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Protecting Yourself in the Digital World

digital-padlockInternet security is a serious matter. It can be a hassle, but you should be certain that you are following as many security protocols as you can reasonably manage. Of course, if you aren’t too well-versed in Internet safety protocol, it can be difficult to even know how to begin with ensuring your online security. Here are a few things you can do to help you start improving your privacy and security online, and prevent yourself from becoming the target of hackers. The optimal solution would be to follow all of these protocols, but you will need to figure out which ones you are reasonably able to follow.

Protect Yourself From Tracking

Virtually every website you interact with on a regular basis performs some kind of tracking. They may be tracking your searches, your reading habits, your viewing habits, the kinds of music you listen to, etc. mainly in the interest of directing highly-targeted ads at you. If you’ve ever noticed ads on Facebook or in Gmail for items you’ve previously viewed or that use keywords that might appear on your profile or in your emails, this is a good example of the way these service providers are using the data they track from you. There are lots of ways you can protect against this kind of tracking:

  • If you use any of the major browsers, you should be sure to install an adblocker. This will prevent annoying, obtrusive ads from interrupting your user experience.
  • Install the Ghostery browser extension for whichever browser you are using. This extension allows you to view all of the tracking programs that any given website is using. You can disable as many or as few of these trackers as you want. This comes in handy as some websites will refuse functionality to you if you are not enabling ads and tracking, so there may be times when you do want to disable your blocking.
  • Disable JavaScript. This may also disrupt your user experience with certain websites, but JavaScript often leaks important user information so if you really want tight security, you should block it. Try the NoScript or scriptno extensions because they, like the Ghostery extension, will allow you to selectively run JavaScript so you can allow it to function on websites where its operation is crucial.
  • Be sure to block cookies in your browser from third party sources. Make it a regular habit to clear the cache in your browser and manage your cookies.
  • Don’t allow location tracking unless you need it. Lots of websites and apps will now ask to get access to your location, regardless of the actual function of their site or app. Only allow location tracking when you actually need it for purpose-specific tasks like using a map for directions.
  • Protect yourself on social media. Consider using fake names or dedicated email addresses for your social media accounts. Consider using different names and email addresses for each profile.  

Protect Your Online Business

If you own a website, you’ll want to be certain that you are protected against security breaches of every kind. Here are a few things you can do to help protect your website:

  • Make sure you are using secure web hosting. Poorly managed servers are a huge security risk, so if you need to receive any sensitive data from customers (and this could include things as seemingly innocuous as their usernames), you will need to be extra certain that your web hosting is perfectly secure. Do research on the web hosting company you are considering to make sure they are credentialed and to find out what their protocols are for disaster management. For example, should their collocation center be caught in the middle of a flood, what are their protocols to make sure no damage is done to your servers?
  • Invest in security software to help protect against a DDoS attack and other security breaches. Websites that are particular targets for attack include high-profile websites, websites that engage with many viewers in a day, and websites that handle sensitive information like credit card numbers or user birthdays and passwords. Hackers will try to access secure information through your website or may try to prevent proper service in order to embarrass or discredit you.

Taking More Serious Measures as a Regular User

There are many other measures you can take to make your web experience even more secure. For example, you can start using Tor for browsing. Tor uses multiple layers of encryption to protect your identity and your search histories. You can also set up a virtual machine where you can open files downloaded from the Internet to prevent tracking this way. Taking measures like this will depend on your level of web savviness and you may end up having to work your way up to enacting these security measures. For the time being, start with the measures that do not directly disrupt your user experience, and work your way up from there!


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