The internet has come a long way over the last few decades and, as much as the rapid development benefits our lives, it constantly brings new challenges along. Nowadays, hackers can get their hands on our personal information more efficiently than ever before, which paints the dubious picture of the state of online privacy.
With the evolving technology being used for malicious purposes at such a high rate, we are becoming more and more vulnerable online, as browsing the internet is becoming less secure. In fact, cyber criminals aren’t our only threat. Even the major, seemingly trustworthy companies take advantage of our data by mining it at a high rate without informing users adequately.
Companies tend to collect user data for a lot of reasons, such as advertising so they would have an edge on their competition. Some corporations even sell the collected user data to other companies. A great example was the recent privacy incident when millions of users were affected by a data breach when Facebook allowed the Cambridge Analytica to harvest sensitive information of millions.
To put it simply, the internet is not a safe place. However, there are a few ways to maintain as much online privacy as possible. To do so, follow the recommendations below.
Use a VPN
VPNs are one of the most effective ways you can protect your privacy online. A Virtual Private Network, or a VPN, provides an encrypted data connection between a remote server and your device. By using a VPN service, you are encrypting all the data that your device is sending or receiving. Essentially, a VPN connection forms a protective tunnel that prevents third parties from spying on what you’re doing online. All your data goes through that tunnel that cannot be intercepted.
While VPNs are a highly effective privacy measure, it is important to emphasize that not all of them are trustworthy. There are plenty of free VPN applications available and, as tempting as it is to get a free version, this may not be the best idea if you’re aiming for maximum privacy. Free VPNs most commonly log data on their own, meaning you are not 100% protected. If you want to get the best out of a VPN software, make sure to go for a paid option.
Clear your cookies
Unlike those in your cookie jar, the browser cookies can be quite harmful. A cookie is basically a little package that carries snippets of information as you browse the web. This information may include your name, email address, usernames, passwords, etc. Third parties can gain access to your cookies, which could eventually lead to data theft. To avoid this, you need to clear your browser cookies on a regular basis.
To do so, go into your browser’s privacy settings, find the option “cookies” and click “remove all.” You can also select specific cookies to be removed and skip the ones you want to keep. Clearing the cookies will not only benefit your online privacy, but it will also speed up your internet browser.
Review the permissions you grant to mobile apps
Applications are one of the major privacy threats on our mobile devices. Once you install and launch an app, you will be asked to grant a number of permissions that the application requires to function. You can either allow or deny them. The thing is, not many people pay attention to this and click “allow” to get the process done as quickly as possible.
In reality, that is a significant privacy threat since many apps request unnecessary permissions, such as to view your photos or contacts, even though that is completely unrelated to the nature of its inner workings. It’s best to limit the apps’ permissions as much as possible. If you wish to revoke certain privileges, there is a way to fix the issue. Simply go into your phone’s settings and select Apps and Permissions.
Use a TOR Browser
TOR stands for The Onion Router, which is a non-profit organization that provides online privacy tools. By downloading the TOR browser available on their website, you can browse the web anonymously without leaving a trace anywhere. This browser hides your identity by bouncing your traffic across numerous different TOR servers and encrypting your data along the way.
While browsing on the TOR browser, the pages you visit and the data you send and receive can never be traced back to you. Keep in mind that TOR will make your browsing experience a bit slower than usual, but it is worth it when you need to use the internet anonymously.
Improving your online privacy is crucial nowadays. The four methods we explained above will make a big difference in your browsing experience and will protect you from the prying eyes. If you want to stay super cautious when it comes to online privacy, make sure to always have an antivirus program running, as well as an active firewall to protect your device from malicious software which is often used to collect all sorts of data illegally.
Avoid connecting to public, unprotected networks and, if you need to use them, make sure to activate a VPN first. As for your passwords, keep them strong by combining letters and numbers but, most importantly, never use the same password twice!