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Internet Privacy Tips to Stay Secure Online

January 18, 2023

How much do you value your privacy? Would you ever think of leaving your wallet on a public park bench and expecting it to be safe? No! Chances are that no one will steal your valuables, but you would never knowingly take that risk. Now you don't have to put your personal information at risk online. There are certain ways which can keep you and your information safe online.

Internet Privacy Tips to Stay Secure Online

What is internet privacy?

The right to privacy while browsing the Internet, also known as online privacy, is a subset of data protection & a fundamental human right. This basically relates to your right to privacy when displaying, storing or providing information about yourself on the Internet.

Online privacy (also known as internet privacy or digital privacy) refers to how private your personal, financial, and browsing information is kept. This is becoming more of a problem as browsing history and personal information are at risk when using the Internet. Data privacy should be respected online, just like in the real world. For instance, a private conversation behind closed doors or entering your bank or financial details should remain protected and accessible only to you. It's important to remember that nothing is free, whether it's installing software, using corporate "free" email services (like Gmail), or using social networks like Facebook.

When you visit a website, your personal data is stored in the form of caches. There are few people in your life who know you better than others; in the very same way, online privacy has a spectrum, meaning some websites collect and store more information than other websites. Now that you know and have understood the meaning of what is internet privacy, it is essential to understand the value of privacy and so on. 

Why is privacy important?

We all have secrets that we want to keep safe and to ourselves only. The information can be the amount received in your bank account, your medical history, or bank account number, etc. These are the information which needs to be kept secret from the rest of your world, including family members too. Logically, these are things you wouldn't put out to the world or on social media platforms. This is why we must take every possible step to defend and protect our privacy.

The power of privacy

Whoever you are, you must protect what belongs to you, be it in terms of materials or personal information. The fact is that online data is no more irreplaceable than property, and privacy is an intrinsic value that can be easily compromised online. So how can you protect yourself & your sensitive data online? Read on to learn more about internet privacy.

What are we trying to protect?

People may think they are everything, but that is only part of the picture. Online privacy, on the other hand, is not just about what you do; instead, it is about who you are along with what you are doing. Data is very important on the Internet. It is acquired, sold, collected and analysed. The word "privacy" has many definitions. There are two aspects of who you are & what you do. Your personally identifiable information (PII), including your name, date of birth, address, social security number, phone number, & other information, determines who you are. The searches you make, the websites you visit, the newspapers you read, and even the deals you make online are indicators of what you do.

What can you do with your data? 

A complete personal record can be sold for a huge sum of money, and it's legal. A data broker is a company that collects and manages the data of millions of people and analyses, aggregates, and sells it without their knowledge or permission. Data brokers store and sell information to other companies for a variety of purposes, including targeted advertising, credit risk assessment, and direct marketing.

3 Most Common Internet Privacy Issues to Look for

Now that we understand what internet privacy is and its importance let's talk about the most common issues affecting online privacy today.

1.     Persecution or tracking

You may have noticed these annoying ads appearing based on your past web searches and visits to websites on the Internet. This is because websites, advertisers and other third parties track your movements with the help of cookie profiling and other methods to track your online activity and create a detailed profile of your browsing habits. While some people may not mind relevant ads, others find them to be a serious invasion of privacy.

2.     Monitoring or surveillance

There are some governments that monitor their citizens' online activities, ostensibly to help law enforcement. For example, the UK's Investigative Powers Act allows for mass surveillance, allowing the government to legally monitor citizens' internet use.

3.     Theft

According to Javelin Strategy, around 17 million Americans were impersonated in the year 2017. Cybercriminals or hackers use malware, spyware, and phishing techniques to infiltrate online accounts and devices, steal personal information, steal your identity or steal your money. 

How to protect your privacy & security online.

The topic of data protection on the Internet is complex. Luckily, there are various tools which you can use to protect your online privacy. For the sake of a quick overview, we've summarized tips to protect your internet privacy in summary form. Take a look.

1.     Protect yourself with a VPN- A VPN that encrypts your internet traffic so that no one can know what websites you have visited and what you have done while you were there. This is the most vital step to ensure your online privacy is protected by using incognito mode in your browser. Modern browsers include an "incognito" or "privacy" mode that protects your privacy. You can usually access it by pressing CTRL + SHIFT + N (or CMD + SHIFT + N on Mac systems). This mode disables the ability of your browser to store information about your online activities. This helps in preventing data from being saved on your computer. No one can tell what you've been doing by looking at your browsing history, but in incognito mode, one can snoop into your connection.

2.     Stop trackers from following you on the web- Companies use various tools to track user's movements on the Internet. Advertisers, social networks, and other organizations use small pieces of code to track your movements and display advertisements that you believe will drive you to make a purchase. To prevent these activity trackers from monitoring your browsing habits, you can use tools like Ghostery and Disconnect and stay away from these ads.

3.     Block ads- Internet ads can be intrusive, along with putting your privacy at risk. Similar to the above-mentioned trackers, they can track you around the web and show you ads you probably don't want to see. Malicious ads not only can infect your computer but your mobile phones as well, so it is always advised not to open advertisements randomly.

4.     Use the private messaging app- To protect your emails and IMs from being spied on and your information stolen, we recommend using a privacy-friendly private /messaging app. Telegram is one of the best options for this, and it helps in keeping your privacy safe and is completely free. Telegram is available on both mobile devices and desktop computers, making it the perfect as an all-around messaging tool.

5.     Make sure you are using HTTPS- HTTP can be thought of as the language of the Internet. This refers to the way data is exchanged between you and the websites you visit. Unfortunately, HTTP is not secure. However, HTTPS is a secure version of HTTP that encrypts data sent and received over the Internet. This means that even if your traffic is intercepted, no one can see what you are doing. 

6.  Empty the cookies- Cookies are small text files which websites store on your computer. Many of them make web browsing more convenient. For example, if you stay logged in to Facebook, you won't have to log in again when you close the tab and return to the site. However, it can be used to track your online activity. Therefore, we recommend that you clear your cookies from time to time; every web browsers have this feature. Each browser deletes cookies in a slightly different way. In most browsers, you can clear your browsing history by pressing SHIFT + CTRL + DEL (or SHIFT + CMD + DEL on Mac systems).

7.  Check app permissions- Each app on your smartphone has its own set of permissions. For example, a camera app can access the camera. Google Maps can access your current location so you can know where you are and get directions. However, many apps request permissions they don't need. For example, you can track phone numbers you've called. Others could eavesdrop on your microphone or read your text messages.

8.  Delete files safely- You might think that deleting a file is as easy as pressing the Delete key or dragging the file to the trash. But it's not that easy because many files remain on hard drives long after they are deleted, allowing a cybercriminal or online attacker to recover them. Not easy, but possible but this can be avoided by using a file shredder app with a secure delete feature.

9.  Be careful what you share on social media- You might think a lot about sharing your holiday photos on Facebook, but scammers or fake people can misuse your photos. Potential thieves will know you're not home if you tweet about enjoying the beaches of the Maldives.

With a little security know-how and the right tools, even the most sensitive and valuable data can be protected. Don't be afraid of hackers and malware. Make software makers your safety net and browse freely!

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