Most people think that their personal information is actually private, but many are surprised because of how much of this information ends up online. The internet can be quite a dangerous place due to the presence of malicious software, phishing scams, and viruses, and hackers are steadily increasing in sophistication. There are lots of ways that your personal information is being collected, tracked, and stored, and this can pose a threat to your privacy and even finances.


Here are six ways you can protect your privacy online.


1. Protect everything with a password


You may think it’s unnecessary to protect your home computer with a password, but indeed you should protect all your digital devices with a password. This includes your smartphones, tablets, computers, and any gadget that holds your personal data. If unsecured by a password, any stolen or lost device can be a source of your personal data for anyone who has them, and this can lead to identity theft or worse.


This advice is also applicable to your online accounts. Since most of them need a password to set up, you need to create strong passwords. You need to create passwords that are at least eight characters long that include upper and lower-case letters of the alphabet, numbers, and special characters. Also, avoid using one password for multiple accounts because if one gets hacked, all your other accounts will be compromised. To keep trail of all your passwords, use a password manager.


2. Keep viruses away from your computer


Digital security is based on digital privacy. When malware infects your computer, hackers can get access to your data and steal your identity, and they can also lock up your files and demand for a ransom to recover them. The remedy is to run an antivirus to flush out the viruses and keep your other software updated with the latest security patches. This applies to your mobile devices as well. You can hire services of data security experts who can provide you with a full service MDR (managed detection and response) to protect your data.


It is also recommended to turn on the Windows, MacOS, and Android automatic updates for maximum protection.


3. When in doubt, dump it


Since phishing and malware scams are getting very prevalent, avoid opening emails that look unusual or suspicious, primarily if they are related to your utility accounts, financial services, social media, or email. Instead, delete such emails. This also applies to attachments and links in your emails related to these kinds of services or accounts. Thus, avoid clicking them unless you are sure of their origin. If you get an email about an issue, past due, or a refund, call your provider or go immediately to your provider’s website and login to your account there.


4. Privacy settings


Update your privacy services and websites, especially on search sites and social media such as Facebook, Yahoo, and Google as a start to protecting yourself. You can do this under the Settings menu. Most sites have a default of publicly sharing your information. So, change the settings to ensure your personal information is accessed by fewer people. Only share information with people you know. The reason is free sharing of personal information can lead to numerous risks such as home break-ins from criminals who know you have gone for a vacation. Also, limit sharing, or delete tags on photos, and edit your timeline to remove potentially embarrassing pictures, so they are not seen by people who don’t know you well, including acquaintances, colleagues at work, potential employers, and distant family members.


5. Secure your connections


Protecting your computer from unwanted network traffic is crucial. So, use a firewall. Most operating system (OS) releases have inbuilt firewalls. So, ensure they are turned on, and their security settings are turned on “high.”


6. Enhance your browsing habits


Regularly delete your browsing history from your browser. You must also log out from your social media sites such as Facebook, or even Google when you are not using your accounts. And if you want an improved security for your browsing sessions, use the Tor browser that routes your IP through a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN tunnels all of your data through a proxy server, so your IP and data are always protected.


Maintaining your privacy on the internet helps you to protect your data and personal information from hackers and identity thieves. Thus, set up secure passwords, install updated antivirus software, and improve your browsing habits.