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We are living in a digital age and there is no going back.
While some may try to live a more old fashioned lifestyle away from technology, it is becoming harder and harder to avoid computers due to schools, businesses, banks, and shops moving onto digital platforms.
Applying for jobs, filing taxes, finding dates, and purchasing plane tickets are commonly done online as well. You risk being left behind if you don’t conform to modern day norms
The convenience of the Internet has certainly made life easier for most of us and many have gotten comfortable with the idea of corporations and the government spying on them.
While we may not be able to stop organizations from accessing and collecting our data, getting too comfortable with giving away your information and not making an effort to protect your privacy can leave you vulnerable to the worst of cyber crimes.
Depending on the sites and social media you use, there is a good chance that your data is being shared with third parties and even sold to information brokers and advertisers. If any of those companies have a data breach, there is a high chance that your private information will be taken along with it.
Why Is Online Privacy Important?
If a cyber criminal manages to get their hands on your login credentials, credit card numbers, home address, phone number, and other sensitive data, they can use that information to impersonate, scam or blackmail you.
They may even opt to sell that information on the dark web for others to use as they see fit, and you could end up being a victim of identity theft or fraud.
Once your information is in the wrong hands, there is no way to get it back, so it is always better to prevent that from happening in the first place. Check out my tips below for steps you can take to better protect your privacy.
Table of Contents:
Best Privacy Practices for Everyone
Read Privacy Policies
To start this section off, let’s talk about privacy policies.
You know, those lengthy contracts you ‘must read’ and sign to use the service, but you probably just skip to the end, check the box and click continue?
Don’t worry, we are all guilty of it.
However, there are times you really should take a moment to see what you are agreeing to, more so when the service requires your personal information and credit card details.
If you just downloaded a gaming app on your phone and it is requesting access to your Google account, contacts, camera, and location, that is not only a big breach on your privacy.
However, this one is totally unnecessary since the game doesn’t require any of that to operate.
In this case, it may be better to just uninstall and find a less intrusive game to play.
Be a little more cautious of what you’re agreeing to and step away from programs you don’t need that are requesting access to too much information.
Avoid Using Dating Sites
I put this second because online dating has exploded in popularity the last few years and the Pandemic has turned it into the only tool to meet people...but did you know that dating sites are one of the biggest collectors of personal information?
Think about it: you upload a picture, sometimes give your real name, your age and height, your city and location, your occupation and how much you make, interests, religion, political stance, if you have or want kids, and so on.
Some sites ask additional questions to help you find a more suitable partner, but the answers you give are also stored and shared as they see fit. Some dating sites may use it internally for studies and articles, while others may sell that information to help advertisers market to you.
Grindr, Tinder, and OKCupid have already been outed for covertly giving away users information, including sexts.
While you may think you are safe because you don’t use your real name, just remember that they can easily associate your dating profile with the real you because of your IP address, device, and browser.
So if you are serious about your privacy, it may be best to avoid dating sites all together.
Update Your Passwords
This is cybersecurity101 yet the majority of the population ignore this very simple, yet sometimes vital, rule. I get it!
You have so many accounts and it can be annoying when you forget one and have to keep resetting it, but look at the big picture.
If you have a short password that consists of just a dictionary word, name, or consecutive numbers, a hacker can crack your password in under a minute with powerful tools that everyone has access to.
If a company has a breach, they may not see your password right away because, lucky for you, most sites would encrypt your password into a hash before it is saved in their database.
Hashes cannot be reversed, and that’s why a site can’t remind you of your password….and that means the hacker can’t decrypt it either, right? Not so fast. If you have a very basic password, chances are, it shows up on a password-hash database like this one and the hacker just has to search for the match.
What Hackers Do With Your Private Data?
After cracking one of your passwords, if the rest of your accounts share that password, the hacker can then easily take over them as well, and even gain access to your most valuable online asset: your email. Once they get into your email, it’s pretty much over since you can’t restore access or reset passwords without it.
You also put yourself at risk for financial fraud and identity theft since they would have all the information they need via your emails, conversations and sensitive documents on your drive.
6.85 Million accounts get hacked every day, which is about 158 accounts every second, so don’t wait until it’s too late to take preventative steps.
