Best Ways to Keep Personal Data Safe Online

Between sophisticated hackers working for big cyber crime organizations and your own government launching mass surveillance schemes, it becomes difficult to feel secure. Online traffic has become an open book, and doing anything while connected to the internet is like broadcasting your activities to anyone who is interested in knowing. In response to the growing need for privacy and security, experts have come up with a practical list of security tips to apply.

There is privacy online, but steps must be taken in an active approach to security for you to be as safe as possible form snoopers and malware threats.

Protect your IP address

Web proxies are popular methods of masking your IP address, but they are not secure. The exit node, where your traffic passes, can easily be monitored. Web proxies can hide your real location and identity, but you can be discovered through end-to-end traffic correlation.

I2P is another way to protest your IP. It is basically a network through which applications can communicate securely. This does not work well for web browsing, unfortunately. I2P provides a single layer of protection with several layers of encryption.

A virtual private network (VPN) is the most secure method that will effectively make your IP anonymous so that it cannot be traced back to you.A VPN hides your real IP and gives you an alternate IP through their secure servers. All traffic is secured by encrypted layers and remains anonymous. With an anonymous IP, your activity cannot be connected with you or your devices so your stored data is safe from prying eyes.

Not all VPNs are alike, and you will need to check which ones offer the highest security and are dedicated to your privacy. The best VPNs are not free, but they offer privacy and security for both web browsing and any applications that connect to the internet. To see more about the different services, please read about our Top 5 VPN Providers.

Personal Data Safe Online

2. Take Care Where you Put your Personal Data

Spying activities begin with a single piece of data that leaves a trail. Whether it’s hackers or the NSA, all they need is one item of personal data to proceed with their activities. When you do not take care to control where your information is posted and stored, you make it easier for them to get what they want. What we learned from server hacks and PRISM schemes is that online storage is not safe.

Be very careful what you post about yourself on online services like social media and sharing sites. Even if you have a password-protected account that is set to private, this does not ensure that the data is not made available by the provider or through phishing and social engineering attacks. Note that Facebook is one of the companies that participates in NSA snooping. Online databases are likewise not as secure as you may have been led to believe.

Your email is a prime target. A lot of information is stored on a typical email account, including information about all your contacts. Email is generally more secure than social media accounts, but the participation of Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft in NSA mass surveillance has rendered these three most popular services the least secure. Whether the account is yours or you are sending to that account, the contents are to longer private. Phishing is also still a big security issue, and being careful about what emails you open should become a standard practice. Hackers routinely pretend to be representatives of legitimate businesses to persuade you to reveal more information or click on links to infected sites.

Search engines among other internet companies have been known to collect user data, and repeated incidents of data base hacks has proved that you cannot trust them to keep your data secure. Though their intentions may be pure, such as personalizing search results and providing relevant ads, you don’t want to wait until another PRISM-like revelation to find out whether or not they are sincere about protecting your privacy against all odds. Set up your devices to block cookies. Websites that use cookies may also unintentionally host malware that can hijack cookies to steal your data.

Staying away from all popular online services makes your privacy more secure, but if you cannot avoid using certain services, make sure you are not giving away details that snoopers can use against you.

3. Exercise Caution When Browsing

The general rule is not to visit any websites that you do not trust. This means not clicking on links that are presented to you, even if they seem to come from friends or contacts. Social engineering has become very sophisticated. Hackers and malicious apps can take control of your friends’ accounts and communicate with you through those trusted accounts.

We also cannot rely solely on the integrity of the companies we deal with online. Pressure to comply with government schemes can be very heavy, and if they are not going to be held legally liable for sharing your data, chances are they will comply. Generally, smaller companies independent of government support will do more to protect your privacy. On the other hand, these companies may not have the security infrastructure to protect themselves, and your data stored with them, from hacks.

Hackers are employing ever increasingly sophisticated phishing and social engineering schemes to get at your personal and financial data. Governments are also stepping up secret online surveillance. To have the best chance at privacy and security online, these are the best steps to follow – secure your traffic with a reliable VPN service, limit the amount of data you share, and take care when visiting websites.

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