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10 tips to guarantee your online safety

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20/02/2020

10 tips to guarantee your online safety

An adequate online safety has never been more important. Cybercrime is rife and websites such as Facebook are hacked over and over. Every click online puts us at risk of exposing personal information or falling for a phishing scheme. It’s about time to review our online habits. We’ve come up with 10 tips to reduce these risks and safeguard your online privacy.

Whether you’re on your phone or on your laptop, you’re constantly producing data. And companies are more than interested in this output. They won’t only know what you’ve been doing, but they’ll be able to predict what you might do in the future. Privacy legislation is there to protect your data.

In the European Union the most important privacy law is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The law was adopted in 2018 and applies in every EU member state. Due to this law you should be able to trust that every EU service or product protects your privacy.

Keybord with gdpr button

However, companies have found several loopholes to bypass the GDPR. Google, for instance, saves all of your online searches in a database and mobile phone providers access data from your phone. Don’t count on the new legislation too much and protect yourself.

These 10 tips can help you safeguard your privacy against big companies and cybercriminals.

10 tips to guarantee your online safety
  1. Opt for a smart and complicated password
  2. Use a password manager
  3. Use a two step verification
  4. Block and delete cookies
  5. Use a VPN
  6. E-mail safely
  7. Change your settings
  8. Install updates
  9. Use a firewall
  10. Use a virus scanner

1. Opt for a smart and complicated password

One of the most important ways to safeguard your online information is through the use of strong passwords. Most of us use the same password for several websites and apps. Certain pages might not seem significant, but using a unique password to access them is essential. If a hacker can find out your password on an ‘unimportant website’, he’ll be able to use it to log on to more important websites.

A password is strongest when it uses many different characters in a random order. We understand you can’t memorise these types of passwords easily. Make things easier on yourself by using a passphrase.

Be sure to steer clear of standard options such as ‘12345’ or ‘password. Never use personal details or parts of the name of the website, such as ‘Bert1’ or ‘Gmail20’.

2. Use a password manager

Best case scenario you have a complex and unique password for every website. The easiest way to memorise all these passwords is to use a password manager, such as LastPass. By using an application like this, you essentially only need to memorise one password. On the Lastpass website you can access an online vault containing all of your complex website passwords.

3. Use a two step verification

Even if your password is complex and stored in a password manager, the chance exists it might be stolen. Two step verification ensures that, even if internet criminals have your password, they can’t access your details. This new safety measure requests you to complete a second step after filling in your login details and password. Usually they’ll text you a code and ask you to fill it in on their website.

4. Block and delete cookies

Cookies are small data fragments saved onto your computer. They contain information about your behaviour on a website.

Cookies are used to optimise website functioning and to make your login easier. But they are also used to link the advertisements you see to your search habits online. So, companies might use cookies to find potential clients. Try to delete your cookies and browser history regularly and block cookies where possible. You can also use a plug-in, like Privacybadger, that blocks unnecessary cookies.

Privacy cookies

5. Use a VPN

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN gives you secured online access through a VPN tunnel. Your internet use passes through the tunnel, before reaching the website you are accessing. This secured connection ensures that your online data can’t be intercepted. This might be useful when accessing an open WiFi network. The VPN makes sure nobody can steal your details.

It’s also very useful when your favorite series is not aired on the Dutch Netflix but on the American one. Due to the VPN your location is unknown and you can access the American Netflix version from the Netherlands.

6. E-mail safely

A very common form of hacking is ‘phishing’. Hacking happens when internet scammers send out emails with links to fake websites asking for personal details. Always check the email address sending you these messages before clicking any links.

7. Change your settings

Your phone as well as your laptop probably offers settings to keep your online data safe. You can, for instance, switch of the location tracking for most apps and features. You should also switch off your camera and microphone and install passwords, even when your device is on standby.

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8. Install updates

We know how easily updates can be ignored. But consider that these updates are offered for a reason. Cyber criminals become more cunning in installing viruses on your devices every day. Updated software is much more sensitive in detecting harmful software. Updating your software is vital to protect your computer.

9. Use a firewall

A firewall protects your system against attacks and prevents programs installed on your device from linking up to other devices. It’s essential to enable your firewall. This tip is especially useful for Apple users, Windows automatically uses firewalls.

Online privacy firewall

10. Use a virus scanner

Viruses can immensely damage your device and installing a virus scanner can prevent this damage. These types of programs operate in the background and recognise harmful websites. Viruses are most often found on Windows computers.

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