Use a Password Manager
Coming up with effective passwords for every site you visit is tedious; remembering all of them is nearly impossible. Password managers do that work for you—and they do it better. Some are free; the good ones are not. But any password manager is better than none. Get one.
Update Your Software
Yes, those incessant reminders to update the software on your computer and phone are annoying. They’re also good recommendations. Software updates often include security patches—bits of code to address vulnerabilities in operating systems and programs. Think of it this way: old, outdated software has spent a lot of time in the hands of hackers. They know the flaws and how to exploit them. Software updates fix those weaknesses.
Learn More: Say Yes to Software Updates
Be Cautious with Email
Assume anything you send in an email will be read by someone other than the person to whom you’ve addressed it. So don’t send sensitive info via email: personal secrets, social security numbers and banking information should all stay out of your emails. And on the receiving end, treat any strange, out-of-the-ordinary email you get with suspicion. If a friend writes out of the blue to ask you for money, it’s probably not your friend writing. And never click on links in an email if you aren’t 100% certain about who sent it to you.
Use a VPN
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) provide encrypted connections between your computer and a server. When you use a VPN, it’s a lot more difficult for anyone to intercept and make sense out of the information flowing to and from your computer or phone. Lots of companies sell effective, affordable VPNs. Here’s a recent review of some popular options. Full disclosure: our parent company, Blindcut, offers a VPN, too. It’s a good option!
Learn more: What’s a VPN, and Why Do I Need One?
Protect Your Credit Cards
Every time you use your credit card online you open yourself up to potential identity theft or worse. Use a VPN, or pay with a service like Paypal, using two factor identification.
Keep Your Address Book to Yourself
You’ve just downloaded a new app, and it asks for access to your address book. Giving it access to your address book makes you vulnerable to snoops, hackers and data-miners. Keep your Address Book private.
Opt Out of Cloud Records
Healthcare providers and schools are trying to streamline their systems by uploading their patient and student records to the cloud. When possible, decline this option. Keep your sensitive data out of the cloud.
Does the email seem a little off? Does the app seem too eager for you to share personal data? Does it seem too easy to get that $100 coupon off your next purchase? If it seems too good or too dire to be true, it probably is. Invite the skeptic into your brain and put on your critical lens. Sadly, the internet is not as free and wonderful as you want it to be.
Don’t Share Your Location
Sharing your location puts your privacy—and perhaps your safety—at risk. That’s the downside, and it outweighs just about any upside. When an application, like Snapchat, or website asks to access your location or share it, just say no.
Make Searches Safer for Kids
Use a child-safe search engine that doesn’t allow advertising or let third-party hosts track their digital activity. Some options include Kiddle, Quark, Duck Duck Go, or our favorite Seekadoo. Ensure that letting your child online doesn’t expose them to inappropriate content or compromise their privacy.
Visit our sister site Seekadoo to learn about our kid-friendly search engine.