Five simple ways to protect yourself online

Twenty years ago, our parents told us to never get into a car with a stranger or talk to people on the internet. But today we use the internet to call strangers before hopping in their cars. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a child or retirement age, you need to be practicing sound online safety. This doesn’t mean you have to go all secret agent, destroying your phone after you use it or bouncing your IP address such as off of ten thousand different locations before checking your email. 

But you do need to be aware of some safe, common sense security measures.

In an age where privacy seems to be dead, many people are asking if protecting your online identity even matters anymore. But it does, and to help you, here are five easy ways you can protect yourself and your data while you’re online.

1) Be careful of public WiFi

WiFi is fantastic. You can walk into any coffee shop or restaurant and hop onto their free WiFi, saving your mobile data.

Many of these WiFi networks are password protected, but that doesn’t make them any less vulnerable; you never know who else may be sitting around on their phone or computer. 

While connecting to the public WiFi in itself is relatively harmless, opening up accounts or personal data while you’re on the WiFi network isn’t safe. So that means no checking out your bank accounts or similar. You’ll even need to be careful if you’re working

When you connect to a public WiFi network, your device is usually visible to others. That doesn’t mean that the person at the next table can instantly see what you’re doing. But it does make it a lot easier for potential hackers to steal your information.

2) Use a password manager

Most of us probably have that one, go-to password that we use for everything. !Cupcakes319 is the perfect password as it covers your birthday, favorite food and throws in that random symbol you need to satisfy websites.

The problem with this is that people attempting to crack your account(s) may start trying that one basic password everywhere and before long, you may be out of luck.

But remembering a lot of different passwords is both hard and annoying. That’s why it’s a good idea to invest in a password manager. The majority of password managers are quite cheap and instantly store your passwords for you. They’ll also help generate long, complicated passwords, so you don’t have to.

3) Make it private

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have a social media account, and there’s no problem with that. However, many people neglect to keep their social media accounts private, which is an issue.

So if you have Instagram or Facebook, make sure they’re private. It’s one way hackers can fish for those life details that help them try to guess your password. By keeping your online face safe, you’ll stay safe yourself.

And don’t ever tell anyone your password. While it might seem harmless, your friend or family member may not be as internet-safety conscious as you are. 

4) Install a VPN

You might have heard of a VPN before. But what exactly is it? VPN stands for virtual private network and it adds an important layer of security for your wireless connection.

In the easiest terms, it reroutes your connection through its own secure channel, so it’s network inside of your wireless network. Setting one up is easy and some browsers like Opera and Firefox come with their own VPN services. There are plenty of other paid services which usually run anywhere from 2-5 dollars per month.

Additionally, having a VPN is a great way to access geographically restricted content on your streaming device. Troypoint has a great tutorial on how to set that up in just a few steps. 

It can also protect you when you are connecting to those public WiFi networks, but it doesn’t make you invincible. You’ll still have to be careful when going to suspicious websites or downloading a file. 

5) Keep your PC or laptop updated

If you’re a PC or laptop user, you’ll have encountered the update screen (often just when you need to finish a project or start working). You’re stuck in a blue screen, watching the percentage bar creep to 100%. 

These are largely security updates, protecting your computer from peeping eyes and viruses. They can be annoying, but are very important. If you’ve just bought a new computer, make sure you update it immediately after purchasing. The only thing you have to do is find something to keep you busy while you’re stuck waiting. 

Photo by Saketh Garuda