Harold Kilpatrick, cybersecurity consultant
Hopefully, you’re already aware of how important your privacy and security is online. Cybercrime is growing year on year and is a huge threat to not just big businesses or major targets but also personal internet users like you. If you’re not taking your online security seriously, you should be.
The reality is that even if you think you’ve taken the right steps to protect your data online you still might not be 100% secure. That’s especially true when you consider how rapid and radical technological changes are. It can be hard to keep up.
There’s one other thing making it difficult to stay secure: misinformation. There are tons of advice and info from so-called “experts” that actually turn out to be nothing but myths. You’d be surprised how many people still believe outdated or completely false information about online security. Let’s make sure you’re not one of them.
Private browsing modes really keep you secure
Do you know those private, or incognito buttons your browser has? They might not be as secure as you think. These aren’t meant to be high-end privacy features; they’re just simple options to keep your history clear and prevent sites from tracking you easily with cookies.
That doesn’t mean these modes aren’t useful—they still are. But they won’t keep you super-secure if that’s what you’re using them for. Sites will still be able to track your IP address and collect other data even if they can’t send you cookies.
If your Facebook profile is private, it’s completely secure
Facebook doesn’t have a “one-fix-all” feature for ultimate security. There are actually tons of different settings designed to give you as much control over your privacy as possible. Even so—however private you set it—certain info like your name and gender will always be visible to everyone. Not only that, but any apps you add might will be granted extended access to your friends list and other information.
It’s important that you take your Facebook security seriously and take time to go through all the settings carefully. Try checking your other social media accounts too. It’s not just Facebook that could be a risk for your privacy.
Have a look at this for a few tips on tweaking your Facebook privacy.
All VPNs are absolutely secure
You might think that if you’ve got a VPN, you’re completely secure – but that simply isn’t the case. Some VPNs have stronger encryption protocols than others, so it’s important that you shop around for the right one.
Where your VPN is located is also important. Some countries require VPNs to collect and store certain information about users as well as log browsing data. If you want a VPN that doesn’t keep any of your usage data or history, you need one with a no-logging policy, based in a country that requires no data retention.
You’ll often find that many free VPN services aren’t as secure as they might seem. Yes, you’ll be able to switch your browsing location or appear as if you’re visiting sites from another country, but all your usage on their network might not be secure. That’s especially true if they sell your data or insert ads to make money. You’ll also want to make sure the VPN you choose has the best encryption facilities and other features to keep you as secure as possible.
Encrypted traffic is completely secure
While encrypting your own traffic and data is important, you can’t be sure about the security of any other website once the sensitive information leaves your device. In other words: you might have kept your password for a certain account secure, but how do you know that actual site is safe itself?
You’ve probably seen cases where sites have been hacked, and users’ information have been compromised. These weren’t stolen from individual users – they were taken from the actual main site in question, with the data of thousands (or millions) of users stolen.
How can you protect yourself against this? Firstly, only sign up to sites you trust. If you aren’t sure, then use a throwaway email address or made-up details. Don’t use the same email address for random offers and sites that aren’t important as you do for the important stuff.
It can be difficult to manage but use as many different passwords as possible. You don’t want one site’s inability to keep your info secure to suddenly give a hacker that password you’ve been using for every site.
Privacy is guaranteed with a VPN and antivirus
While a VPN and anti-virus are important first steps towards securing your privacy—they won’t keep you 100% secure. It’s important you remember that. First, you need to make sure your VPN is as private and secure as you think they are. Second, keep your antivirus up to date. New threats emerge constantly so it can be difficult staying ahead of the curve.
Unless I’m a millionaire or a big corporation, nobody wants to hack me
You might think that hackers only want to hack into wealthy people’s bank accounts, but the opposite is often true. Wealthy people and businesses can afford to hire cybersecurity experts or cyber-crime investigators to make hacking them a headache. Many hacks involve collecting the data of thousands of people and seeing whose bank accounts the hacker can access. If you’re one of fate’s unlucky ones, they’ll try to take your money, no matter how much or how little you have.
Smartphones are safe from being hacked
Android smartphones are safer than PCs and iPhones are even safer than Androids. No! Hackers keep up with the latest technology, so they can definitely get malware into your smartphone if you’re not careful. In fact, sometimes you can be even more vulnerable because smartphone users often connect to public Wifi networks. Insecure public Wifi is one of the most dangerous things to connect to from any device, and you’re more likely to do it from your smartphone. Watch out!
Hopefully, we’ve now busted a few internet privacy myths, so you can start taking your security more seriously.
Harold Kilpatrick is a cybersecurity consultant who also freelances as a blogger. Harold lives in New York.