Follow these Internet privacy tips to start being safer online.
Beginners should read these Internet privacy tips carefully. More experienced users can skim through them as a reminder and then move on to our more advanced tips & materials.
Once you’ve got these essentials covered you can start being confident online and enjoy what the Internet has to offer.
The Basics (Achieving Security)
1. Strong Passwords, Stronger Passwords, Strongest Passwords
Duh, everyone is already well aware about what constitutes a good password and how to compose them. Right? Well, statistics and daily news headlines consistently tell a different story.
People may have heard this tip thousands of times, but the fact remains that too many people (maybe even you) continue to use crumby passwords. This is the surest way to get hacked.
Although adversaries may have lots of sophisticated hi-tech ways to hack into your accounts and devices, the biggest security and privacy risk you face is still one you control: passwords.
- Construct strong passphrases. To keep track of all your passwords and to automatically generate good passphrases use a trusted password management app such as free LastPass (see review) or Dashlane (see review) which lets you change all your passwords in one easy click.
- Enable double-authentication features offered for your accounts such as Google https://www.google.com/landing/2step/ and Facebook (from the menus select Settings > Security > Login Approvals or use this shortcut https://www.cogipas.com/eb8c).
- for more information see our Passwords and Passphrases materials
2. Keep your Operating System and Critical Apps Up-to-date
Keep your operating system up-to-date (whether automatically or manually) and use anti-malware apps, including many excellent free ones, to prevent viruses, worms, Trojans, rootkits, spyware, adware, email/web bugs and other malware.
3. Don’t Carelessly Open Links or Attachments
Pause and reflect before opening links or attachments even when received from trusted sources. This is true whether the links and attachment are received via email, social media, chatting, torrent file-sharing or Usenet newsgroups.
4. Don’t Be Naked Using Wi-Fi Hotspots
Don’t conduct any activities over public Wi-Fi hotspots unless you take steps to protect your connection. If you don’t, hackers could intercept and monitor your activities, which is potentially disastrous if you are accessing any password protected accounts or conducting sensitive web browsing.
- Use tools to protect your connection when using public Wi-Fi hot spots such as an inexpensive, but full-fledged VPN service such as NordVPN
- Conduct a speed test both before and after connecting to your VPN
- for more information see our Wi-Fi Security and VPN (virtual private network) materials
Intermediate (Enhancing Internet Privacy)
5. Don’t Over-Share or Over-Friend on Social Media
Be careful what information you share on social media and keep your circles of friends tight.
Be stingy providing your personal information to anyone, but especially to strangers or unknown websites, and provide only the bare minimum or even fake details (known as disinformation).
Also avoid using social logins (SSO); for example, when you are prompted to use your Facebook credentials to login to other accounts.
- Check your Facebook privacy settings right now. You can access your Facebook privacy settings and tools directly at https://www.facebook.com/settings/?tab=privacy. Get into the habit of checking them regularly.
6. Use Private (Incognito) Web Browsing for Basic Anti-Tracking Protection
Use your web browser’s private mode especially for any potentially sensitive browsing (using Chrome’s Incognito, Firefox’s Private Browsing, Internet Explorer’s InPrivate or Safari’s Private Browsing).
Browsing in private mode disables tracking cookies and also prevents plenty of trace information such as your browsing and search histories from being discovered and potentially being used against you.
However, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Incognito web browsing offers only bare bones protection and will not make you immune from online tracking and profiling. For that, you’ll need to use more advanced methods – seed the next 2 steps below.
- for more information see our Online Tracking and Profiling materials
7. Use Anti-Tracking Plugins when Web Browsing
For even more anti-tracking protection, use proven (and free) web browser plugins to block tracking cookies and prevent third party tracking elements from monitoring your online activities. This helps guard against them building invasive profiles about you.
- Use anti-tracking browser extensions (all free) such as HTTPS Everywhere, Ghostery and AdBlockPlus – see the complete list in our Massive List of Privacy Resources
8. Use Tor (The Onion Router) for Anonymous Web Browsing
Tor Browser is a free and open source, and among the most effective ways to browse web sites anonymously and prevent your activities from being tracked and profiled.
9. Keep your Personal Email Address Private
Don’t share your personal email address for sign-ups and subscriptions especially for unknown or obscure sites or services. Instead, use temporary email (aka disposable email or “fake email”). This helps keep your personal email address private and out of the hands of spammers, hackers and adversaries.
- for more information see our Use Temporary Email Instead of Giving Out your True Email Address materials
10. Don’t Forget to Have Fun
It’s easy to focus only on the risks and problems associated with Internet privacy and online security. There are certainly plenty of scary headlines which might make you feel like staying offline forever. But there’s no need for that. As you’ve seen above the risks can be countered, usually without much difficulty and often at no cost.
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