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The advancements recorded in technology and internet use have helped humanity in no small measure. Not only has the world become a global village, but the convenience these have brought is also unprecedented. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of using the internet is the unnecessary exposure it creates for its users.

There is also an increasing vulnerability to online threats. Maintaining online privacy is having the ability to keep your personal information and whatever activities you carry out online safe and confidential. Many people do not know how to do this but can learn from this article.

Risks of Engaging in Online Activities

You must protect your privacy online as this is what can ensure that your personal data is not stolen or misused. There are practical tips that can be very useful to keep you protected when you are online. You must understand that several potential risks are associated with the different activities you may want to do online.

Cybercriminals employ different tactics to lay their hands on their victims' information, such as hacking, phishing, and malware designed to steal personal information. The stolen personal details of these victims can be used to commit different malicious activities such as fraud or identity theft.

An example is what happened to Credit Bureau Equifax in 2017 when it suffered a data breach. The personal information of millions of individuals, along with their birth dates, Social Security numbers, and addresses, were exposed. A data breach such as this can lead to severe financial losses as well as identity theft for the people that are so affected.

When you are engaged in any activity online, you should understand its potential risks. More importantly, it would be best to acquaint yourself with the necessary steps to protect your privacy.

How to Safeguard Your Information Online

The following are some of the measures you can take to safeguard your information online:

Strengthen your passwords

One of the most critical steps that you should consider taking to protect your online privacy is strengthening your passwords. You should endeavour to use a strong and unique password, as this is your first line of defence against cybercriminals and hackers. People have resorted to password managers, which are helpful not only for creating passwords but also for keeping passwords safe and organised.

The following are tips that can help you create strong passwords;

  • Create passwords using uppercase and lowercase numbers, letters, and symbols
  • Use different passwords for the various accounts you hold online
  • Avoid using some passwords that people commonly use, such as "123456" or "password123."     
  • Do not use personal information such as birthday, name, or address as a password

If you have many online accounts and it is proving difficult to remember all of them, you can use a password manager. Password tools are software that can help you to make and store strong and unique passwords for every online account you have.

Use two-factor authentication

Apart from using strong passwords, one other effective way of protecting your online accounts is by enabling two-factor authentication (2FA). Using two-factor authentication can help create an extra layer of security that forces users to provide two types of identification before access to an account is granted.

The two types of identification used are usually your password with a unique code sent to your email address or phone. When you have two-factor authentication enabled, it becomes harder for hackers to access your personal accounts, even if they can somehow have your passwords.

It is essential to have two-factor authentication enabled for your accounts containing sensitive information such as bank account details, email accounts, or social media accounts. Getting two-factor authentication enabled is not tricky, but the steps involved may differ from one account to another.

The first place to check in whatever account you want this enabled is the settings. Check if there is an option for Security or Two-Factor Authentication, and follow whatever prompts you are given to set it up. When you have enabled the two-factor authentication on your account, it will become necessary for you to provide the unique code sent to you before you can log into your account.

Do not share your personal information online

Many people show no caution when sharing their information online because the internet has made it so easy now. However, such people risk sharing too much of their information and putting themselves at risk of cyberstalking, identity theft, and other privacy violations.

There are a few tips that, when followed, can help you stay protected when online.

Mind what you post

Carefully consider if it is necessary to share your personal information online—endeavor to refrain from sharing your phone number, address, full name, and other sensitive information.

Keep your social media profiles private

There is the option to keep what you post on some social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, private. Doing this can make you show your posts and profile information only to people you want.

Limit how you use public Wi-Fi

Most public Wi-Fi networks are insecure; when you use them, hackers can easily intercept your online activity. If you must use public Wi-Fi networks, avoid accessing sensitive information such as online transactions and banking during the period.

Review your privacy settings regularly

Form a habit of constantly reviewing your privacy settings on whatever types of apps and services you use. Ensure that you understand which of your information is shared with others and for what purpose.

Avoid clicking on suspicious links

Some suspicious links can lead to phishing scams, malware infections, and other privacy violations.

Hover over suspicious links first

You can hover over a suspicious link before clicking on it, which may allow you to see where it leads. If you are in doubt about where it leads, avoid clicking it.

Look for HTTPS

If you have plans to enter sensitive information online, such as your credit card details, you should ensure that the website's web address starts with "HTTPS" and not "HTTP" in the web browsers that use it. The letter "S" means a secure socket is available.

Be careful of emails from unknown senders

There are lots of phishing scams that come through emails from unknown senders. When you see such emails, do not click on the links and never download any attachments that may come with these emails.

Install anti-virus software

The use of anti-virus software can help significantly to protect your computer against malware infections.

Use a VPN

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a tool that can be used to protect online activities. This has nothing to do with the type of web browsers or search engines you use. In other words, you can use it to protect yourself while online because it encrypts your internet connection. There are many benefits you can enjoy from using VPN, and the following are some of them;

Encrypts your online activities

If you use a VPN, it will help you to encrypt your internet connection which makes it difficult for hackers to intercept or access your activities online.

Masks IP address

A VPN can be used to hide your IP address, in which case, it will be difficult for hackers and websites to track your activities online.

There are many VPN providers, but they are different in terms of performance. You should look for one with a good reputation and a clear privacy policy. Some companies offer VPNs for free, but you should avoid these as they may end up selling your data to third parties.

Consult an IT Professional     

Absolute care needs to be taken in whatever you do online. Many have fallen prey to the hands of hackers, and such ugly incidents are bound to occur again. So, if you don't want to be the next victim, you cannot be too careful with protecting yourself online.

If you have done everything to create security layers for yourself but still have doubts about your safety, the best thing to do is to let an IT professional look at what you have in place and advise on what more may be done.

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