The Internet is a beautiful, wonderful, magnificent thing. What would we do without email, or social media, or cat videos? But every time you connect to the Internet, you’re exposing yourself to a limitless number of unscrupulous devices which might be trying to steal your personal data.
Repeat for emphasis: every time you connect to the Internet.
When you’re surfing the web, your computer is basically exchanging your data with the website servers. Your data can be intercepted by hackers as it zips across the world wide web. However, there are many easy ways you can protect your personal data while you’re online. Here are the best ways to do it.
A firewall is definitely one of the easiest ways to protect your data. Think of a firewall as a tall, burning wall of flames (awesome). Any data that your computer receives from the Internet has to pass through the firewall. It’s like passing through the TSA metal detectors at the airport. If the data has any suspicious contents, like known malware or viruses, then the data will get burned up by the firewall so it can’t enter your computer with those harmful contents.
Most operating systems come with built-in firewalls that you’re free to enable or disable whenever you want. But there are also plenty of Internet security programs you can install that feature more advanced and customizable firewalls.
Change Passwords Regularly
This is truly one of the best ways to protect your personal data. You probably have a ton of different passwords for Internet use: email, social media accounts, online bank accounts, streaming accounts, the list goes on. Many people use the same passwords for all of their accounts so they won’t have to keep track of so many passwords.
Unfortunately, if one account gets compromised, then all of your accounts will get compromised. If a hackers obtains your email password, they’ll also be able to access your online bank account. That’s why it’s important to try and use different passwords for different websites. You should also try and change all your passwords every 30-180 days. When it comes to creating passwords and usernames, adhere to some of the basic password principles of cyber security so you’ll come up with something no hacker will be able to guess.
If you need help keeping track of all your passwords, consider using a password management software.
Make backups of all your computer data just in case it gets held for ransom by Internet pirates. Some pirates will gain access to your data and demand that you make an online payment to get it back—or else they’ll delete it. If you regularly back up everything on your computer, you won’t have to worry about these attacks. An external hard drive is one of the best ways to store backups.
Encryption is one of the most advanced ways to protect data that you send out over the Internet. Encryption is when you jumble the data that your computer sends so that it can be read by any unauthorized persons. Certain operating systems, like Windows 10 64-bit and macOS, have features that enable you to encrypt any files on your computer. So if you’re going to email a file to your friend, you can encrypt the file and give your friend the password to decrypt it. For more advanced encryption protection, you can buy encryption software.
You can encrypt virtually all files that you send over the Internet, including photos, emails, and PDFs.
Use a VPN
Contrary to popular belief, “private browsing” features don’t actually conceal the websites that you access. Private browsing only disables Internet history from being added to your cache. If you don’t want anyone to know what websites your visiting, or which IP addresses you’re communicating with, you’ll have to use a VPN.
VPN stands for “virtual private network.” Here’s how it works. Whenever you access a website, your computer exchanges data with the website. Anyone online can see your computer is exchanging data with that particular site. A VPN acts as a middle-man between your computer and the website. Your data gets sent directly to the VPN server, and then the VPN sends the data to the website—and vice versa. Nobody knows that you’re communicating with the website. It only appears as if you’re exchanging information with the VPN server.
There are lots of different VPN servers that you can utilize. Some of them are paid and some of them are free (do some research on Paid vs. Free VPNs to know which one is right for you), but most of them are much more effective at concealing your Internet privacy than what your computer currently is capable of, and they’re easy to use. Be sure to look at the VPN’s reviews before you start using it.
Your personal data should never get compromised when it’s so easy to protect! Just use one or more of these tips and you’ll be much safer against cybersecurity threats.