How to Keep Your Private Data Safe on the Internet
Thanks to a recent vote by the Senate and the House of Representatives, our internet privacy may be in grave danger. The new rule would roll back privacy protections for consumers that were put into place last year and allow internet service providers (ISPs) to collect and sell users’ data without permission.
The bill was presented to the president last week, and it’s expected to pass. Naturally, people are freaking out right about now; the thought of third parties buying your info is beyond creepy. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself.
Get a VPN
The first thing you should do is make it as difficult as possible for anyone looking to get your info to do so. Incognito mode on your browser isn’t gonna cut it, either — the only thing that does is keep what you search out of your computer’s local history. Your ISP can still see it, so you’ll need a little something more. You can start out with a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt your internet traffic and decrypt it when you get to your destination, so it’s much harder for anyone to snoop on what you’re doing.
VPNs are available for all your devices, so we recommend getting one ASAP. PCMag‘s favorites for your computer are NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and VPN Unlimited. NordVPN and Private Internet Access also have mobile apps, so you’re covered there too. Just so you know, you should switch off your VPN when you try to use Netflix, because they’ll block you if they detect you’re using a VPN. And any websites you log in to can see what you’re doing on their site (although clothing and other retailers aren’t really as likely to sell your info like your ISP would).
Another thing you should encrypt is your financial information. You probably know that PayPal acts as a middleman so that you aren’t sharing your bank info with third parties, but sometimes sites don’t accept PayPal as a method of payment. In those cases, you should use an app like Privacy to create virtual credit cards (essentially, burner cards) that you can use anywhere that asks for a credit card number. You can set limits on the cards and close them whenever you need to. There’s no reason anyone should have your financial data, so protect it!
Get Comfy With Tor
Your ISP isn’t the only one who tracks your internet usage; your browser (Chrome, Safari, etc.) does too. So if you don’t like that idea, get comfy with Tor. Tor “prevents somebody watching your internet connection from learning what sites you visit; it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.” Sounds handy, right? It is. And it’s also available on mobile (iOS and Android). Double up Tor and a VPN for max protection.
Use Common Sense
This one is probably a no-brainer, but we’ll say it anyway. Trust your gut. Only visit sites you trust, and especially only give your info to sites you trust. Try to only visit sites with HTTPS in the URL, and whenever you enter payment information, it’s a good idea to check for the little green lock icon in the address bar.
If you follow these guidelines and keep ALL your info on a need-to-know basis, you should be reasonably safe and secure. Of course, none of these steps guarantee that nobody will ever see your info, but they will make it a lot harder for the people trying.
How do you keep yourself safe on the internet? Tell us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty, Don Farrall/Getty)