You don’t have to change the password of every single online asset you have, but just ensure the accounts that contain more private or sensitive information, like your Emails, Facebook, and financial accounts, are made stronger with a ‘passphrase’ that is unique so that it would take ages to crack.
If you would like to create strong passwords for everything, you can consider a quality password manager. More information on that in the tools section below.
Use Different Emails For Different Things
Continuing on from the last point, your email box can be a wealth of information on you. If you don’t believe me, consider the wealth of information someone could gather on you if they were to browse through your inbox and outbox.
Chances are, they can find your address, phone number, pay stubs with account information, usernames and passwords, tax information, client details, names of those closest to you, and other personal information.
Because almost all your online accounts are connected to your email address, your email is your most valuable asset. If someone manages to take control over that, it can be near impossible to restore all your attached accounts since they would send recovery information to the attached email address, which you no longer have access to.
If you use the same email for all your online past times, and one of the sites you use end up having a data breach, your email’s security has been compromised and all you do and own on it is at risk. One way to check if your email has been included in a breach is to check HaveIBeenPawnd.com.
While a super strong password may be your best defense, it is not foolproof. This is why I would recommend having multiple email boxes.
I would say a good number for the average person is 3 emails: One for work and business, one for sensitive and financial things, and one for social media, newsletters, and so on.
This way, if you need to use an email to sign up for something, you can use your more casual address instead of the one that contains all your sensitive information.
I would even recommend creating a throwaway email for signing up for freebies, newsletters, and contests, as it is bound to get filled with spam sooner or later, and who really has time to sort through all that?
Another benefit to having multiple emails is that you can use each email as a recovery email for the other. If one does manage to get hacked, you can restore access through your other email account.
Choose Stricter Security and Privacy Settings
On many social media platforms, you have the option to change your privacy settings. This may include making your profile private, limiting who can follow you, and hiding your birthday and email address.
If you don’t recall ever changing these settings, you’re probably using default settings which tends to be public for everything.
That means any posts you’ve written or anything you said could be seen by anyone across the web.
Some sites like Facebook regularly update or change their settings, so it’s always good to check now and then and make sure your privacy settings are set to what you want.
For maximum security, keep your profile to “Friends only” and ensure posts are not being shared publicly. If you are a public figure or your goal is to be an influencer, having private accounts may not be an option.
If this applies to you, I would recommend having two separate accounts. One for handling the public, and one for your friends and family.
This can give you your own safe place away from the public eye and prevent your loved ones from being harassed by haters. As your fame continues to increase, you may become a target for hackers and stalkers, so keeping things separate can prevent bigger issues if they manage to get into your account.
If you still choose to only have one profile, just make sure you aren’t giving too much personal or revealing information through your content.
Avoid Befriending Strangers Online
This suggestion is mostly for Facebook users.
There was a time when people once aimed to have the most amount of friends, and while this is no longer a trend, there are still many people sending friend requests to strangers and many individuals accepting those requests.
While not every friend request may come from a person with malicious intent, this is a huge security and privacy risk. Once you accept a stranger into your friend group, all your privacy settings go out the window and they will now be able to view everything on your profile.
This is a great position for cyber criminals as they can gather information on you and work on creating a phishing scam that you would fall for, or attempt a romance scam since they know what you like.
With enough information, they can work on hacking your account, or spend a day creating an identical account to impersonate you that your friends would happily accept without thinking twice. They can then send your friends phishing links that can be used to scam them or install malware onto their computer.
Adding a stranger may seem innocent at first, but you are putting your own privacy and your friend’s privacy at risk. Tools can only protect you so much if you aren’t also making an effort to protect yourself. Be a ‘Human Firewall’.
Look Up Yourself Regularly
When’s the last time you Google searched yourself? As silly as it may sound, I actually recommend doing this a couple times a year for privacy and security reasons.
You may come across a new site that has your contact information, or see a photo that you thought was privately posted. You may even find an account with your name and picture that isn’t yours, and now you can take action to remove that impersonating account.
When doing this, be sure to use an incognito window so you can see what the world sees. Even if you can’t remove certain information, it is important to be aware of what is out there about you. Cyber criminals love to use open sources like search engines to gather information on their targets.
