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The Best Ways to Keep Your Data Private

Follow these best practices to improve your online security

Man at a laptop with black hair and glasses. World map in the background with yellow and orange security symbols connecting.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have turned to the internet to help get daily tasks safely completed. Whether it’s ordering your next grocery delivery online or hosting video calls from a make-shift home office, technology has become not just a luxury, but a necessity, for many. As vaccines begin to roll out, there’s light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to COVID-19, but don’t expect the importance of technology to diminish even as the pandemic does.
 
Of course, it’s no secret that people have been using online platforms to get their daily to-do list squared away. As a result, there are more hackers out there looking to tap into internet users. Apps designed to give you convenience can do great things, but some may be easily compromised and leave your data vulnerable, allowing corporations and governments the opportunity to steal your sensitive information.
 
It may not be possible to prevent data links, but there are some steps you can take to significantly lessen the likelihood—and mitigate the damage done in the event your data does become exposed.

Use Smart Internet Practices

One of the easiest ways to protect your data is by taking a good look at your internet practices. If you haven’t password protected your devices and your networks, now is the time. While you certainly shouldn’t rely on passwords alone, they are a good first step and can help deter unsophisticated hackers.
 
Of course, passwords should never be shared with others or stored in an easily accessible location. For best results, always opt to use a complex password that features upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.
 
Staying away from important dates and names is a great step, but to really boost the power of your passwords, choose multifactor authentication whenever possible. If a platform doesn’t come equipped with SMS two-factor authentication (where you receive a text message with a numerical code to input and complete the sign-in process) there are apps available designed to do just that.
 
In addition to these basic safety protocols, make it a point to stick with well-known and trusted websites. A padlock in the URL bar or a URL beginning with HTTPS can help assure you that the website you’re using is legitimate.
 
This has never been more true than when you are paying for something online. Always double-check that you haven’t been redirected to a suspicious page and only use reputable payment platforms. Additional software can be purchased and installed to alert you to any suspicious websites, further protecting you from would-be hackers.

It’s All About the Networks

Most people have a host of devices they need to have internet access. From refrigerators to thermostats to traditional mobile devices and computers, more things are connected to each other than they ever have been before, leaving us with a true Internet of Things (IoT).
 
While WiFi networks allow us to connect all of these devices to one another and create incredible convenience, they can also leave us incredibly vulnerable. Every device on your network can serve as an entry point to someone looking to gain access to your data. The best way to prevent such a breach is by fully securing your network.
 
A password can help protect your network, but you may want to look into additional security options for increased safety. A Virtual Private Network (VPN), for instance, can be used on your network.
 
Using a VPN creates a secure connection for information to travel through, encrypted for protection from prying eyes. Not only does it protect your privacy, but it can also be used to shield your location, mask your IP address, and help you access websites even when in restricted areas. A VPN can also be used on your mobile devices to protect you while you’re on the go.
 
It goes without saying that you want to avoid using unknown networks whenever possible. You never know how strong the security on someone else’s network is. Allowing your device to connect via that network can be just the moment a hacker is looking for, compromising your device. When you bring that device home to your own trusted network, you’re exposing every other device you own as well.
 
If you do a lot of traveling, avoiding connecting to unknown or poorly protected networks may not be possible. Equipping your internet-ready devices with a VPN can give you the protection you need even when you aren’t at home—and save you some serious hassle.

Take a Close Look at Privacy Policies 

Even well-known and trusted websites can have privacy policies that aren’t in your best interests. While you may have agreed to the terms when you first created an account, these privacy policies can be revisited and they may no longer suit you or your needs. You’ll need to look closely at how websites, apps and other companies are protecting your data—and who they’re sharing your information with.
 
Once you better understand the privacy policies you’re dealing with, it’s time to limit sharing wherever possible. Remember, many companies are looking out for themselves first, and the default settings may share more than you’d really like. While it’s not always possible to prevent sharing some information, it’s often possible to lessen what’s shared through the settings page.
 
Whenever an app or website goes through an update it’s time to refresh yourself on the terms of service and their privacy policies. That way you can rest assured that your privacy settings are just as you intended them to be.

Stay up to Date

Are your apps and programs working just fine for you? Is it inconvenient for you to take the time to update your software and reboot your device? While you may not notice a reason for needing an update, there definitely was a reason an update was put together and issued. Many times, these updates are to address weak spots that have proven vulnerable to would-be hackers.
 
Ensuring that your software and devices are up-to-date can help you prevent security breaches and data loss. Some updates can be fast and simple while others take a chunk of time. Go ahead and mark it on your calendar as an event to check for updates regularly. That way, bringing your software and devices up-to-date won’t hamper your productivity schedule. While you’re at it, go ahead and back up your files at the same time—just as a precaution in case you do experience a breach and lose important data on your devices.

You Get What You Pay For 

Your app store is flooded with helpful downloads. Whether you’re looking for a schedule keeper, a password keeper, a list app, or a data tracker, there are dozens on the market available with just a click. Some are free while others will cost you money. Remember, you get what you pay for, and it’s always best to pay for an app up front and avoid using free apps that can be easily compromised.
 
The same is true for software downloads found on websites. It’s unlikely you’ll find a quality download at no cost and without a subscription fee. Do extensive research before downloading anything—paid or unpaid—onto your devices and always read reviews from real users.

Keep Your Private Data Private 

Don’t take your online safety for granted. Without a solid protection plan in place, identity theft and financial ruin can happen to you. There’s no need to fall victim to ruthless hackers, though, when there are so many easy steps you can put into place to give yourself more protection. Stay on top of new technology and embrace safety protocols, and you’ll increase the odds that your personal data remains secure.

All information in this article is provided to you “as is” and represents the views of the authors. TechChannel cannot guarantee or imply absolute reliability, serviceability or function of the information herein.
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