5 ways to keep your private information safe online

Why should you keep your information offline or private? Below are the biggest reasons someone might want to keep their private information safe. Why should you keep your information offline or private? Below are the biggest reasons someone might want to keep their private information safe online.

Identity Theft
Identity theft is something that many people are familiar with today. When someone steals your identity, they can use your personal information in ways that you never would have imagined. Your credit card number can be stolen, then used without your knowledge. You could potentially lose money if you do not catch it in time. If you have been the victim of identity theft before, you may want to make sure that you are aware of how to prevent this from happening again.

Cyberbullying is another way that people are able to steal your personal information. Cyberbullying is when someone sends messages or posts pictures of you that are inappropriate. Sometimes cyberbullying includes threats to physically harm you. There are laws in place to help protect victims of cyberbullying; however, you should still take precautions to ensure that you are doing everything possible to protect yourself.

Spam Messages
Spam messages are unsolicited emails sent out to hundreds or thousands of addresses at once. These types of messages are often sent to gather email addresses, but some people send them just for fun. Spammers can try to sell you things, ask you to pay for products or services, or even request your personal information.

Online Shopping Fraud
Online shopping fraud is when someone goes into a store and buys items using your name or bank account information. Once the items are purchased, the person returns home and sells the items. This is not only embarrassing, but it can cause you financial problems. It is recommended that you avoid giving out your full name or banking information while shopping online.

Social Engineering
Social engineering occurs when someone tries to trick you into providing sensitive information. Someone could call you pretending to be affiliated with your workplace and get you to give out your login credentials. Or, they could pretend to be from a utility company and ask you to verify your address.

Account Hacking
Hacking accounts is when someone gains access to your social networking pages or email accounts. Hackers can gain access to your personal information and use it for their own purposes. Even worse, they might post false information about you on these sites.

Malware Attacks
Malware attacks are similar to hacking accounts. However, malware attacks occur when viruses are put onto your computer or device. This can happen to anyone, whether you surf the web on public Wi-Fi or connect your personal computer to a network. Viruses can slow down your computer's performance and allow hackers access to your private files.

5 ways to help protect your information and keep it private

1. Avoid free Wi-Fi hotspots
Free Wi-Fi hotspots are convenient places to get online, but they often have issues with security. These problems range from simple password issues to malicious hackers who could potentially gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. Always avoid using public Wi-Fi networks unless you know that they are safe or are using a VPN to connect, or alternatively use your phone as a WiFi hotspot if using a laptop. This will be more secure than an open WiFi hotspot because it will be secured with a passphrase.

2. Use a VPN service
VPN (Virtual Private Network) services allow users to connect their computers to a secure network where they can access the Internet privately. You may have heard about these services before, but did you know that they are extremely easy to use? A VPN service encrypts all of the data that travels between your computer and the websites you visit. This means that even if someone were able to intercept the traffic traveling between your computer and the website, they would not be able to read any of the confidential information being transmitted. Mullvad VPN and NordVPN are my top picks for VPN providers.

3. Use antivirus and don't download anything without using a trusted browser
When downloading files or software from the Internet, always make sure that you only do so via a trusted browser. If you want to check whether the site you're visiting is legitimate, click the lock icon in the address bar of your browser. This indicates that the site belongs to a recognized digital certificate authority, making it trustworthy. If you have downloaded a file that seems suspicious you should scan it using a reputable antivirus program instead of running or opening it directly. Many services such as Google Drive will automatically scan files for viruses or malicious software, but for other times it is best to use antivirus software.

4. Be careful what cookies you accept
Cookies are small pieces of information stored in your browser. While some sites require cookies to operate properly while others don't, many people mistakenly believe that all sites need cookies to function. However, that's simply not true. In fact, many sites use cookies specifically to collect information to help sell products. You should be wary of accepting cookies from unknown and untrustworthy sites, especially those that ask for personal information.

5. Check out the privacy policy on a site before you submit any information
While many websites claim that they respect your privacy, it's still wise to verify that they actually do. Every company has a different way of protecting your information, so look closely at each page of a website's privacy policy before submitting any personal data. Pay attention to how your data is stored and whether it is encrypted at rest. If your data is encrypted at rest this will help mitigate against your personal information being leaked in the event of a data breach.

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