So if you can find that information first and work on removing them from the web early, you can prevent possible hackings and scams, and people can’t find information to blackmail or cancel you later.
Delete Old and Unused Accounts
The longer you’ve been using the internet, the more likely you have email accounts, social media pages and other online accounts that you have completely forgotten about and abandoned.
Perhaps you used MySpace or Tagged a decade ago and shared some personal information and pictures on there.
Maybe you even shared stories on Tumblr and Wattpad that you now find cringey and embarrassing. Or maybe you made a single purchase on a small online shop and don’t intend to buy from them again.
While you may have moved on from these accounts, that doesn’t mean that your information on them isn’t there and doesn’t exist. Again, the more information about you that is spread out on the net, the more your privacy and security is compromised.
Looking up yourself may help you uncover some of these accounts, but other times, you may have to go to the far ends of your oldest email’s inbox to find them. Either way, if you’re not using them, find them and delete them. If you can’t access the account anymore, you can send the site an email and ask for it to be removed.
Use Strong Security Questions
Even with the strongest passwords, hackers may still gain access to your account just by answering a few security questions.
Many sites list very basic security questions to choose from, such as ‘what is the name of your first pet?’ or ‘what elementary school did you go to’. These are things you may have shared on social media or told someone without a second thought. Favourite food, book, show, character?
You may have purchased merch, talk about how much you love them, and make posts about them as well. If a hacker can’t guess your password but has the option to answer a security question, they may just do some research and find the answers they need to gain access.
Thus, when choosing a security question, try to pick one where the answer is something you feel you would have no reason to ever provide nor care to share, like your grandfather’s middle name, or your second childhood crush.
If you can create your own security question, I recommend coming up with something totally random, that only you would know the answer to, such as the first thing you ever stole, your imaginary friend’s last name, or a phobia you’re too embarrassed to tell anyone.
Only Use Encrypted Sites
Another great security tip is to only visit encrypted sites. How do you know if a site is encrypted? Just check for a lock symbol by the URL.
If that is not displayed, you can check the URL itself and see if it says ‘https’ as opposed to ‘http’.
The added ‘s’ stands for secure and is established by using an encryption protocol - most commonly SSL.
The SSL is a vital part of any website and an integral part of its security, if you are asking yourself what is an SSL certificate, or worried how to get one don't because we got you covered.
Most browsers may give you a warning that a site is not secure and ask if you want to still enter it. This is a great time to turn back for safety reasons if you don’t need to visit that specific site.
What Does It Mean When a Site Is Encrypted?
It means that what you do on the site can not be peeked at by others, and that any information you send on it is scrambled up for additional protection.
It also means that security on the owner's side is secure, so it is less likely to be hacked and compromised. You can relax and know that a secured site is less likely to contain viruses, malware, or malicious ads.
So what happens if you do have to visit an unsecured site? Well, visiting one isn’t going to automatically give you problems, but it’s best to be a little more cautious on how you interact with the website. Avoid clicking ads, don’t create an account with your personal information, and definitely don’t buy anything through that site.
Any big sites, such as Facebook, Amazon and Google should be secured, so if you click on a link and the lock isn’t there, there is a high possibility that it is a fake site created to collect your personal information, so always be on the lookout, and don’t hesitate to back away from unsecured sites.
Related Read: Best Free Antivirus Software
Avoid Public Wi-Fi Connections
Who doesn’t love free wifi? It helps you save your data and thus, helps you save money each month.
It also allows you to do work at your local coffee shop or watch videos while you wait for your flight.
But did you know that simply connecting to an open wifi connection is a huge security and privacy risk?
How? Well, wifi works like a radio. You send signals and information through the air to reach the router, and the router sends you information the same way.
Because your data is sent through waves in the air, anyone nearby can pick up on these too and see what information is being transferred. It’s kinda like using a walkie-talkie and snooping in on a party’s conversation.
They have no idea you’re listening as it doesn’t affect their connection at all. If you happen to sign onto a site, there is a possibility that they can see that information too and walk away with it without you ever knowing.
To make things easier for internet snoopers, there is free downloadable software like WireShark that allows people to see what is going on the internet, and it includes IP and device information, the site they are accessing and the data sent on it. While it was designed for network administrators in mind, anyone can download it and learn to use it.
