Increasing privacy concerns are an unfortunate but inevitable side effect of our reliance on the Internet. Protecting privacy online is becoming increasingly challenging, but it is essential if you want to protect your personal and financial information and not end up having your private life revealed to the world.
Protecting Your Privacy at Home
Many people have a false sense of security when using the Internet at home, thinking that they cannot possibly be being watched by anyone. However, there are many methods of spying on people online – you could even be a victim right now. Following are some examples of things to be wary of.
• Unsecured wireless connections can easily be hacked into, and using the right software, hackers will be able to see information exchanged across the network.
• Some unscrupulous Internet service providers may spy on you in order to collect information about your browsing habits for marketing purposes. They may then pass this information on to third parties.
• Malicious software such as Trojans and keyloggers presents the greatest risk to your privacy no matter where you are accessing the Internet. Such software allows hackers to remotely control your computer or see what you are typing.
Protecting Your Privacy at Work
Depending on your place of work, there may well be a strict policy dictating that you are not allowed to use the company’s IT resources for anything other than work-related purposes. In order to enforce such policies and to minimize the risk of corporate information leak, your boss may be monitoring you online.
• Commercially available keyloggers may be tracking your activities on work computers by recording keystrokes. This will allow your boss to read, for example, messages sent on Facebook, Web addresses and search terms entered and emails written.
• The same monitoring software may also be in place on laptop computers including ones which employees are allowed to take home with them.
• Remote desktop software is often used in workplaces, allowing administrators to remotely access and control the computer in front of you.
Protecting Your Privacy on Shared, Public Networks
One type of location where you should be particularly careful is public Wi-Fi spots. Hackers prey on such locations because many of them are unsecured. Be particularly wary of using public wireless networks and avoid using them for things like online shopping or banking. Keep in mind, that particularly on an unsecured network, everything you send out over the Internet could end up in the hands of a hacker. The same risks when using the Internet at home also apply.
Guarding Yourself against Malicious Software and Other Threats
Statistically, around forty percent of Internet users have been victims of malicious software (malware) at one point or another. Malware comes in various different forms such as viruses designed to disrupt and damage and keyloggers designed to steal your personal information. Malware costs both home and business users around the world billions every year. So how can you protect yourself from malicious software and other threats to your privacy? Following are some effective ways to get started.
• Always keep antivirus software running in the background. Any good antivirus software should automatically update its malware definition database, provide heuristic scanning to identify otherwise unknown threats and automatically deal with any problems detected. For the average home user, Windows Defender, included with Windows 8 provides adequate protection. For Windows 7 and earlier, the free Microsoft Security Essentials provides similar functionality. Business users, however, may want to consider going for a more sophisticated antimalware suite rather than a free one.
• Be careful with what you share online. Be wary publishing any personal information online on social media sites or any other online services. Only provide your financial details to trustworthy companies with impeccable security records. Do your research first before buying online from a specific shop.
• Use suitable passwords for any online services you use. Have different passwords for different services and ensure that they are adequately strong. Strong passwords are those which are harder to guess or hack and should include both letters and digits or even special characters.
• Keep your browser updated and only install browser plugins that you actually need.
• Clear your browser history regularly.