The internet has become an indispensable part of modern life, as virtually everything of importance is (or can be) done online. Unfortunately, this can open you up to the possibility of being targeted by cyber-criminals. These are people who have learned how to harvest confidential data in a variety of sneaky ways, and how to profit from that data. With that in mind, here are six simple things that you can do the help protect your personal information in the digital age.
1. Use HTTPS Everywhere
Encryption is one of the best methods by which to protect data. In fact, it has proven to be the most reliable and the hardest to crack. Hackers generally don’t try to work their way through strong encryption, as this would take an impossible amount of time. Instead, they usually try to find ways in which to work around the encryption.
Either way, it pays to use the native encryption that is optional on most websites. When you look in your browser’s URL bar and see “HTTP” that is a non-encrypted connection. If you see “HTTPS”, it is an encrypted connection. Many sites use HTTPS by default, but you can use certain browser add-ons and apps to utilize HTTPS encryption on all the sites you visit.
2. Use A VPN Service
VPN services really are the best way to utilize network encryption. It’s important to understand the difference between data encryption and network encryption. The first one scrambles data in place while the other scrambles internet data in transit. Since encryption works by scrambling data into an unrecognizable form, it is very hard for anyone to make use of the data therein.
An online VPN acts like an encrypted tunnel with which you communicate with the rest of the internet. This means that you are protected from many different types of cyber-attacks, and it means that any attempts to penetrate your network will be made much more difficult.
3. Learn To Switch Your UserAgent
There are times when you might want to access sites that are geo-blocked. that means they cannot be accessed by people outside of an approved geographic area. For instance, some streaming services have different versions for different countries (which will, of course, have different content).
You can fool these sites by switching your browser’s “UserAgent” figure. The exact method will vary according to the type of browser you use. When using Firefox, this is just an option that you can edit by going to “about:config” (which is an offline page that your browser can load).
4. Turn Off Remote Assistance
Remote assistance is a utility found in Windows and some other operating systems. It allows a technician to remotely control your computer for maintenance and/or repair. Unfortunately, this protocol can also be hijacked and used by hackers. Thus, it is best to open your Control Panel and turn this feature off. If you are using something other than Windows, it will probably be found in the “Settings” app.
5. Exercise Common Sense
Hackers often get confidential information by tricking people into revealing it themselves. This is usually done through the use of spoofed web pages (i.e., pages that look legitimate but are not). Such pages can be embedded with a keylogger script that captures all keystrokes made on the page.
Needless to say, that gives them an easy way to get passwords, but only if you are foolish enough to type them on a spoofed page. By being observant, checking URL addresses, and looking for things that don’t fit, most of these “social engineering” attacks can be prevented.
6. Never Let Your Browser Remember Passwords
When you enter a password within your browser, you will often be prompted with the option to save that password. You should never do this, as it opens up a possible backdoor through which a hacker can gain access to those passwords. When you do this, it means that your browser will store those passwords on your computer, and that means there is always some chance that an unauthorized party could access them. Thus, it’s best to always say “no” to this option.
There are more technical things that can be done to protect your data, but these six simple tricks are a great start for the average person. The concepts here do not require any specialized knowledge, and these are all steps that you can complete with ease. And so, we wish you good luck and safety out there in the online jungle.