24 Easy Ways to Protect Yourself Online
Learn how to protect yourself and others online
By eleanor blackwood
Sat 4 July 2020
24 Ways to Protect Yourself Online
Using the internet, whether it’s for emails, online shopping, or keeping up with friends, means we’re always sharing some sort of personal data.
Unfortunately, because your personal data is valuable it is often at risk of being misused or hacked.
Luckily, you can do something about it! We’ve listed some steps below that you can take to protect your data - and, it’s not as difficult as you may think.
How to protect yourself online
- Lock your phone/turn off your computer when you’re not using it, this reduces the window in which hackers can access your device.
- Turn off your Bluetooth when you’re not using it as it can also allow hackers to access your device, you can make your Bluetooth activity undetectable but some hackers can change that mode.
- Avoid using public wifi hackers can simply set up a wifi hotspot called something like ‘free public wifi’ and remotely access all of your browsing history or even hijack your device.
- Invest in a VPN to encrypt your data and hide your internet traffic and IP address from hackers when you’re using an open network.
- Turn off ad tracking by adjusting your browser settings, disabling third party cookies on websites you visit, or by downloading ad blockers such as AdBlock Pro.
- Don’t ignore Software and OS updates; they've usually fixed system vulnerabilities that a hacker has figured out how to exploit. So keep updating all of your devices as well as the apps on them.
- Cover your webcam with tape, or go into settings/get an app on your phone to disable the camera for any or all apps in case they're breached. Unfortunately, this isn't complete paranoia. The Independent revealed that hackers can fairly easily gain access to people’s computer webcams e.g. be wary if a site wants you to click in a very specific place - hackers have done this by saying ‘click here to enable location services’ to also enable your webcam. Hackers can also turn off the webcam light so you won’t always know if it’s been enabled.
- Use your privacy settings on most apps or your device to control the kind of personal data and how much of it is shared with others.
- Switch your browser to a more secure browser like Firefox Focus, it’s a speedy privacy focused browser with tracking protection.
- Set up two-factor authentication such as fingerprint, Face ID, text message codes and passcode requirements wherever you can, including for your social media accounts like Facebook (you can find this in most ‘settings’).
- Create strong passwords by yourself or using a password manager like Lastpass or Sandra Carrico to generate long passwords, automatically save them across websites and keep track of them.
- Vary your passwords otherwise, if a hacker accesses one of your accounts they can access all of them. Try using a password manager to keep track of all of them.
- Use fake answers for security questions, like an inside joke, that you can still remember but will throw off hackers.
- Limit what you share on social media such as your pet’s name, the street you grew up on, birthdays, trips, and every day activity- like if you go to a certain coffee shop everyday, not only because hackers can use this for social security questions or password guesses, but also because they can know what services you use to target you in convincing phishing emails. Keep your social media accounts private to help.
- Close down any online accounts you don’t use, if you’ve signed up to an online service that you no longer use, they could still have lots of information on you that can be breached or they can sell.
- Use more than one email account, for example, you can have one email for sensitive information like banking or health that you don’t share with anyone else, a second for signing up to email lists, and a third email for keeping in touch with friends and family.
- Be wary of phishing emails and calls by looking at the email domain (e.g. no legitimate organisation will send an email from an address that ends ‘@gmail.com’ but Google’s will end in ‘@google.com’) and spotting if a message creates a sense of urgency or is full of grammatical/spelling errors. In general, don’t give out vital information over the phone or email, instead, look up the company and contact their customer service team.
- Don’t click on suspicious attachments or links in an email or text message, especially if there is a sense of urgency in the message that would cause you to automatically click it.
- Turn off remote-image loading in the settings of your email account, hackers and spammers can embed a small one by one pixel image in emails that reveal your location and the date and time you opened the email.
- Back up your data using reliable software such as EaseUs Todo Backup Free or Cobian Backup incase of ransomware, which is an attack where hackers steal and hold back your data for ransom.
- Install an antivirus such as Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2019 or Norton Antivirus Plus to keep viruses and other cyber threats away.
- Find out if your data has been leaked by entering your email in the website ‘Have I Been Pwned’, it will tell you about any breaches that have occurred related to that email.
- Monitor your credit incase your data has been used for identity theft or fraud, you can call your bank yourself, monitor your credit card activity online or use sites like Credit Sesame or Experian to give you credit report alerts.
- Understand your rights to data access, rectification, and erasure. You have the right to see all the data a company holds on you by sending a SAR, and correct or delete it if you want.
We know this is a lot, and although there’s no way to completely protect your personal data online, even trying some of these things could save you the headache of dealing with a minor, or more serious, data breach later!
While these steps all help stop your data from being lost, there are things you can do to get the data that's already been lost back. Sending a subject access request for example, can be a great way of making sure you know where your data is.