If you haven’t thought about it before, now is the time to start. As we enter 2019, it’s becoming clearer than ever that the new battlefront for privacy is completely digital.
We’ve gone over some of the biggest data breaches in 2018. Now it’s time to take action and make sure your online accounts are safe and secure.
You don’t want to give your information to hackers, scammers, and thieves. Or even more possibly, third-party advertisers!
That’s right. If the thought of companies selling your data to third parties for profit makes your blood boil, follow these steps to ensure maximum protection.
Make it one of your New Year’s resolutions. It’s that important.
1. Use a VPN and keep it turned on!
Do you ever browse the internet? (That was a rhetorical question. Hello, this is 2019! Of course you do.)
Then you already know that search engines like Google can eerily predict your every move, suggesting ads for things you were just looking at seconds ago on a different page, or that many websites take your location information.
Nothing you do is really anonymous. Everyone wants to track you.
That’s where a VPN comes in.
A VPN essentially allows you to access private networks, shielding your identity and activities. It’s more or less an online firewall which hides your data to prevent people from spying on you (and more).
Using a VPN should form the basis of all your online activities, especially when you’re using public Wi-Fi or traveling. You never know if your connection is secure.
Not sure where to start? We’ve got our top 10 list of the best VPNs right here.
2. Don’t be lazy, use two-factor authentication
Yeah, yeah, we know this can be a bit of a pain but it’s there for a reason.
Many a user has skipped two-factor authentication (2FA) only to regret their laziness when their personal information gets affected.
With recent data breaches on personal accounts on companies from Google to Under Armour, it’s more essential than ever that you take this extra step to protect hackers from accessing your account.
You have some choices when it comes to which type of 2FA you want to use:
- Text: You get a text message verification on your phone before you can log in.
- Authenticator app: You download an application which will confirm your activity upon logging in.
- Biometrics: Touch ID, facial recognition, all that hi-tech stuff.
If you want your account to be less vulnerable to attacks, don’t skip the 2FA prompt next time.
3. Protect your private messages like a boss
A lot of people are shocked to find out that companies like Facebook have access to all their private messages through their apps.
By now, it should be second nature for you to question how “private” your private messages really are.
Message hacking is all too common, especially on mobile phones. This is one reason why Apple’s iMessage is popular, as iMessage encrypts its messages.
But even if you don’t have an iPhone, don’t worry. Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Viber, LINE, and Signal give you end-to-end encryption so that your messages are secure.
If you’re feeling extra careful, choose an app that has an automatic self-destruct feature like Telegram.
4. Let’s talk about passwords…
It used to be that you only needed to remember a couple of passwords for a few accounts. Those days are long gone, my friends.
Nowadays, you can’t rely on your good old “password123” and call it a day. With each website prompting different sets of requirements for strong passwords, it’s more than just a hassle.
Must include a capital letter. Must include a number. Must include a symbol.
It’s now impossible for you to remember all your passwords. Unless you’re in Mensa and have a particular knack for memorizing long chains of letters, symbols, and numbers.
Because it’s so difficult, many app developers have come up with brilliant products to help you create and retain all your passwords.
Tools like LastPass and 1Password can create unique passwords for you and save them in their secure vaults so that you never need to manually enter your password ever again.
This means you have no excuse to have a weak, potentially embarrassing password (JessicaAlba123) anymore.
5. Lock your screens like you lock your doors
Do you lock your door before you leave so no one can get in and steal your things?
Maybe a thief might pick your lock and steal your TV. But once a thief has access to your devices, the problems become much more serious than losing a TV.
Now that person has access to everything about you. Bank accounts, social security numbers, everything’s game.
So do yourself a favor and set up a password for all your devices.
6. Activate your firewall and install antivirus software
It’s never too late to activate your firewall or install the latest antivirus.
A firewall is a built-in function for most laptops. You can enable this under System Preferences for Apple devices or use the Control Panel for Windows devices.
While this only protects your device and not your connection, chances are your devices also contain your personal information. The last thing you want is a leak.
As for antivirus software, there are both free or paid options that can work for you. If you’re willing to spend money, go with software like Webroot, Norton, and Kaspersky. If you want free, go with AVG or Ad-Adware.
Lastly, be careful of fake antivirus programs that use pop-ups. These could contain malware that will infect your devices.
7. Stop oversharing on social media… seriously
If you can’t live without updating your status daily on social media, this reminder is for you.
Third-party advertisers can gain access to everything you upload on social media, including deleted photos. Yep, you read that right. Even when you delete things, it’s not always safe.
It’s easy to be careless when you’re just sharing a piece of casual information. But a breached account can give hackers information about your location, contacts, and other personal details.
What you can do to prevent this is to keep your GPS data private. Certain applications on social media might access your location without your consent. Turn off Location Services on your Apple device or disable it under Application Permissions on Android devices.
This potentially sorts out applications which you think are phishing your information.
Additionally, utilize the features available on the platform itself. Turn on two-factor authentication. It prevents hackers and thieves from accessing your account even if they steal your password.
You can also control what information appears on your profile or your timeline. Exclude valuable information that may be used for answering security questions or changing passwords.
8. Wipe out your Wi-Fi connections
One possible way for hackers to get into your device or personal network is through Wi-Fi connections.
If you’re connecting to public Wi-Fi, there are certain connections which enable your device to instantly connect without your confirmation.
This allows hackers to set up malicious connections with the same name to trick your device into connecting.
To prevent this from happening, make it a habit to delete all previous connections after you disconnect. Forget networks which connect to your device automatically. This will prompt your device to connect with your consent each time.
Better yet, don’t use public Wi-Fi. Unless it’s an emergency, it’s not worth it. But if you have to use a public connection, use it through a VPN.
9. Watch out for those phishing scams 🐟
We saved the best one for last.
Not sure what phishing is? If you receive an email or a text prompt from your bank or any company that requires you to give them personal information like your social security number or password, guess what? You’re being phished.
Instead of replying to the email or clicking on the link, call customer service first to confirm its legitimacy.
These phishing scams prey on the vulnerable by using human psychology to lure users into their scheme. Anything that prompts you to claim bonuses and rewards should be treated with the utmost suspicion.
Have a safe 2019!
You can never be too cautious when it comes to digital data.
We can’t rely on companies to always keep our data safe. The responsibility falls on us now. But by following these steps and utilizing multiple layers of security, you’ll maximize your protection.
Remember, the first step is the decision to take action. And 2019 is the perfect time to start.