10 Ways to Protect Your Privacy on the Internet

Adam QuirkThe Internet is an incredibly useful tool, and the online world has rapidly changed the way we work, live and interact with one another on a daily basis. But while the Internet is a great tool for communication, commerce, and personal interaction, it is important to remember that it was never built with security—or privacy—in mind.

This lack of privacy manifests itself in many different ways, from pop-up ads and banner promotions that mysteriously appear following a related Google search, to more serious breaches involving credit card numbers and bank account information.

If you want to enjoy all the great things the Internet has to offer without putting your security at risk, there are some smart and remarkably simple things you can do to safeguard your privacy. Here are ten ways you can protect your privacy on the Internet without giving up all the wonderful things the online world has to offer.

  1. Always log out of the websites you visit, and never select the “Remember Me” option. If the website you are visiting requires a login, don’t forget to log out before you go to another site.  Additionally, most browsers like Chrome and Firefox offer an option to save and autofill all of your usernames and passwords. Although the autofill feature is extremely convenient, a single computer breach could easily place your personal data, credit card information, usernames, and passwords at risk.
  2. Never store your credit card information, debit card data or other personal information, on shopping websites. Almost every online retailer like Amazon offers to save your billing information for future purchases. Although all online retailers promise the highest security for its customers, the fact is sensitive consumer information is hacked and stolen from companies on a regular basis. Look no further than Target, Home Depot, and other retailers that recently had customer information stolen from their databases.
  3. Adam QuirkTake advantage of private browsing. Every major browser includes a private browsing option (Chrome calls is “Incognito mode”), and turning it on can safeguard your privacy and stop websites from tracking your online travels. Private browsing does not offer totally anonymous browsing as many people wrongfully assume. But private browsing can provide additional security while surfing the web.
  4. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to shield your IP address.  Your IP address is your digital fingerprint, and it allows third-party websites to track your browsing habits. Proxy servers and other services can shield your IP address from public view, and using them can significantly enhance your security. Although somewhat complicated, VPNs are pretty easy to use, and they are inexpensive, too. For example, IPVANISH is a popular VPN that costs less than $10 per month. The bottom line is using a VPN will prevent companies and other entities from tracking your browsing activities.
  5. Spend ample time reading the privacy policies for every site you sign up for, including the accounts you regularly log in to. It might be dry reading, but those privacy notices contain valuable information. Because of this, it is crucial that you take the time to read those notices and avoid websites and companies whose privacy standards are not up to your own. Many people who read through companies’ privacy policies would be very reluctant to “Agree” to their terms.
  6. Set up a Google alert for your name, as well as your employer’s name. Contrary to popular belief, Googling yourself is not a vain thing to do—it is a smart thing to do. Setting up a Google alert for your name and employer can give you an early warning that people are talking about you online, and possibly spreading false rumors and information about you or your company. Google alerts may provide insight into those who might maliciously target your computer(s) or network.
  7. Adam QuirkBe careful when using public Wi-Fi hotspots. As the number of public hotspots steadily increases, they provide a convenient way to get online, almost everywhere, but they not always safe. Avoid sites that require a username and password (like credit cards or banking accounts) when using these hotspots. Even though public Wi-Fi hotspot administrators typically promise safety and security while browsing the Internet, the truth is, you never know who else is watching or able to access and copy your personal information while accessing a public hotspot.
  8. Consider alternative search engines when surfing the internet to increase privacy. Google and Bing may be the biggest dogs in the browser kennel, but there are other, more privacy-friendly alternatives. Alternative search engines include DuckDuckGo, Ask, Dogpile, and Yippy. Even though Google is currently the most popular search engine, DuckDuckGo, and other search platforms offer more anonymity and excellent search results.
  9. Check your social media settings. This seems like a simple tip, but one that is often overlooked or forgotten. Privacy policies at social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, are always changing, and it is important to keep up with the changes as their rules change. Unless you take specific action to privatize or hide your profile, all social media platforms are defaulted as public. Due to the openness of social media platforms, it is critical to check your privacy settings frequently to make sure you are protected.
  10. Be careful about surveys and questionnaires. Several survey companies offer compensation and prizes for completing questionnaires about practically anything, from kitchen appliances and television shows, to shampoo and laundry soap. Filling out surveys and sharing your opinion can be fun and even profitable, but think before you click. Make sure the firm sponsoring the survey is reputable, and avoid questionnaires that strike you as “spammy” or fraudulent. Take the time to do research on survey companies to make sure they are legitimate and safe before you provide them with any information.

