How to Protect Your Digital Privacy

You can maintain security against unauthorized efforts by outside parties to access your data and safeguard your privacy from people you don’t want to share your information with by making a few straightforward modifications to your devices and accounts.
It’s simple to start.
Here is a guide to the quick and easy modifications you may make to safeguard your online identity and personal data.

Secure your accounts.

Why: Over the past ten years, numerous businesses including Equifax, Facebook, Home Depot, Marriott, Target, Yahoo, and many others have had data breaches and password leaks.
If you have any online accounts, it’s likely that at least one of them has had data stolen by hackers.
Are you interested in learning which of your accounts have been compromised?
To compare your email address with hundreds of data breaches, type your email address into Have I Been Pwned?

How: The most effective way for people to safeguard their privacy and security today is to utilize a password manager to create and remember unique, complicated passwords for every account.
The password managers that Wirecutter prefers the most are LastPass and 1Password.
Both have the ability to generate passwords, keep an eye out for security lapses, recommend altering passwords that are too simple, and sync passwords across your computer and phone.
Although installing password managers can be daunting, once you’ve done so, you can just continue using the Internet as normal.
The password manager records your passwords as you log in to accounts and proposes updating weak or repeated passwords.
You wind up with new passwords for the majority of your accounts after a few weeks.
Change the default passwords for any home appliances that still use “password” or “1234” as their passwords, such as smart light bulbs, security cameras, and home routers.

Additionally, everyone should implement two-step authentication for their online accounts whenever it is feasible.
This choice is offered by most banks and significant social media platforms.
Two-step authentication involves two steps, as the name implies: inputting your password and a unique access code.
For instance, the first step is entering your username and password to log into Facebook.
In the second stage, you receive a temporary code from Facebook through text message or, preferable, through an app like Google Authenticator, which you enter to log in.

Protect your Web browsing

Why? Websites and businesses monitor everything you do online.
Your location, browsing history, and other data are collected by every advertisement, social network button, and website.
More than you might anticipate is revealed about you in the data collected.
You could think you’re clever for not revealing all of your religious convictions on Facebook or never tweeting about your health issues, but chances are excellent that the websites you frequently visit already have all the information marketers need to know about you.
This is part of how targeted advertising continues to be among the most frightening inventions on the Internet.

How: By blocking advertising and the information they gather with a browser extension like uBlock Origin.
Additionally, the uBlock Origin plugin stops malware from operating in your browser and provides you with a simple method to turn off ad blocking when you wish to support websites you are confident are safe.
Ads won’t follow you around as much if you combine uBlock with Privacy Badger, which disables trackers.
Disable interest-based advertisements from Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter to cut down stalker ads even further.
Many websites have ways to decline data gathering, but you must do it manually.
For popular websites like Netflix, Reddit, and others, Simple Opt Out provides direct links to opt-out information.
While doing this will greatly reduce the quantity of data gathered, it won’t totally solve the issue.

Install the HTTPS Everywhere addon as well.

When a website supports HTTPS Everywhere, it will automatically take you there. This makes it more difficult for an attacker to track your online activity, especially if you’re using a public Wi-Fi network like a coffee shop, airport, or hotel.

A virtual private network (VPN) may be used by some, but not everyone will need one.
A VPN is helpful if you frequently use public WiFi since it increases the security of your browsing when HTTPS isn’t available.
It can also assist reduce tracking based on your IP address and offer some privacy from your Internet service provider.
However, as the VPN provider’s servers still handle all of your Internet traffic, by utilizing one you are choose to put your trust in it rather than your ISP to not keep or sell your data.
If you want a VPN, Wirecutter suggests IVPN, but first make sure you understand the advantages and disadvantages.

Use antivirus software on your computer

Why? Viruses still exist, despite the fact that they may not seem as common as they did ten years ago.
On your computer, malicious software can do all sorts of damage, from obtrusive pop-up ads to covert bitcoin mining to personal data scanning.
Installing antivirus software is worthwhile, especially on Windows PCs, if you’re prone to opening dangerous links or if you share a computer with others in your home.

How: If your computer runs Windows 10, you should use Windows Defender, which is a built-in program from Microsoft.
After consulting with various experts, we came to the conclusion that Windows Defender provides more than enough security for the majority of users, and that it is the primary antivirus choice that Wirecutter recommends.
A second layer of security might be required if you utilize a shared computer or are running an earlier version of Windows (even though we strongly advise updating to Windows 10).
Malwarebytes Premium is the best option for this purpose.
In contrast to most antivirus programs, Malwarebytes is non-intrusive, integrates well with Windows Defender, and doesn’t send out a ton of obnoxious notifications.

Most Mac users are comfortable with the security features built into macOS, especially if you only download apps from Apple’s App Store and limit your usage of reputable browser add-ons.
There is also a Mac version of Malwarebytes Premium if you do want an additional degree of security.
On your phone, you should strictly avoid antivirus programs and only download reputable apps from authorized marketplaces.

Good Practices

Adopt healthy internet habits to ensure that you don’t leave yourself prone. 
Update your devices’ and software’s.

Why: Operating systems for phones and computers, Web browsers, well-known apps, and even smart home devices frequently receive updates that add new features and enhance security.
Antivirus software generally fails to stop hackers by comparison to these security updates.

