The Internet can be an oasis of knowledge, but it can also be like the Wild West if you don’t take your privacy seriously enough.
If you’re too relaxed, you risk:
- Having everything you do monitor and logged by a surveillance agency.
- Search engines becoming the way “too friendly” with you – logging your geo-location, age, gender, health info, and device information. And that’s just scratching the surface!
- Having ISPs and advertisers track your every movement on the Internet.
- Giving cybercriminals access to data they can sell on the dark web.
Protecting your privacy can be hard, I know, but don’t worry – I’m going to show you exactly what you need to do:
The Best 5 Tools to Use for a More Private Online Experience
Here’s a quick overview of some good tools to use to make sure what you do on the web stays just between you and your screen:
1. A VPN
VPNs are online services that hide your IP address and encrypt your Internet traffic. If you want to secure your privacy online, you should always use a VPN when you surf the web.
For starters, by hiding your IP address, a VPN will prevent any website, government surveillance agency, advertiser, or hacker from finding out:
- What country you are from.
- What city you live in.
- Who your ISP is.
- What your ZIP code is.
“What could anyone even do with that info?”
Depending on how crafty the hacker is, a cybercriminal could target your ISP with phishing or social engineering attacks to force or trick them into sharing your personal information with them – just like hackers did with a well-known Canadian ISP.
By obscuring your IP address, VPNs also make it much harder for advertisers to monitor your digital footprint to spam you with personalized ads.
As for the encryption bit, it basically means nobody will be able to spy on your Internet traffic. If they try to take a look, they’ll just see gibberish. That can stop:
- Hackers from eavesdropping on what you do online when you use unsecured WiFi.
- ISPs from selling your browsing data to advertisers.
- Government agencies from spying on everything you do on the Internet.
2. A Secure Browser
If you don’t use the right web browser, you might as well just hand over all your personal info to advertisers and other online entities.
Keep in mind that browsers collect a lot – and I do mean a lot – of information about your online habits, including but not limited to:
- What websites you visit.
- What files you download.
- Personally identifiable information like phone numbers, email address, name, etc.).
If you’re not careful, all that info can end up in the hands of advertisers. And that’s not speculation – Google Chrome has no problem sharing user data with advertisers, for example. Not to mention if you’re careless enough to use it, it’s actually like having spy software installed on your device.
In other cases, your data might be leaked by faulty browser extensions, or your privacy might be compromised by browser fingerprinting, which is basically when websites collect info about your browser version, operating system, and screen resolution,to name a few things.
Oh, and Chromium-based browsers can compromise your privacy through WebRTC leaks too.
So, it’s clear a secure Internet browser is a good a tool as any. Just make sure you pick the right one by following the link I left.
3. Antivirus/Antimalware Software
As technology and cybersecurity evolve, so does malware. Nowadays, there are dozens of strains of malware that continuously adapt, becoming more dangerous. And malware attacks are on the rise, especially on mobile devices.
So, if you browse the web without any protection, you’re pretty much asking for someone to infect your device with malware. If that happens, all manner of things can happen:
- A hacker might use spyware to monitor everything you do on your device.
- Ransomware might be used to encrypt your data and hold it hostage until you pay a pricey ransom.
- A cybercriminal could use rootkits to get remote access to your device, easily stealing any sensitive data off of it.
The list of examples can go on and on, but you get my point – you need security software to prevent scenarios like that from happening.
It’s worth remembering that “antivirus” and “antimalware” are pretty much the same thing, so don’t get confused by the terms. A virus is basically a type of malware, after all.
4. Script Blockers
Script blockers are browser extensions you can use to block risky background scripts on websites. Background scripts can monitor your activities on the website, load annoying and malicious ads without your consent, run crypto miners that hog your entire device’s CPU power, and even take over your web browser.
They’re real eye-openers – trust me. The first time I loaded a new website with uMatrix and uBlock Origin on, I was simply shocked by how many scripts were previously enabled on it.
5. Password Managers
Passwords are the gatekeepers to your online privacy. So you need to make sure they’re strong enough, you change them regularly, and that you don’t use the same password for each account.
That can really be tough and time-consuming – unless you use a password manager to keep your passwords safe and sound, that is. To access, change, and use them, you only need to remember one master password in order to access the software.
One really cool thing about password managers is the auto-fill feature. Basically, they can automatically fill in your login credentials, so you don’t need to type them. That offers decent protection from phishing websites and keyloggers.