The Internet is a great place to be, but privacy is not its strongest suit. In many ways, the online world is still the Wild West, and if you want to protect yourself, you need to take a proactive approach to keeping your personal data under wraps.

Top 5 iPhone Security Apps

As mobile phones become the next battleground in cyber security, a number of apps are stepping up their game in the race to deter hackers and protect sensitive data. With everything from family vacation photos to sensitive banking information flowing through Apple and Android phones, hackers have never had a bigger target to hit than they do today.

In order to protect your personal and increasingly valuable information, consider these five security apps for your iPhone.


Lookout Personal for iOS
LookoutOne of the most profitable attack vectors for hackers is targeting phones running out-of-date software. The longer you let your device run a last-generation operating system, the more vulnerable you become to attack. Hackers and criminals spend a lot of time looking to exploit old software because so many people neglect regular updates.Give Lookout Personal for iOS a try. It’s a consumer version of Lookout’s powerful suite of security tools. By keeping watch for out-of-date software and scanning for malicious applications, Lookout shores up two of the most common ways hackers find a way into personal devices.

The best part is, you don’t need to keep checking the app to make sure you’re secure. Lookout will alert you if it finds something that needs your attention.


SpiderOakONE

SpiderBenjamin Franklin famously remarked, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” If Franklin were alive today, he may want to add “cybercrime” to the list.

Billions of dollars are lost each year to cybercrime, and not only from businesses. Personal bank accounts and identities are juicy targets too. By creating a secure backup in the cloud, you can ensure that your digital life doesn’t come to a screeching halt if you do get hacked.

Starting at just a couple bucks a month, SpiderOakONE is an encrypted solution with individuals in mind. Perhaps the biggest selling point of SpiderOak’s system is their “zero knowledge” guarantee, promising that their team sees none of your data. In short, your data is yours, and yours alone.


LastPass

LstPassSince the dawn of the internet, people have been writing passwords down on sticky notes and posting them on their desks at home. This will work well until you lose the note or suffer a break-in. Imagine dealing with the double whammy of residential theft and your bank account being drained. That’s a bad day!

Take a step toward personal security with password management platforms like LastPass. Reusing passwords across multiple sites is one of the best ways to expose yourself to hacking. Stop cybercriminals in their tracks by using the LastPass “password vault” to store unique passwords for each web account you own. All you need to do it remember one “master” password to access your vault. 


Find My iPhone

Find MyThis built-in application can be a lifesaver when your phone goes missing. Built by Apple and included in every new iPhone by default, Find My iPhone is GPS-based security software that will help you track down your phone whether it is hiding in the couch at home or in a thief’s pocket across town.

In addition to displaying your phone’s last known location on a map, Find My iPhone also allows you to trigger a loud alarm on your phone, which is useful if you are in the vicinity but don’t know its exact location. You also can remotely wipe the phone’s data. If it ever gets to that point, it can be reassuring to know you’ll at least be able to clean your sensitive information off your lost device.


McAfee Mobile

MCAfeeWhile we normally think of computer viruses targeting desktop computers, there is a growing black market for viruses targeting mobile devices. So much commerce takes place over phones and tablets — from business email to personal shopping — that iPhone- and Android-specific viruses are on the rise.

McAfee Mobile gives users a suite of alert and location services similar to Find My iPhone, but the real meat of the application is in its “Secure Media Vault,” a feature that will let you restrict access to your personal data when you hand off your device to a friend or coworker. You needn’t be worried they may snoop through your family photos; rest easy as you lock down your personal pictures before sharing.

Built for both the iPhone and iPad, this app adds one more arrow to your quiver of security tools.


With these five applications installed, you’ll be miles ahead of most users when it comes to everyday security.