However, a true cyber criminal has the potential to go above and beyond.
How Hackers Use the Public WI-FI to Trick You?
It isn’t uncommon for them to set up a free wifi connection that looks like something real, and if you connect to it, they can now see everything you do and type on your device. They can then redirect you to impersonating phishing sites to ‘log-in’, dig through your files, or install spyware and ransomware to make use of later.
So, if possible, avoid connecting to public wifi connections. If you need to use them, avoid logging in to accounts, making any financial transactions, or sharing anything personal while on these networks. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want a stranger to see.
Also, if you walk into a shop and there are no signs that mention ’free wifi’, don’t assume the free wifi connection that shows up on your phone is real. It may just be a hacker in disguise waiting for eager wifi users to connect.
Use Fake Accounts and Aliases
The internet is riddled with fake accounts and sockpuppet accounts, and with good reason. It’s a great way to use the internet and access sites without your privacy being at stake.
Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions, I’m not telling you to impersonate someone or create a catfish account.
That is not at all what I’m implying. Rather, you would use a random picture or use a picture of yourself, but don’t use your real name, birthday, city, and other details.
Many people, like myself, may have adopted this method long ago as it’s away to keep our private lives separate, or to avoid people we don’t like from finding us and stalking us. It’s not that we had anything to hide, but you don’t have to worry about your extended family finding out about your Yugioh card collection or your oversized food obsession.
In my case, I didn’t want to use my real last name on line because 1. It was the name of a city and 2. I knew people could use last names to find out where you lived with Yellowpages.
Now, if you do want to go about creating an anonymous or alias account, it does require commitment. Don’t share your real name in comments, don’t tell strangers who you really are, don’t use the same pictures that you use on your real account (reverse image can help connect them), and create a username you aren’t using elsewhere.
Best Privacy Apps UK
The privacy tips above can certainly help you keep your personal information at bay from other people and malicious actors on the internet, but you must also consider the information that your browser, devices, and sites you visit are sharing about you. Make use of the tools below to better protect your privacy.
To get onto the internet, you need a good secure browser of some kind. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and of course, the classic Internet Explorer, have been the most used browsers over the last decade.
You may be aware that browsers love to keep track of your history and preferences, but do you know that they store cookies too? What are cookies anyways?
When you visit a site, they would install a cookie on your browser which serves a few purposes. As a benefit, it helps the site recognize you, making it easier to restore your login session, preferences, cart, and so on, thus making it a more personalized experience.
However, cookies are also collecting and sharing information about you behind your back. If you’ve ever visited a site once, and then all the sudden, you’re seeing ads for a product on that site everywhere else, you can thank cookies for that.
Each site also requires a lot of third party plug-ins which may be tracking visitors, making note of what you do on that site, and figuring out what you want and like.
Even if a site doesn’t include a pop up letting you know that cookies are used (which is required by every site according to the General Data Protection Regulations or “GDPR” to let users know how their information is being used and how it is being protected).
Just know that it is happening regardless, even without them ticking any items off of the GDPR compliance checklist.
While you can always just clear your cache regularly and adjust settings to prevent cookies, it may just be easier to install a private browser that prevents tracking in the first place.
Google Chrome is obviously one of the worst browsers for privacy because Google loves collecting information. Google started as a search engine after all, so it only makes sense that they want to record everything.
As of right now, Mozilla Firefox is considered one of the best private browsers as it has many features and settings to prevent tracking and you can install other Add-Ons for additional protection. It’s even trusted and recommended by many private investigators, like me!
Which Browsers Are Secure?
Brave is also a great private browser that is newer on the block but has many high reviews when it comes to protecting one’s privacy. They are against Internet Giants getting rich off your information, and they even have a token system that you can redeem real gift cards with if you choose to allow privacy-respecting ads.
You can also opt to use The Onion Router aka Tor. Tor may have a bad rep as it is commonly known as the browser for people to access the dark web, and thus many associate it with drugs, guns and human trafficking...
But if even the smartest criminals trust it for anonymity and keeping their ‘private business’ private, you should too.
