Last Updated on September 21, 2021
Being safe online means protecting your personal information from spies and securing your devices from cyberattacks.
Because your personal information is gold dust to a hacker, any trace of yourself that you leave online could be tracked, stolen, and sold. If you get infected by spy-malware or a specific virus, for instance, everything you do can be spied on and transferred directly to a hacker’s device.
You can get infected like this any time you use unsecured public Wi-Fi, as well as if you click on a malware-loaded pop-up ad or accidentally visit a malicious website. And, worst of all, you’d have no idea you were infected and are being spied on.
But it’s not just hackers and creepy spy-apps causing chaos — you’re also being tracked every day by your internet service provider (ISP). Not only can they legally sell your information to advertisers and authorities but also deliberately slow down your internet speed by tracking how much bandwidth you consume based on what you do.
Identity theft is easier than you think
With all this tracking and monitoring of your data, it’s no surprise that identity theft scams have quadrupled since the first lockdown. If your personal information is scattered on websites, online forms, forums, gaming platforms, and apps, hackers can easily piece together information about you.
Once enough information about you has been collected (like your name, address, birthday, and phone number) a hacker only has to trawl through your social media to get deeper insights into your life. So, if your password is your daughter’s name, now might be a time to rethink it.
Here are a few things to consider if you want to protect yourself better online.
Use strong passwords
Your safety largely depends on how strong your password is. Never use the same password twice, and use a password manager to stop you using generic ones just because they’re easy to remember. If a hacker guesses the password to your email account, just think about how many password reset links they could request for your other accounts and how many PINs get sent to your email. In no time, a thief could get hold of your payslips, attached files, contacts, and more.
Rethink using private browsing tabs
A lot of us think that private browsing tabs will keep us private and secure online, but all they do is stop your history from showing up on that device. Your ISP can still track the websites you visit, and hackers can still spy on your activity, especially if you’re connected to public Wi-Fi in a cafe, hotel, or airport. If you truly want to stay private, a VPN is your best bet.
Use a VPN
A VPN app is generally the fastest way to protect yourself online — all you have to do is switch it on. A VPN hides your IP address, which reveals your location, and prevents ISPs from monitoring your activity. It also keeps you truly private online by encrypting your personal data and traffic, protecting you against data thieves and snoopers.
NordVPN is currently the world’s most popular VPN: it has apps for laptops, phones, tablets, and PCs, and can be used on six devices at once. All you have to do is turn the app on whenever you go online, and it’ll instantly secure your data on public Wi-Fi, from your ISP, and by extension from intrusive adverts and surveillance.
Beware of pop-up ads
Sometimes, hackers will use pop-up ads to infect your device with malware. Once you click on the ad, the malware (malicious code) is downloaded onto your device without you even realizing. It can then be used to spy on you, hack your camera, steal your files, and even track your location. Unencrypted and torrenting websites are renowned for hosting malicious pop-up ads, so get yourself a VPN that warns you first. If you get NordVPN, it also includes a CyberSec feature which either blocks or warns you when you’re about to visit a malicious website.
Always use two-factor authentication (2FA)
It might seem like extra hassle, but you’ll thank yourself later when you don’t become a victim of a data breach. Yes, even huge, reputable companies with massive security teams at their disposal have exposed their consumers’ data through a breach. Sony, Facebook, Adobe, Amazon, Capital One, and even crypto customers have had their details sprawled across the dark web. So, even if a hacker does have your credentials, if they have to use a code sent to your phone number or answer a secret question, your data could end up being a lot safer.
Protecting yourself is easier than you think
Use strong passwords that are at least 8 characters long and have a mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols. Save them in a password manager so you can make them as complicated as you like, and always use a VPN when you go online. By keeping your accounts as secure as possible and your data and online activity truly private, you can help save yourself from data theft, device infections, snoopers, and spies.
As a final note, steer clear of free VPN apps, as they make profits from selling your data to third parties and rarely use encryption strong enough to genuinely protect you. You can get NordVPN here to get you started on your mission to be safer online.