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7 steps you can take this weekend to protect your data and boost your privacy

  • January 17, 2020
  • 9 min read
7 steps you can take this weekend to protect your data and boost your privacy

++It’s not our devices that are our most valuable assets — it’s the data we create and store on them.

Laptops can be repurchased and operating systems can always be reinstalled, but the user-created data — the photos we take, the stories we write, the records we keep — that’s the stuff that can never be replaced.

Thankfully, personal data protection isn’t rocket science. In this blog post, we’ll show you seven simple things you can do to reduce the risk of data theft and protect your online privacy.

Note: The following advice is up to date and relevant for the sophisticated threats circulating in 2020. The products mentioned below are not paid advertisements or officially endorsed by Emsisoft. They’re just good, reliable products that are personally used or highly rated by our own malware analysts.

Step 1: Update your software

Many threats rely on exploiting known security flaws. To prevent this from happening, software developers regularly release updates to fix these vulnerabilities and keep their applications more secure.

As a user, it’s important that you always update your operating system, antivirus software and other applications when prompted and enable automatic updates wherever possible.

To see if your version of Windows is up to date, press Windows key + I > Update & Security > Check for updates.

To see if your version of macOS is up to date, click on the Apple icon at the top-left area of your screen, select About This Mac, then select Software Updates.

Step 2: Invest in good antivirus software

Hundreds of thousands of new malware strains are released into the world every single day.

Windows Defender provides a rudimentary layer of security against these threats, but for more reliable data protection you might want to consider investing in a proven antivirus solution.

There are a number of good candidates to choose from and a lot of things to consider when weighing up your options. Depending on your needs, factors such as detection rates, usability, impact on system performance, price, customer support and the company’s approach to data privacy may form the basis of your decision.

If you’re in the market for a privacy-conscious antivirus solution that won’t slow down your system, download a free 30-day trial of Emsisoft Anti-Malware and see if we’ll be a good fit.

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Step 3: Take control of your passwords

A weak password is an easy access point for cybercriminals. Strengthening all your passwords can take some time, but it’s absolutely worth the effort.

If you suspect that you’ve used weak passwords in the past or think that you might have used the same password for multiple accounts, you’ll need to go back and change them. If you can’t remember all of the services you’ve signed up for over the years, there are a few ways to track down the various accounts linked to your email address:

We do not recommend using automated tools such as EmailExport and Deseat, as these services require permission to read your inbox in order to function.

We also do not recommend using in-browser password managers. While they can be useful for tracking down old accounts, they can be easily viewed with some very basic workarounds, so be sure to delete or disable them as soon as you’ve obtained the information you need.

Once you’ve found an online account, you’ll need to create a new password for it. Each password you make should be:

Remembering hundreds of long, unique, random passwords is going to be tough, so make your life easier by using a password manager. KeePass is a reputable, free, open-source password manager, but if you want something a bit easier on the eyes, you could consider Dashlane, Bitwarden or RoboForm.

Step 4: Improve browser privacy

While it’s more or less impossible to be completely anonymous online, there are a number of things you can do to boost your privacy:

Step 5: Enable multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an authentication system that requires you to provide multiple pieces of evidence that prove you are who you say you are. For example, your bank may require you to input a token-generated one-time use password to login to your account, or your email provider might require you to enter a verification code sent to your phone in order to log in.

While MFA is not an infallible solution and can be vulnerable to phishing and man-in-the-middle attacks, it does provide an extra layer of security to your online accounts and can stop many low-effort attacks. If a service supports MFA, you’ll usually be able to enable it in the security settings.

Step 6: Secure your phone

Your phone is a treasure trove of personal information, so it’s important to take the time to make it as secure as possible. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Step 7: Use HTTPS Everywhere

Hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) is a protocol used to securely send data between your browser and a website.

Unlike regular old HTTP, which transmits data in clear text that can easily be intercepted and read by an eavesdropper, HTTPS establishes an encrypted link between your browser and the web server using the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol.

This verifies the connection between your browser and the web server and encrypts your data, reducing the risk of an attacker intercepting your data and ensuring that any data that is intercepted cannot be read or modified.

More and more websites are moving to HTTPS, but some sites make it difficult to use by defaulting to HTTP or linking to unencrypted versions of the site, which can impact your security and privacy. The browser extension HTTPS Everywhere fixes this issue by automatically enabling HTTPS encryption on all sites that support HTTPS, and can be configured to block all non-HTTPS connections.

HTTPS Everywhere is available on all the major browsers. Download and install it here.

Conclusion

Everybody has the right to privacy online. While many services play fast and loose with their privacy policies, there are many things you can do as a user to protect your privacy and increase data security without spending a single dollar.

If you do want to take things to the next level, splashing out on a premium antivirus solution and a password manager will only cost you a total of about $10 per month and can have a dramatic impact on your online safety, privacy and security.

Jareth

Jareth

Writer. A picture is worth a thousand words but unfortunately I can't draw. The world of IT security has always fascinated me and I love playing a small role in helping the good guys combat malware.

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