In the wake of the recent Facebook security breach affecting millions of the platform’s users, keeping your personal data protected online has never become more crucial. It’s a growing concern worldwide that has prompted governments to intervene to ensure that tech companies are doing what they can to protect the information of their users.
However, hackers and other entities that have a vested interest in accessing our data for whatever gain they see fit can themselves still be too good for whatever safeguards these companies put in place. There are many other methods you as an individual user can employ to ensure you’re protected as much as possible. While nothing is ever full-proof on the internet, the following tips will definitely put you ahead of everybody else in online data protection. When it comes to internet privacy, the more you guard it, the better. You’ll become one of the most difficult people to hack, short of those folks who have massive Dexter’s Lab-esque underground computing facilities that are meant to falsely place their signal on one of Jupiter’s moons, of course.
A very suitable alternative to Google, DuckDuckGo does more than just get you the most relevant search results. It blocks trackers, filters ads, and doesn’t save your search or browsing history. It also provides you with a security certificate for every website you visit, detailing the number of trackers it has and its privacy practices. It will also work to upgrade a website’s privacy certificate as much as it can. Unlike Google, DuckDuckGo doesn’t collect data on its users.
Do you know the difference between HTTP and HTTPS? If you don’t, you probably should. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. When you access a website, you’re basically making a connection between your computer and another computer where that website is “physically” located for lack of a better term. HTTP is simply what makes this connection happen. HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, which does the same thing but encrypts the connection and data transfer.
If https:// precedes the website you’re visiting, the protocol creates a code to scramble your connection so that only your computer and the network you’re connected to can see the information within it. Http:// however, doesn’t. No other parties can access this connection to see what you’re doing or steal your information. This protects you from hackers and companies interested in your personal data and browsing habits. The HTTPS Everywhere add-on forces your browser to always make an HTTPS connection. While many websites now use HTTPS connections by default, the majority still automatically connect through HTTP. This add-on will ensure that your browser by default makes an encrypted connection to all websites you visit.
Tape over your camera and microphone
While connected to the internet, pretty much anyone, both individuals and companies can freely access your camera and microphone without your knowledge or consent. When it comes to big tech companies such as Google and Facebook, you unknowingly consent to this level of invasion by clicking on “Agree” to their terms and conditions. Deep within that dense text that no casual consumer will read, drowning in convoluted legal jargon is a condition which gives these companies the right to gather data on you. This grants them the legal right to access your camera and microphone. Why do they do this? To build a database from which they can more accurately engineer targeted advertising. If they catch you putting on Cottonil boxers, they now know to target you with Cottonil ads on your Facebook newsfeed. It’ a little creepy isn’t it?
This might not bother some people. “So what?” being their usual response to the prospect of total strangers watching and hearing them without their knowledge. However, if hackers decide to snoop on you, the consequences are far more sinister. They can use whatever details they can extract from watching and listening in on you to gain access to your bank accounts, credit card details, subscriptions, memberships, and all other everyday life aspects you rely on the internet for.
Use private browsing
Using the private version of your browser, which both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome have, adds another layer of protection online. They don’t save your search history or your browsing history. Cookies and temporary files are also not saved. It also provides tracking protection, however its robustness doesn’t measure up to the level that is provided by the aforementioned add-ons and other browsers such as Tor. Remember that Firefox and Chrome are both owned by Google, a company whose business model depends on collecting as much data as possible from its users. So it would be safe to assume that whatever privacy settings and security protections they provide are flimsy at best, and a façade at worst. Don’t rely on their private browsers alone. Supplement it with the previously mentioned measures.
Do not save your login details
For those of you who don’t switch off your history settings, you probably have your login details saved in your browser for all the activities you use the internet for such as email, Facebook, Twitter, and other websites important to you. While it may be convenient not having to type or even remember your username and password details, this leaves highly susceptible to hacking. Because those details are already saved and don’t need you to input them to access your various accounts, a hacker who infiltrates your connection and your computer can access them as easily as you can. It might take a little extra mental effort to remember your details and type them in every time, but the added layer of security it provides in reducing the likelihood of your online accounts being compromised is most definitely worth it.
It’s important to note that none of these measures alone is sufficient to protect yourself on the internet to a satisfactory level. Even employing all of them won’t make you completely 100% immune to online surveillance and hacking, but it is always better to keep working on your online security. It will significantly help in guarding you against serious data breaches and cyberattacks, and also make it more difficult for tech companies to pursue dubious, unethical business practices.