Technological advancements have put the world at our fingertips. Everything from shopping to keeping in touch with friends, family, and coworkers across the globe is more convenient than ever. However, advancements in technology can be a blessing and a curse. Spending more time online also makes it easier than ever to fall victim to scams, cyber-attacks, and privacy violations.
There has been a lot of debate and backlash recently about popular platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp misusing personal data and leaking it out to third-parties for promotional purposes. Malicious attacks through malware and ransomware are also getting more advanced as hackers try to find new ways to gain access to financial data or steal CPUs to mine for cryptocurrency.
The Internet can be a very convenient and helpful place, but it can also be a frightening one if you don’t know how to keep your data protected. Here are five of the best tips and tools to help you stay safe online in 2021.
Use a VPN
Before you even begin to browse the internet, connect to a VPN. A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, allows you to browse the Internet in the most secure way. The functions of a VPN keep your data protected by masking your IP address and passing all incoming and outgoing data through an encrypted tunnel. Connecting to a VPN before opening your browser ensures that your personal information will remain hidden from everyone, from hackers and third parties to your Internet service provider and the government.
Switch to a Privacy-Focused Browser
Standard browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari are the most popular, but they’re also the worst at protecting your privacy. If you want to keep your data secure while browsing the Internet, switch to a privacy-focused browser like Tor, DuckDuckGo, Startpage, or Qwant. These browsers all come with enhanced encryption and other security features that help ensure your data isn’t stored on a server somewhere and doesn’t leak out to hackers and third parties.
Secure a Standard Browser
If you feel more comfortable sticking with a standard browser you can enhance the security by taking measures such as clearing the cookie cache and browsing history regularly or setting preferences to prevent sites from storing cookies at all. You can also use a plugin like HTTPS Everywhere, which improves security by expanding HTTPS encryption to sites that don’t already have it.
Know the Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS
There’s a big difference between HTTP and HTTPS, and understanding this can save you from being vulnerable to attacks or theft online. HTTPS essentially means that the site is secure. It secures information between a server and a browser with a layer of encryption. Web addresses that begin with HTTP only do not offer this added layer of security. Understanding the difference is especially imperative when making online purchases. You should never leave your personal information – and especially not financial details – on a site that begins with HTTP only.
Avoid Connecting to Public Wi-Fi Hotspots
There’s no way to know how legitimate or secure a public Wi-Fi hotspot is. If you’re traveling or always on the go, it’s much safer to connect to your smartphone’s hotspot if you need to use the Internet on your laptop. If you do need to connect to a public hotspot, make sure that you take precautionary measures like changing your Internet connection setting to ‘Public’ so that sharing is turned off, enable firewalls, don’t connect to sites that aren’t secured with HTTPS, and turn off the connection when you’re not using it.
Now that you’ve got the best security tips and tools under your belt, you can use them to browse the Internet confidently in 2021 and stay safe.