Your info safe online — for beginners

Security word with a clickable cursor on top of it.

With the start of new a new year(not a new decade, please), social media has been flooded with retrospective photos and facts of what has changed in people’s lives in the past 10 years, and if you are trying to remember who you were in 2010 know that google can do it for you, just go to www.myactivity.google.com and see all your search history. Or if you want to remember where you were, you can find it on Google Maps, your timeline.

Scary isn’t it?

So that’s why here it’s my list of simple things you can do to keep your information safe (or as much as possible).

1. Use search engines that don’t track your search history, like DuckDuckGo.

When you use Google on Incognito mode it will hide your history from your computer, not from the companies, but DuckDuckGo blocks track engines and keeps your search history private, it also doesn’t sell your data for advertisement.

Another good option is to use Brave browser. It fights malware and prevents tracking, keeping your information safe and secure, and because it was built in Chromium, if you already use Google Chrome, you won’t feel any difference.

2. Deactivate Google’s history of your location.

It can be nostalgic to find out where that nice restaurant you went in 2012 was, but it can also feel a little bit creepy to know that your path from school to home has been registered since you were a teenager.

Google affirms this information is kept private and only you can access it, but if you want to, you can easily stop it by going to your google maps, options, your timeline, location settings and pause it.

3. Do not tag important places on your social media.

You are your worst enemy when the subject is keeping things private, especially if you are an active Instagram, Facebook or Twitter user, it can be tempting to post a photo and tag where your new job is, but maybe just the photo is information enough.

Places like where you work, live, or any place you might go often shouldn’t be easy to find on your open-to-the-public Instagram account.

4. Be careful with WHO you are sharing your information.

If it’s either online or over the phone, be careful with who you are sharing your information with, the best way to know that they are legitimate is to contact them directly, so if you receive an email asking for your bank password, you might need to double-check if it’s them(just kidding, banks NEVER ask for your information, online or in the phone, do not give your password to anyone).

5. Be careful with WHAT you are sharing your information.

Some apps might need to access some information from your accounts or phone. Always be mindful of what you are sharing, some apps like myFitnessPal have had security breaches in the past, so don’t let your new year’s resolution have access to what it doesn’t need.

So once in a while check your phone, see if one of the forgotten apps you have is currently accessing your location, for example, with no clear reason why.

6. Have safe passwords.

This means, do not use the same password to every website, and if possible, don’t log in to every app with your main email. If you want to know if your email account has been compromised in any way, just do a quick search on https://haveibeenpwned.com/, it doesn’t mean that you should delete your email and burn it with fire, but if it’s the same email you use to access your bank, maybe you should change it.

You can also use password management tools, where they will create and store all of them, some will also store your response to your Password Security Questions, so instead of using your mother’s maiden name (that sometimes can be easily found on Facebook), they will use something that can’t be guessed.

The easier way to breach security is through human error, not from a hacker drinking coke in a dark room typing SQL injections in a black-themed terminal.

7. Cookie settings.

Cookies are messages that web servers pass to your web browser when you visit Internet sites. Your browser stores each message in a small file, called cookie.txt. When you request another page from the server, your browser sends the cookie back to the server. These files typically contain information about your visit to the web page, as well as any information you've volunteered, such as your name and interests (source).

When going to a website they usually ask you if they can collect your information through cookies, it can be daunting to uncheck all the boxes, and quite often they can be extremely misleading, some websites won’t even allow you to access their content if you don’t agree to it, so it’s important to give you enough time and attention to make sure you are not sharing anything you don’t want to.

Some browsers will automatically block cookies, if you use Google Chrome you can add an extension to your browser and manage them manually, my personal choice is EditThisCookie.

Bonus: Have a good AntiVirus

More than just to keep your information safe online, it is to keep it safe everywhere, so make sure you have a good antivirus installed, and it’s even better if it’s an antivirus you paid for, as usually they are updated in a more regular basis, my personal choice is ESET.

And always make sure that all your software are updated, computers and smartphones, as they are not just to change the UI (User Interface), they also will try to protect you from any possible breach they might have found in their side.

Conclusion

Just to finish it up, most times you just need to be mindful, use your brain and don’t give information away. While you might think, who would want anything from me, a broke student, remember that once your information is online it’s almost impossible to get rid of it, and we never know who might be interested in it in the future.

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