Online privacy, at the core, privacy from spies and hackers that is, is dependent on your data is secure. Keeping your data is particularly challenging today because of all the attempts by various organizations and governments to accumulate as much data as they can about the average technology user.
Consider the United States, for instance. The past three presidents have all expanded the surveillance program. President Clinton introduced wiretapping laws. President Bush enlarged the domestic surveillance system and President Obama increased the reach of the intelligence services.
Across the world, most governments are doing the same. However, despite these laws, there is always something you can do to enhance your privacy from spies and hackers. Most of the measures you can take are incredibly simple.
1. Secure your endpoint
In this day and age, phones are the ultimate end-point. You carry your Android or your iPhone everywhere you go. Not to mention, using it to store sensitive information and personal secrets.
Increasingly, modern Android phones and tablets come loaded with security features to help protect your device. However, that is not enough, and it is essential to consider encryption. The technology world does not have one agreed-upon encryption standard yet, but you can find lots of apps that offer encryption services.
With regards to iPhones, most agree they are incredibly secure, and once you lock the screen, even the FBI is unable to access it. However, when accessing the internet, the iPhone still has the same weaknesses as other end devices, which means it also needs encryption.
2. Scrutinize each app you install
To maintain your privacy from spies and hackers, beware of every app you choose to install. Avoid apps that require unfettered access to your phone by asking for permission to data and features such as contacts, camera, photos, and sometimes the phone dialer.
A good example to keep in mind is the anime photo app, Meitu, that caused such a privacy storm when it emerged that it required almost unlimited access to your phone. Always remember that if an app is free, then you are paying for it some other way.
3. Always install updates
Whether you are using a phone or a PC, always install updates as soon as you get them. With both iDevices and Android phones, Apple and Google roll out constant updates to handle any newly discovered security vulnerabilities and to patch up weaknesses.
Similarly, Microsoft often rolls out updates for PCs and Apple for the Mac computer. The slower you are in installing updates, the easier it is to succumb to an attack.
4. Be careful what you share online
There are tons of websites known as data brokers whose main job is to crawl the internet searching for personal information about an individual and post it online for anyone to see. If unconvinced, Google your name together with your city and look at the results.
These data broker sites such as Spokeo, MyLife, and Whitepages will be at the top of your search results complete with a lot of collated information about you. To protect yourself, first, try to post less revealing information.
Second, take these steps to delete yourself from these data broker sites. If by chance you don’t think it is a big deal that these data brokers have displayed your data, consider that they are making a killing selling the data, second, it makes it incredibly easy for a malicious person to find out a lot about you.
5. Use private browsers and private search engines
Private browsers facilitate private browsing. That means that anytime you use a private browser, the browser will not store cookies, history, form data, or pretty much anything related to your browsing activities. In turn, your ISP and governments that like to spy will not access this information either.
Private search engines, on the other hand, will not track what you are searching. Keep in mind that someone can easily deduce what you are up to by simply looking at your search engine habits.
For instance, let’s assume a user somewhere Googles searches pregnancy symptoms on Monday. Then, what abortion entails on Tuesday. Finally, the location of nearby abortion clinics on Wednesday. It will not take a genius to figure out what is going on with the user. A private search engine ensures no one can know what you are searching for.
6. Find a reputable VPN
A virtual private network redirects your traffic through an encrypted channel. As a result, it is difficult for anyone to eavesdrop on your browsing habits, or to identify your real-world location.
However, it is vital to ensure you find a reputable VPN. By using a VPN, you are channeling all your traffic to one third-party. If that third party is not reputable, they can log it, inspect and modify it.