There’s really never been a time when we’ve been this connected, thanks to the wonders of the Internet. But it’s not all Zoom parties and engaging content – there’s a darker side to the online world and internet privacy is serious business.
It’s not all doom and gloom though – you do have some control over your data online. So to help you protect yourself and your personal information from hackers and the like, we’ve put together our top 10 online privacy tips. We’ve made these tips simple and actionable so you feel safe to browse, shop and share to your heart’s content online.
But first, what does ‘internet privacy’ mean?
Also known as ‘online privacy’, this phrase refers to the amount (or level) of security and protection you have while you’re online for your communications, preferences and any personal data. Internet privacy has become a contentious topic due to countless cyber attacks and data breaches happening around the world each and every day.
Protecting privacy online involves taking the necessary steps to protect your data and devices from unwanted eyes and intruders. Let’s take a look at 10 things you can do right now to tighten up your security.
Online privacy tips to action right away:
1. Protect your devices with passcodes or passwords
Protecting privacy online often starts with the device you use to connect to the internet. Set up your smartphone, tablet and computer with passcodes and/or passwords to add an extra layer of security. And if your device has a biometric login, consider using that as well.
2. Use unique and secure passwords
You leave your personal data vulnerable if you don’t have strong, unique and secure passwords. If you haven’t done it in a while, check your passwords and make sure they’re:
- not repeated (use different passwords for every login)
- More than 12 characters long, and
- Store them in a secure password manager (never write them down on paper).
3. Turn off notifications for your lock screen
When notifications pop up, anyone can see them. This can display personal information to anyone around, so make sure you hide or disable your notifications from your lock screen. Not only is this good for your personal devices, it’s also recommended for any work phone or computer you use regularly.
4. Install (and use) a VPN
A VPN (virtual private network) allows you to access a public network but remain private, which is essential when you access WiFi in public. Internet privacy in this context will help to keep your passwords, financial data and browsing history safe from prying eyes. You can create your own VPN or sign up to one of many existing providers.
5. Enable two factor authentication
While this may be annoying to you, two factor authentication on your apps and accounts adds an extra layer of security that’s not just a username and password. Some of the services you already use offer two factor authentication – Gmail, Dropbox and Xero, for example – so take advantage of this free protection to keep your sensitive data hidden.
6. Check and review all permissions
When you sign up to a new service or visit a website for the first time, you’ll often be asked for permission to access certain data. It’s important that you review these permissions regularly and know exactly what apps and websites have access to. Similarly, be careful of which browser extensions you install and only add ones that you’ll use.
7. Choose apps with end-to-end encryption for messaging
Not all messaging apps are secure – many offer encryption in transit, which means that anything you send is stored on servers at their destination. If that server is hacked, your data will be compromised. End-to-end encryption is where the data is encrypted so even the app you’re using can’t read it. WhatsApp is a great example of this, but other messaging services like Telegram and Facebook Messenger require you to start a secret chat to get end-to-end protection.
8. Don’t share your personal phone number and main email address
Have you started receiving a tonne of spam? Chances are your email address or phone number has been leaked. Instead of using your main contact details for online purchases or joining mailing lists, you might like to create a separate account. That way you can filter out that spam and enjoy a little more internet privacy.
9. Avoid public storage for your private data
You might see a lot of oversharing happening on social media, but it happens in other places as well. Public storage apps or websites, like Google Docs or Dropbox, aren’t designed for storing sensitive data – don’t keep your passwords or bank account information there. Use a password manager or password protected server so you know your data won’t end up in the wrong hands.
10. Clear that cache!
This tip is simple and will only take you a few minutes. Periodically clear the cache on your website browser to remove your search history, clear any cookies (that’s how your online habits are tracked) and any saved personal data. To do this, navigate to your browser settings and under ‘privacy and security’ you’ll find ‘clear browsing history’ (or similar).
How to protect your privacy on social media
Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms know a lot about you already. They reveal information to the world about you that you might not even realise is available. Head over to the security settings of any platforms you’re part of and make sure you’re aware of what other people can see, then take steps to tightening your privacy by adjusting the settings to a level that makes you feel comfortable.
Need help with your internet privacy? Ask the Geeks!
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