Online privacy is a concern as old as the internet. Views on it keep shifting, from an emphasis on anonymity and mistrust in the 90s and early 00s through the reversal ushered in by the dawn of social media to today’s complicated situation. Interestingly, the modern netizen’s digital footprint and online privacy concerns are both significant.
What can you do to tip the scales and boost your privacy more? Here are some actions to consider and steps to take.
Encrypt Your Files
Robust cybersecurity will make it much harder for criminals to access your personal information, but no solution is foolproof. Encrypting your files ensures that anyone who gets their hands on them without consent can’t do anything with the contents. You should encrypt all sensitive local files and keep backups on a reputable cloud storage platform that also uses encryption.
Switch to a Secure Browser
Browsing the web can be among the greatest risks to your privacy (but don’t we all do that daily?). You don’t even have to expose any private details explicitly. Merely using a search engine and visiting some websites can be enough for advertisers to assign you a buyer persona or guess your demographics & interests.
Secure web browsers enhance online privacy in multiple ways. Most importantly, they don’t collect and share data on you. They’ll also default to secure search engines and provide tools like ad blockers to enhance and anonymize your experience. Finally, secure browsers support extensive configuration options that help maintain your privacy by regularly cleaning the history & cache along with more in-depth website permission management.
Use a VPN
VPNs take your internet security and privacy a step further. They encrypt your entire connection – not just browser traffic – so their protection extends to streaming, gaming, and any other online activity. They use secure tunnels to send data to and from servers anywhere in the world. This makes your requests untraceable since they become disassociated from your real IP address.
You might have thought about the VPN vs Tor differences. VPNs are similar to the Tor network, but there are differences. They encrypt the traffic between you and a single company-owned server, unlike the multiple relays Tor traffic has to go through. Browsing with a VPN is faster yet equally secure due to this configuration. Unscrupulous providers might log and sell your data, but reputable ones have regular audits and don’t keep records.
Communicate More Safely
Privacy isn’t at risk only when you use vulnerable networks or have to fill forms out with personal information. We give far too much away in casual conversation, much of which happens publically and on social media. Rather than just using private chats for more sensitive topics, you should consider moving them to a secure communication platform altogether.
Platforms like Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp employ end-to-end encryption for all your exchanges. That ensures only you and the recipient know the contents of each message since decryption only takes place at the two endpoints.
If you have any questions regarding privacy and different platforms, you can ask or search on Reddit, which is valued for its privacy as well. Many people on Reddit create posts comparing products in the same category, like a VPN comparison table with all the providers.
You should also consider switching to a privacy-focused email tool. Signup doesn’t require personal details and your correspondence benefits from end-to-end encryption. You can password-protect emails so only recipients you give the password to can read them, even if they don’t use the same client. Finally, you can set emails up to delete themselves after a while.
Secure Your Passwords
Everything measure we’ve listed so far safeguards your privacy by addressing system limitations and your bad habits. What about the consequences of others’ mistakes? Data breaches can expose billions of passwords and other sensitive details, providing hackers with access to accounts you thought were secure.
Password managers tackle several related challenges with ease. They can replace any current password with a more robust and distinctive one and store this information in an encrypted vault. Sophisticated ones let you autofill login credentials and work across multiple devices.
Some managers will alert you of a password breach. More importantly, they can prevent stolen passwords from accessing associated accounts by providing multifactor authentication.
Change Your OS
While it might be radical for someone used to Windows or MacOS, switching to Linux will assuage many of your privacy fears. It’s open-source, so the community scrutinizes the code and fixes security issues fast. Linux collects no telemetry or user data that companies could use to profile you.
There are many distros to choose from, some of which focus entirely on privacy. Linux isn’t particularly popular for desktop use, so viruses that affect it are almost non-existent.
Stating that individuals’ online privacy is under threat is no exaggeration. The AI boom we’re in the midst of will only make matters more challenging. Some legislation is already in place, and governments are scrambling to create a legal framework for this rapidly evolving and uncharted situation. Not much will come of it if you don’t take securing your privacy into your own hands. Now you know how.