Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, people are more wary than ever before of how their personal information is used. Pictures from Mark Zuckerberg testifying to US Congress are still fresh on people’s minds (and viral on meme pages). The Facebook founder confessed he “didn’t take a broad enough view of responsibility” and made “a big mistake”.
However, the future of his company is still uncertain. Share prices have recovered slightly from the initial blow, but they are yet to regain the trust of users. People remain sceptical of his shady business deals. However, if they were to broaden their focus, they’d realise that this is nothing new and that threats to personal data are everywhere online.
Here’s our tips for keeping your information private on the net.
Remember that other sites use your data too
Facebook decides what we see on the site by using our information. But it’s easy to forget that other sites are doing the same thing. Everyone from Google to YouTube are storing information about our online habits. This data is used to personalise our site experience and to recommend suggested content. It’s worth bearing in mind that the advertisements on these pages are also based upon our preferences.
Be careful with non HTTPS sites
HTTPS stands for Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol. This is a protected version of HTTP sites, meaning the data exchanged between the site’s server and the user is private. In these cases, your passwords and sensitive information are safe from hackers and the like. Having HTTPS at the beginning of a link indicates that users connect to the right site and not an imposter one- a favourite tactic of hackers.
Choose your Browser Carefully
The privacy and security of browsers such as Safari and Google Chrome have been called into question recently, as a result of their associations with big name businesses. However, several tech experts are beginning to recommend alternatives. Mozilla Firefox is now regarded as the most secure of the mainstream browsers, as it is very ‘add on’ friendly. Other newly introduced browsers that come highly commended are Tor and and Brave.
Use a VPN
Virtual Private Networks allow users to access private networks and share data through public networks with added security. Just as a firewall protects the data that’s saved on your computer, a VPN protects the data that you share online. They make your activity illegible to eavesdroppers and cloak your IP address, making them an effective tool for avoiding surveillance and censorship.
Don’t Use Unsecured Wifi Networks
While getting some work done in a local Starbucks, you may be tempted to connect to store wifi and purchase those concert tickets that everyone has been chatting about. However, by entering your card information on an unsecure wifi network like this, you’re taking a huge risk. Obtaining information is incredibly easy for hackers over public wifi networks. Not to mention the ease at which they could start to access your personal files stored on your hard drive, from iCloud pictures to sensitive data from work.
Install an anti-tracking plugin
For added security, and extra peace of mind, there are several browser add ons that can act as really useful extensions. One that comes particularly recommended is Disconnect, which is compatible with all major search engines. This software provides protection from tracking, malware and malvertising. It stops social networking sites from tracking what you’re up to off site and collecting that data too. Finally, it keeps your personal data private and secure. Ghostery and Privacy Badger are good alternatives too!
Encrypt Your emails
Most instant messaging services are end to end encrypted these days, including Facebook, Whatsapp and iMessage. However, it’s not always possible to use these services, sometimes in business settings you have to rely on email. Unfortunately, emails are like postcards, anyone who wants to look at them badly enough can. Encrypting your emails is important, particularly if you have need to email your bank details to someone. If you’re using Gmail, firstly make sure your encryption setting is switched on. If it is, remember that it only works when messaging other Gmail accounts. Browser add ons like Snapmail or Enigmail can provide the extra security you need.
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