Seven brief ways not to hang your virtual underwear out in public
If you’re online, you’re a target – for cyber-criminals, advertisers, trackers, and governments. While there is no single silver-bullet solution, taking a few steps in the right direction will reduce the chances of someone violating your online privacy and security.
1. Antivirus – You still need it
While many security firms have recently been criticized for actually lowering their users’ security, the fact remains – you still need a good AV software on your device. Take a look at the independent test results and choose accordingly. And by the way, Avira won the “Product of the year” award from AV-Comparatives.
2. Update that software
If you use a software – update it. If you don’t – remove it. Both cyber-criminals and governments look for holes in software that can be exploited. The more holes, the more easily you can fall victim to malware. Do this dreary task yourself, or get the Avira Software Updater to do it automatically for you. And speaking of removing it, think about removing Adobe Flash from your device.
3. Get a real password
123456 is not a secure password. And neither is the name of your cute little puppy. And please don’t reuse this puppy’s name for all of your online accounts. Thanks to advances in password cracking software, the length and complexity of secure passwords are now beyond the ability of most mortals to remember them. For this reason, it is time to consider using a password manager such as the Avira Password Manager that will create secure passwords for you, sync this information across your device portfolio, and leave you with the more manageable task of remembering one Master Password.
4. Use a full-fledged VPN
Much of your online life is written out on postcards – easy to write and very easy for anyone to read between your device and the recipient. With a VPN, these HTTP data packets can be placed in a secure envelope that does two primary tasks. First, this encrypted envelope keeps people from looking at your private messages within. Second, you can decide on the virtual return address, allowing you to circumvent geo-IP restrictions and see the content you want to see. But not all VPNs are alike – and that is why I said “full-fledged.” Quite a few VPNs for Android are proxy VPNs which only allow users to go around geo-IP restrictions but do very little encryption and can also serve users malvertising. Get a real VPN like the Avira Phantom – whether you are using an Android, iPhone, Mac, or Windows device…
5. Check it at the door
The browser is the potential doorway for bad stuff to come into your computer – and private data about you to go out.
One layer of protection is a browser add-on such as the Avira Browser Safety which IDs infected and phishing sites. This is a natural compliment to Avira Antivirus. Your browser also sees a lot of information about you go out the door through various trackers. You have the power to stop this with the Avira Scout browser, which takes a double-barreled approach, combining the Privacy Badger from Electronic Frontier Foundation with Avira Browser Safety (ABS) to identify and block trackers.
6. Tackle the ads
Superbowl LI is over and you probably don’t want to see any more ads about walls and beer. Malvertising – malicious, false, data-stealing advertisements – is a fact of the internet. The recent debacle where Google served British government ads alongside some alt-right sites is a clear example that the online advertisement market is not under control.
One way around this swamp is to have an ad blocker, shutting out those potentially irritating ads before they can reach your monitor.
But, the spread of adblockers also comes as publications are under increased financial pressure. Moving beyond the binary choice of yes or no for ads, many ad blockers allow users put some whitelist ads from some sites. A second option is to use a second browser only for the sites which cut you out if you don’t want to see their ads.
7. Think about your home exposure
As IoT devices become commonplace, whether a connected doll or a security camera, home privacy became a tricky concept. Then came the holiday flood of voice-triggered virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and you wonder if privacy is just a historical holdover from the past. Before buying any more IoT devices, take two precautionary steps. First, do a web search for the potential device and see what security experts have reported about the device. At the top of my list is Krebsonsecurity.com, as the site pulls in a wealth of informed content from throughout the security industry. Second, when it comes to Alexa, try adding a PIN code to prevent accidental dollhouse purchases.
What do you do to ensure your online privacy and security?