It is free for anyone to download and use, and due to the use of multiple servers, it makes it quite hard for anyone, including the government, to track you.
Private Search Engines
While having a more secure browser is great, you should still consider the additional sites and tools while using that browser, and one thing we all use quite often is search engines.
Many of us have a habit of automatically going to Google when we need to do some research, but as mentioned above, Google loves to collect information.
Google will also keep track of what you look up and the sites you visit to create targeted ads for you. However, you’ll be happy to know that there are private search engines out there that you can use and that you may really like.
DuckDuckGo is a crowd favourite for privacy, and it pulls information from over 400 sources. It has a very similar feel and layout to Google which also makes it easy to switch to. If you’re using the Tor browser, it is automatically installed as the main search engine.
Let’s just admit it, we all hate ads. They get in the way of content, pop up multiple times on a 10 minute Youtube video, and some are just unnecessarily raunchy and embarrassing (Anime fans know what I’m talking about).
This is why many have chosen to install an Ad blocking extension so they can avoid these annoying and intrusive beasts, but there remains controversy on the topic. Ad revenue is the main income for many sites and creators, and thus some sites won’t even let you browse unless you deactivate your blocker first.
Ads as a whole isn’t a bad thing. It allows everyone to view the content for free and the creator still gets paid. Heck, some people may actually see an ad and end up buying what was advertised. However, ads have been known to contain viruses, worms and trojans. These kinds of ads even have their own name: Malvertising.
Without even clicking on the ad, just by it being displayed on your screen, hackers and cybercriminals can gain access to your device and install trackers and spyware to collect your information, slow down your computer, push advertisements saying “Your Computer Is Infected”, in hopes that you will download further malware or pay them a fee for the cleaning software.
If you already suspect your PC is infected by malware, make sure you use one of the best malware scanners available and avoid being scammed by fake malware cleaning services.
Other alternatives are locking your computer and holding it for ransom, selling your private information on the darkweb, or using private content as blackmail material. So one must never underestimate the power of an ad, especially ones that come from unencrypted websites.
Some popular ad blocking browser extensions include AdBlock, Adblocker ultimate, Ublock, and Ghostery.
I’ve mentioned encryption a few times in the article, but let me be a little more specific as it will apply to the next few tips as well.
When something is encrypted, the contents data is scrambled up in a way that is impossible to understand if seen by someone. It is saved and/or sent as a code that is much more complex than those cipher games in puzzle books.
Only those who have a key or have been granted access to the content can view the content in its original form.
You’ll be happy to know that most computers have a way to encrypt files without installing additional software or tools.
For Windows, it can be quite simple:
- ‘Right click’ into the properties of the file.
- Clicking advance
- Checking the box that says encrypt.
If you would like to encrypt your disk, Bitlocker is available on Microsoft, and FileVault is available on Macs.
Private Email Solutions
There are many times when you may want a message or email to be more secure than usual, especially when handling confidential business plans or submitting banking information.
Lucky for you, there are 3 things you can consider if you want to submit private information or documents over the web.
The first is to encrypt the files itself and send the key separately. If you are looking for something for your business, you may consider paying for software like Virtru’s TDF which allows companies to encrypt files and keep track of their information.
It was initially created to help gaps in the transfer of information between federal agencies, but is now being used by many businesses.
Secure Email Providers
Second is to use a more secure email provider. You may be surprised to know that general email providers may keep an eye on keywords you use and may snoop in on other things, but private email providers go a step above to make sure your information is protected.
If you want a day to day email provider that keeps things within your company, you could try Thunderbird, which is owned by Mozilla, or Zoho, which also has many other apps to help any business run and stay connected.
Lastly, you can use a very strict email provider. These let you create an account without providing personal information. It doesn’t keep track of IP addresses, you can create as many additional email addresses that you need, you can send an email without a ‘from’ address, and you can even use two factor authentication!
Related Read: Best Email Hosting Providers
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
VPNs are the talk of the town, and many sites and Youtubers are promoting them these days, but...what exactly is it? And do you really need one?
VPN stands for ‘Virtual Private Network’. Any quality VPN (there are some bad ones) creates a private, encrypted, personal network connection that no one else can snoop in on.
