14 ways to protect your online privacy (in 2021 and beyond)
Does online privacy concern you alongside the fear of how much of your data is on the world wide web, and susceptible to theft or misuse?
If you are, know you are not alone.
According to a Pew Research Center research, more than 50 percent of US retailers were victims of cybercrime in 2017. The chances are those numbers would have climbed up by now as we are in 2020 already.
Even as we commence a new decade of this millennium, it is evident that your passwords and personal information are not in safe custody.
Today, people regard online privacy with a lot of seriousness (and for some seriously right reasons).
To assist you in navigating these treacherous virtual times, we have compiled a list of 14 easy ways you can use to protect your privacy online in 2020.
1. Use strong passwords and a password manager
It is necessary knowledge that a strong password is your first line of defense in protecting your data online.
A long and complicated password that is a combination of special characters, both lower and upper case, can be the first step towards securing yourself in the online domain.
It is recommended that you may never reuse passwords. However, the question arises, how many people can remember such passwords.
Users should come up with a strong password that is easy for them to remember while using different passwords on different accounts.
Also, you should keep your passwords secret alongside changing them regularly. Another thing you should keep in mind is, avoiding saving passwords on browsers that are public and open to networks you do not control.
You may also consider integrating two-factor authentication into your login processes.
As the name suggests, two-Factor Authentication is a security process that incorporates a second layer of authentication to your account password.
A two-factor authentication mostly includes a PIN, a pattern, fingerprint, mobile phone, or a security token to your login process.
Passwords managers such as PassPack and LastPass (my favorite) can also assist in keeping your passwords strong and secure across all your multiple devices and accounts.
2. Install a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
If you are fond of using public networks and WiFi hotspots, you need to use a virtual private network or VPN to encrypt your personal information from prying eyes.
Setting up a VPN is as simple as installing an extension on your browser or an application on your smartphone.
A VPN safeguards your personal information by encrypting your data, scrambling things like your banking details, and other personal information and ultimately rendering them unreadable.
In case a person manages to hack your device or your connection, they will not be able to steal anything as all your information will be scrambled and unreadable. All thanks to the VPN encryption (given that you were using a VPN while surfing online).
We at PrivacySavvy encourage everyone to use a quality VPN application like ExpressVPN, especially when they are connecting to the internet using a public network or WiFi.
Not just for security on public networks, VPN is a must-have all-around online privacy tool in this digital era.
3. Check your social media privacy settings
It has been found out that companies such as Cambridge Analytica and Amazon are in partnership with social media platforms to exchange revenue with personal information.
For social media users, you need to know that your social media platforms have a lot of personal information about you, which is visible to the public by default.
However, the power to share personal data is in your hands. Configure your privacy settings and decide which information you would like to share with the public versus your friends.
Various social media platforms have different privacy settings for users (look for ‘privacy’ in your social account’s setting tab), allowing them to choose how much they share with their friends and the general public. Share only the least amount of personal information with the general public, always.
4. Install software, and operating system updates when prompted
Whenever your application, system, or operating system prompts you for an update, install them immediately.
These updates often contain significant security upgrades that close holes that might give unauthorized persons access to your information.
Updating your devices is a continuous thing as hackers are endlessly coming up with new ways to compromise your internet privacy, hence the need to keep an eye on the update button.
5. Use HTTPS websites, especially for financial transactions
When browsing the internet, ensure the URL in the address bar of your web browser begins with https, especially if you are about to enter financial information into a website.
When sharing sensitive information or banking details, always ensure you are using a secure site to do so. At present, there are two types of URLs on the internet, HTTP, and https.
HTTPS links indicate the connection between you and the website is weak and open for compromise.
On the other hand, HTTPS websites are secure as they provide additional security for data being transmitted through the internet.
When you connect to the internet using an HTTPS website, the site encrypts your online experience using a digital certificate that protects you from prying eyes.
Most browsers display a padlock icon in front of a URL to show the website is HTTPS and is secure (you could see that ahead of PrivacySavvy’s URL as we are fully protected and value our readers’ security).
6. Avoid clicking on suspicious links and attachments
One common method that cybercriminals use to trick users online is through phishing attempts.
Phishing attacks are hard to notice as they take the form of e-commerce, banks, lottery links, among many other types.
It is essential to be vigilant and alert before clicking any suspicious link by checking the spelling of such links and their email addresses.
It will be better to enter the URL of institutions in question to verify any communication rather than clicking the link. If you find it hard to enter the URL manually, you can always call the institutions to verify if there is any communication between them and your account.
7. Browse privately
During normal browsing, your web browser stores your browsing history — remembering the websites you visited, cookies, files downloaded, and sometimes your location.
Browsing privately using secure web browsers or in incognito mode instructs your browser not to save any of your browsing information, protecting the privacy of your data.
8. Cover your camera
Owners of smartphones, tablets, and PCs that have a webcam or a camera should look into ways to cover them to reduce the risk of being recorded and your privacy being infringed.
There are many seamless and elegant covers users can buy to deter cybercriminals from taking video calls and photos that can be used for blackmail.
If you can’t afford covers, simply paste a color tab (usually tapped on tennis balls for cricket) on your device’s camera.
9. Secure your home and business network
To make sure you never end up compromising your privacy online, you should secure your wireless home or business network with a password to avoid unauthorized persons within juxtaposition to access your wireless network.
Besides, you can look into the option of hiding your wireless network by configuring your router to protect your network name or SSID.
10. Be careful when downloading and installing software
Practice safe downloading by ensuring you have a reliable antivirus that has antispyware capabilities before downloading.
Also, you should thoroughly examine the software’s publisher before downloading and ensure your firewall is running.
11. Make your old hard drives unreadable
As technology continues to advance, we tend to migrate to newer machines — leaving old hard drives with a lot of personal information.
When such a case arises, you better make your old hard drives unreadable or format them after backing up your data and files elsewhere.
12. Switch off your computer properly
Yes, even if there is no active internet on your computer at a time, it is recommended to either power off your machine or put it to sleep when you are not using it to avoid physical hacking.
13. Use antivirus and firewall
Ensure you have a quality antivirus that is capable of scanning and protecting you from malicious programs.
14. Regularly reboot your PC
It is a frequent occurrence that users leave their computers on for days and sometimes weeks.
While a computer might have the capability to stay on even months, it is vital to regularly reboot your machine to flush your RAM, stop memory leaks, speed up the performance, fix bugs, among many other background fixes.
The critical thing to remember is privacy is a human right and not a privilege. Even if governments cannot digest this fact, you, on the other side, have to understand it.
Your online privacy control starts with you; do not wait for anyone to take the necessary steps to safeguard yourself from data breach and cybercrime.
Bonus: Some quick online privacy FAQs:
What is the definition of online privacy?
In simple words, you can call online privacy as the security and privacy level of the personal data that gets published on the world wide web. It is a term that boasts a variety of techniques, factors, and tools that are used to shield private data, sensitive information, preferences, and communications. Some people also refer to online privacy as internet privacy.
Why is online privacy important?
Taking control of your online privacy is essential because that way, you can protect your privacy and identity from theft (and misuse) online.
Is Internet privacy a human right?
UN Declaration of Human Rights recognizes privacy as a fundamental right for humans. The International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, as well as many other regional and international treaties, consider privacy as a fundamental human right, too.
About the author
Robert is a cybersecurity, privacy, and blockchain pundit with vast experience in diverse editorial positions at major news outlets. Apart from writing, Rob is kool kat, an amateur footballer and a lover of nature.