Most people don’t. They have an ideal scenario of just how private their online activities should be, but they rarely do anything to actually achieve it.
The problem is that bad actors know and rely on this fact, and that’s why there’s been a steady rise in identity theft cases from 2013 to 2017. The victims of these cases often suffer a loss of reputation or financial woes.
1. Shield Yourself From Snoopy ISPs
You may not be aware of it, but your ISP already might know all about your online searches.
Each time you search for something online, your browser sends a query to a DNS server. Before the query reaches a DNS server, however, it first has to go through your ISP. Needless to say, your ISP easily can read and monitor these queries, which gives it a window into your online activity.
Not all ISPs monitor your browser queries but the ones that don’t are the exception and not the rule. Most ISPs will keep records of your Web browsing for a period of a few months to a year. Most ISPs don’t record your texts, but they do keep records of who texted you.
There are two ways to protect your privacy if you don’t want your ISP monitoring your browser queries: 1) Switch to an ISP that doesn’t monitor your online data, if practicable; or 2) Get a VPN to protect your data (more on this later).
2. Guard Your Login Credentials
One thing most people take for granted is the login credentials they use to access their many online accounts. Your username and password are the only things keeping your information and privileges from getting into the wrong hands. This is why it’s important to make them as strong as possible.
Choose a strong username that is simple and easy to remember but can’t easily be linked to your identity. This is to prevent hackers from correctly guessing your username based on your name, age, or date of birth. You’d be surprised just how cunningly hackers can find this information. Also, never use your Social Security Number as your username.
Next, pick a strong password. There are many ways to do this, but we can narrow them down to two options: 1) Learn how to make strong passwords; or 2) Use a password manager app.
Learning how to make a strong password requires time and imagination. Do you want to know what the most common passwords are? They are “1234,” “12345,” “0000,” “password” and “qwerty” — no imagination at all. A password combining your name and date of birth won’t cut it. Nor will a password that uses any word found in the dictionary.
You need to use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and even symbols (if allowed). Complexity is what matters, not length, since a complex password will take centuries for a computer to figure out. In fact, you can try your password if you want to see just how long it will take to crack.
If you don’t have the time and imagination to formulate a strong and complex password, you can use one of the six best password managers. These apps not only save you the hassle of memorizing your complex passwords but also auto-fill online login forms and formulate strong passwords for you.
Whether you want to learn how to make strong passwords or choose to install a password manager app is up to you. What you should never neglect, though, is 2FA (2-factor authentication). 2FA adds an extra layer of protection for your passwords in case someone ever does learn what they are. In fact, you may already have tried it when logging into an account on a new device.
The app or service requires you to key in the access code sent to another one of your devices (usually your phone) before you are given access to your account. Failing to provide this access code locks you out of your account. This means that even if hackers obtain your login credentials in some way, they still can’t log into your account without the access code.