Not others on the same network, not the government, not even your Internet Provider, thus providing true privacy, anonymity, and security. This is ensured through using different VPN protocols, which is too complicated of a topic to discuss here.
VPNs also allow you to mask your location or use a server in another country, so you can better protect yourself against potential hackers, stalkers (great for influencers), and get the extra benefit of viewing content that is restricted in your own country.
Best of all, VPNs are quite cheap! If you choose to pay month to month, it can be closer to £10/month, but if you’re willing to pay for a 2 or 3 year package in advance, you could end up paying under £5/month for some services.
I think it is a great way to add additional protection and privacy, especially if you rely on public wifi connections from your public library or school.
Best Quality VPNs
And while it is possible to find a free VPN service to use, they are not recommended. Since they lack funding, they may lack servers, may not encrypt your data, may lack security updates, and may even keep track of your logs. Some free VPNs may even be selling your information to make money, thus defeating the purpose of a VPN in the first place.
In countries like China where the internet is heavily monitored by the government, they are aware that citizens may be trying to use VPNs to receive or send information into the world, so China has created them to trap their own citizens. Trust me, it is much better to pay a few dollars a month than take a risk with a free VPN.
Related Read: Best Free VPN
The last tool that you may want to consider using is a password manager. If creating multiple, long passwords sounds like a headache to you, it may be worth it to invest in one.
A password manager is just as it sounds, it manages all your passwords for all your accounts. While you can choose to save your own unique passwords, it has the option to create and store long, original passwords.
It will then autofill them as needed, thus keeping your passwords safe from prying eyes.
All you have to remember is the master password for your account.
Cloud (online) based password managers are all the rage because you don’t have to worry about losing access to everything if your laptop stops working or your phone is stolen. Some of the best rated ones are NordPass, LastPass, and Roboform. DashLane is also highly rated and is completely free for up to 50 passwords!
If you’re good with passwords and have taken the effort to create a variety of strong ones to protect your assets, great! I personally like keeping my passwords to myself as I’m not very trusting towards technology as a whole, and I still use USB thumb drives and external hard drives to save my documents, just in case.
However, if you find it frustrating remembering more than a couple passwords, or if you’re trying to find a solution for an elderly family member, definitely look into a password manager.
Privacy Considerations for Other Devices
When people think of cyber security, they usually don’t think beyond computers. However, any ‘smart device’ that is connected to the internet can also invade your privacy and sell your personal information to advertisers. If you have or are considering buying any of the devices below, you should definitely take a moment to enhance it’s security.
Smartphone privacy can be a little difficult because just by using the handheld device, you have to agree to some conditions, which often require some permissions to your private information.
However, each brand is still different in regards to how much information they collect.
While Apple does collect users information, it doesn’t share it with as many third parties as other companies, and won’t even give access to authorities in the midst of an investigation.
Android, on the other hand, is a completely different story when you consider that they are owned by Google. And, as I’ve twice above already, Google loves to collect information on it’s users.
Related Read: How to Delete Google History Completely
Although you can’t deny permissions completely, and your personal information may be required for the phone to even function, you can still take many steps to protect your privacy, such as adjusting settings and requesting that they delete information collected on you.
The biggest privacy risk when it comes to your smartphone, however, is in downloading third party apps. Every app you have is collecting data on you, and you don’t know what they’re doing with it or who they’re sharing it with. So if you have any apps you aren’t using nor really need, definitely take a moment to uninstall them.
Also, never install apps from outside sources as they may contain malware or spyware. While apps in your phone’s store aren’t necessarily foolproof when it comes to infections, installing apps from unknown sources are said to be 80X more dangerous than those inside an app store.
As for other general privacy tips, can:
- Disable location tracking and GPS when not in use
- Disable lock screen notifications
- Turn off Google Ads personalization
- Install a VPN app
- Use private folders
- Use encryption like Solid Explorer
- Use private browsers
- Keep up with security updates
- Disable backups
Virtual assistants are quickly gaining traction, the most popular ones being Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.
These smart virtual assistants allow users ease and convenience by answering questions, setting alarms, playing music, making orders, and calling people all by the command of a voice.
If you have other smart devices such as tvs, lightbulbs, door locks, thermostats, ovens, blinds, vacuums and coffee makers, your virtual assistant can control those as well.
