Every day, the tricks and tools hackers and identity thieves use to steal your personal information get more and more sophisticated. Every day brings news of fresh hacks, recently discovered vulnerabilities and software leaks. Fortunately, there are a few basic steps you can take to stay ahead of them and ensure you are safe when you use the internet.
Have Different Email Addresses for Different Purposes
For each of the following areas of your life you should have a different email address: work, signing up for offline accounts, people you trust, acquaintances, legal, signing up for online accounts, and other categories you deem necessary. It’s also a good idea to have a “throwaway” email account you can use for websites and services you don’t entirely trust, but need to sign up with. This kind of compartmentalization will ensure your other email accounts are not affected if one gets compromised or hacked.
Be Careful About the Information You Share
A lot of websites, particularly social media sites as for a lot more information than they really need in order to deliver a service. Your family members’ names, your home address, email, phone number and other information that you might not want public ends up online posted on hundreds of websites. This can lead to identity theft, unsolicited marketing, and stalking.
Google Yourself Regularly
It may sound vain, but Googling your name on a regular basis is a good idea! This allows you to find out what personal information has been made publicly available online, how it’s used, and in what context. In addition to a Google Web search, be sure to check out the other search services, like News, Blogs, Groups, and Videos, doing so gives you a tangible idea of how large the digital shadow you cast might be.
Try Not to Broadcast Your Location
Social media sites and mobile devices are notoriously bad about wanting to find out, and share your location, whether its Foursquare check-ins, Twitter, Facebook or some other app. They literally put you on the radar by accessing your public social network check ins. The truth is that 90% of the time you don’t need your location tracked, so why leave the option on for the 10% of the time when you do? The process for turning off geotagging and location based services varies from app to app, but they all have it as an option, and most OS’s will give you a master switch that allows you to turn off GPS and location based services.
Use a VPN When You’re Online
VPNs protect your online privacy in a variety of ways. Most keep all the information you send over the internet secure by using a form of encryption. VPN’s are especially useful when it comes to keeping safe if you need to log onto a public WiFi hotspot, which are notoriously unsafe. VPN’s are also able to hide your location by routing your data through servers across the globe, which has added benefits.
Consider a Pseudonym Online
There is a good chance whatever you post online will remain there forever, whether it’s a simple comment on a news article, forum, online group, or social network. A good question to ask yourself is “Would I be okay with this information being made public?” If not, use a fake name and fake contact details.
Be Careful on Public Computers
A good rule of thumb is to avoid browsing on public computers, but there are times when it simply can’t be helped. When you’re done browsing, delete searches, passwords, cookies, downloads, autofills, and your. Do NOT visit sites that ask for your sensitive information, like email, bank accounts, social media etc.