

In general, sensitive search engines do not collect information about you or your search history. The most popular ones are:

  • DuckDuckGo
  • Search Encrypt
  • StartPage

Use browsers to surf anonymously

Chrome is a great option if you need security, but it shares your internet activity with Google. Thus, Chrome is a safe, but not a confidential browser. The best browsers for privacy are Tor, Mozilla Firefox, and Brave.

Use the web version of Facebook instead of the mobile app

If you install Facebook on your phone, you provide the social network with more tracking options. If you need access to Facebook from a mobile device, it is best to log into your account through a browser. This will prevent the app from tracking your location and other data.

Be careful with IoT devices

IoT devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod are great and new technology. People buy them like crazy. What they don’t realize, however, is how much of their data they transfer to tech companies when they bring those devices home.

Use virtual machines

Using virtual machines is almost the same as using a separate computer, only they are already contained on your computer. They are isolated from the rest of the system, which means that the software inside them cannot affect or control the system of the computer itself.

Avoid public Wi-Fi whenever possible

Public Wi-Fi is very convenient, but it can also hurt your privacy.

  • Middleman Attack – When someone can access the connection between your computer and a website. This allows an outsider to view your activity when you are not aware of it.
  • Unencrypted networks – These networks send your information in plain text, not encrypted. This means that anyone with access to the network will be able to see what is being transferred between the computer and the network.
  • Spreading Malware   – Since everyone can access these networks, hackers can use public Wi-Fi to install malware on your computer without you even realizing it.
  • Sniffing – Uses devices and software that will allow someone to intercept Wi-Fi signals. This allows hackers to gain access to your passwords and other information that you enter on the page.

Don’t forget about privacy on mobile devices

Some people think that privacy threats only exist on computers. This is wrong. Due to the complexities and capabilities of smartphones, there are many, if not more, privacy threats on your phone. One of them is location tracking. Since we always carry our phones with us, companies can collect significantly more information about us.

Download files from trusted sources

Everyone knows about this, but I will repeat it again. Do not download files or programs from unfamiliar sources. They may contain malware or viruses and collect data about you without your knowledge.

Online Privacy Guide

What information are you protecting?

  • Metadata: In the context of digital communications, metadata is information about the messages you receive and send. These include email subject lines, message lengths, and location in the conversation. Often, metadata is understood as all transmitted information with the exception of the content of the information exchange itself. While they do not disclose the content of the message, they may reveal other information about you, such as device type and location.
  • Passwords: If an attacker gains access to your passwords, they can log into your accounts – including bank accounts and social media accounts.
  • Financial Information: If you store your payment information in an insecure way, someone might be able to access it. This can ultimately lead to financial losses.
  • Medical records: Your medical records may contain personal information that must be kept confidential in your best interest. If, for example, in the future, your insurance company gains access to your medical records, it may charge you more money for insurance if they contain conditions that you did not disclose.
  • Communication: This includes messages from social networks and messengers and emails. Your correspondence probably contains personal information that should not fall into the hands of unauthorized persons.

Who are you protecting from?

Hackers

Hackers are people trying to gain access to information for personal or political purposes. These cybercriminals use a variety of methods, however, they often want to get your financial information and passwords. They then use this information to steal identity or gain access to your bank accounts.

Advertisers

Much of the internet is built around advertising. To make it more effective, or to know how you interact with websites, companies and businesses use a lot of the data they collect.

Google operates one of the largest ad networks in the world. Google knows a lot about you through analytics software and ads. If you are confused by the idea that one company knows what you do on the Internet, you are not alone.

Internet service providers

ISPs also track what people do online. They can access a lot of information about you because they see all of your Internet activity.

Is online privacy possible?

Online privacy and security are constantly evolving. What keeps your data safe today may change completely tomorrow. Since the Internet is an open platform, new threats are emerging all the time. Technology is constantly changing. It is important to hear several opinions about the product you are using and the safeguards.