The security and privacy aspect of virtual assistants have been questioned since they must be constantly listening to hear their name being called.
While the creators of these devices claim they aren’t listening nor saving audio input outside of you calling on them, it is still a good idea to do your due diligence when installing or using one of these virtual assistants, and be cautious of where you place these devices.
If you still want to have one in your home, check security settings, and physically turn off the mic if you are ever having any private conversations, just in case.
Smart watches are another device that has gained popularity, especially the FitBit and Apple Watch. In fact, over 20 million smart watches were sold in 2019 and 2020!
Why wouldn’t they be popular? They’re not just a watch that lets you check the time, they let you check your messages, social media, and calendar without pulling out your phone. You can listen to music, make calls, and get directions on the go.
It can assist with health and fitness goals by keeping track of your heart rate and steps, and if you have a smart home set up, you can use it to control your lights, heating, and security. Some even use their smart watches for shopping transactions!
Everything you could possibly need is right on your wrist. However, like every smart device, these too can be compromised.
The main privacy issue when it comes to smart watches is that they tend to use Bluetooth for connectivity. Bluetooth has always been known for its vulnerability to attacks due to its low encryption. If default passwords aren’t changed, your device can easily be hacked.
For more information about smart watch security and advice on what you should do, check out this article by Kaspersky.
Another popular smart device that more people are installing into their homes are security cameras.
I mean, it does sound like a great idea. Through your phone, you can keep an eye on your home, your kids, pets, and packages. If you’re ever away from home or have a babysitter, it’s a great way to ensure nothing fishy is going on.
However, you could unknowingly be broadcasting your life to the world if you don’t properly secure your cameras.
For you to view your cameras outside of your home, these devices have to be hooked up to the internet, and just like anything that is connected to the internet, it is vulnerable to breaches and hacks. If you can view your camera from another screen, so can hackers if they bypass your password.
Some cyber criminals don’t even have to crack anything because many people don’t set up a password on their cameras, or leave it as the default password, which may be searchable online.
If your camera doesn’t have a password, it may even be picked up by sites like Insecam is currently being streamed to the world for free. It is very common to see front porches, livingrooms, and even a baby’s bedroom on these sites.
It’s clear that the people on these cameras are unaware that their private lives are being broadcasted to the world and I don’t know about you, but that’s probably the biggest invasion of privacy I could think of. The information collected could be used for blackmail, robberies, and more.
A great video that covers the risks of security cameras and smart devices is this one from CBC’s Marketplace. I definitely recommend checking that out even if you don’t have a smart home device so you can see how hackers work.
And if you are still interested in owning a security camera, make sure both your security camera and your WiFi connection is secured. Use a strong unique password for each, install updates when available, and use two factor authentication if possible.
The last device I want to cover on this list is gaming devices.
Gone are the days when gaming consisted of only a device and a cartridge, and when multiplayer meant your friend had to be in the same room, or even right beside you connected via cable (good times, good times).
Nowadays, whether you play Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox or game on your PC, the internet is used to purchase games, download additional content, install applications, and face other players.
You are expected to register the device with your personal details, create an account on their servers, and store your credit card for online purchases. I hope you see where I am going with this.
Being connected to the internet leaves you open to potential hackers, stalkers, or sore losers, and just like smart phones, the companies who created these devices are collecting information, as stated in your contract.
Keeping Safe While Gaming
Luckily, there are still ways to take action and prevent being tracked, targetted, or hacked by adjusting your security and privacy settings early. I would also recommend installing a VPN on your device if possible, but note that there is a chance of it slowing down your game.
You also risk being banned if the game thinks you are cheating by using one (This happened to many people who played Pokemon Go for example), but in general, there shouldn’t be any issues.
And, like on any social media platform, don’t post your real name, give hints about your location, nor share other personal information like your phone number or email.
I hope this article has been insightful on why you should take your privacy seriously, along with the steps you could take to better protect it.
A little effort can go a long way when it comes to staying safe online. Taking a few preventive steps while you have the chance can mean avoiding being a victim of a huge breach later.
Be sure to share these tips with your loved ones and always be on guard when it comes to giving your personal information online.