How: You should take a moment to confirm that automatic updates are enabled for your preferred operating system, whether it be Windows, macOS, or Chrome OS. All three major operating systems can update themselves automatically.
The security advantages outweigh the inconvenience of having to wait for an update that can damage the program you use every time you turn on your computer.
New versions of Apple’s Safari and Microsoft’s Edge browser are among these improvements.
The majority of third-party web browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, also update automatically.
Remember to reset your browser occasionally to acquire those updates if you like to leave it open all the time.
You can choose automatic update choices on your phone.
On the iPhone from Apple, go to Settings > General > Software Update to activate automatic updates.
The Android operating system from Google should automatically download security updates, but you may check by going to Settings > System > Advanced > System Update.

You might need to look for and select a Check for updates option in the software’s settings for third-party software and apps.
Both software and hardware upgrades are available for smart home appliances like cameras, thermostats, and light bulbs.
To ensure that these updates occur automatically, check the device’s settings using its app; if you can’t find an option for automatic updates, you might occasionally need to manually reboot the device (a monthly calendar reminder might help).

Don’t install sketchy software

Why: Every strange app you download for your phone, every browser extension you install, and every program you download from a dubious source all pose a risk to your privacy and security.
Numerous smartphone apps, particularly those intended for kids, follow your location wherever you go and collect your data without your permission.

How: Stop installing useless software and only download legitimate apps from app stores or straight from the developers of programs and browser extensions.
The majority of the apps on your phone are not necessities, and removing those can make your phone feel speedier.
After getting rid of the apps you don’t use, check the remaining apps’ privacy permissions.
Open Settings on your iPhone and select the Privacy tab.
Go to Settings > Apps on Android, touch the gear symbol, and then choose App Permissions.
Here, you can view the apps that have access to your contacts, microphone, location, and other information.
When a permission is unnecessary, such when Google Maps needs your location but the notes app doesn’t, turn it off.
In the future, as you install new software, consider the app permissions; if an app is free, it may be gathering and selling your data.

Your computer must abide by the same standards.
Should I Remove It? will assist you in making a decision if you’re unsure of what should be deleted from your Windows PC.
(Yes, it’s additional software, but after using it, you should erase it.)
Although Mac users lack a comparable system, it is simple to browse through since all software is stored in the Applications folder.
If you come across an app that you don’t recall installing, look it up on Google and, if you no longer need it, drag it to the trash to remove it.

The Privacy Project

Technology has made our lives easier. But it also means that your data is no longer your own. We’ll examine who is hoarding your information — and give you a guide for what you can do about it.

In Case of Emergency

Think ahead just in case you lose your phone or computer. 

Lock down your phone in case you lose it
Why: To prevent loss or theft of your phone, you need to make sure that no one can access it.
Smartphones are encrypted by default, which is excellent, but there are still some actions you need to do to make sure your phone is securely locked down in the event that it is lost.

How: In this case, you have two main defenses.

Use a strong passcode in addition to your biometric (fingerprint or face) login as the initial step.
The second step is to configure the remote-tracking function on your phone.
Create a PIN number or pattern and turn on the biometric login feature on your phone if you haven’t already done so.
On an iPhone, look in the Settings app under Face ID & Passcode or Touch ID & Passcode, and on an Android phone, look in the Settings app under Security and location.

Next, configure the remote tracking function on your phone.
If you misplace your phone, you can track it down and, if you can’t get it back, remotely delete everything on it.
Go to Settings, press your name, then select iCloud > Find My iPhone on an iPhone.
To enable Find My Device on an Android phone, go to Settings > Security & location.

On your laptop, enable encryption (it’s simpler than it sounds).

Why: If your laptop is lost or stolen, the criminal not only takes your data but also a brand-new piece of hardware.
If the thief knows what they’re doing, they can generally still copy files off the laptop even without your password.
A random person who looked through your laptop might see all of your images, your tax filings, or even a partially written piece of Game of Thrones fanfiction.

How: When you encrypt the storage disk on your laptop, your data is protected by a security key and a password; without either, the data is useless.
The built-in software makes encryption easy and free to enable, despite the fact that it may sound like something out of a high-tech spy movie.
To configure encryption on Windows and Mac, simply follow these instructions.

Speaking about computer theft, if you keep a lot of information on your computer, it would be worthwhile to safely backup your data.
Wirecutter prefers the online backup provider Backblaze for this purpose since it encrypts all of its data so that not even Backblaze employees can access it.

The Importance of Paranoia

In the end, security and privacy are intertwined, therefore you should develop the practice of defending both.
All that’s left once you complete these steps—which could seem like a time-consuming, excruciating headache—is to develop your judgment and nurture ethical online practices.

Links in emails and on social media should be avoided.
Don’t share anything you wouldn’t mind finding out anyhow, and keep your accounts private.
Be somewhat discreet with your primary email address and phone number.
For online shopping and other activities, use a burner email account you don’t care about; if an account is compromised, it won’t be connected to a crucial personal account, like your bank’s.
When you have to sign up for a service you don’t care about, like discount cards at a grocery shop, don’t use your real name or phone number (your area code plus Jenny’s number generally gets you whatever club-card discount a merchant offers).
If you don’t obtain a valuable feature from it, don’t connect services like Facebook and Spotify, Twitter and Instagram, etc.
If you aren’t willing to give up a little privacy for the convenience they offer, don’t purchase Internet of Things gadgets.

You may avoid many privacy-invading activities if you develop a low-key, skeptical phobia about new apps and services.

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