A few simple changes to your devices and accounts can help discourage cyber criminals from trying to access your data. Getting started is easy. This short guide presents some quick measures you can take to protect your privacy and keep your personal info safe.
Prevent Data Breaches
Giants like Facebook and Target have suffered breaches and password leaks, so it’s safe to say data from at least one of your online accounts could have been leaked. If you want to see whether luck was on your side, go to Have I Been Pwned? and enter your email. This site will show you if your data appears anywhere.
Use a password manager to generate and remember complex, different passwords for each of your accounts. This is the most crucial step to keep your personal information safe. Change the default passwords of any smart devices in your home, like routers, smart fridges, or security cameras.
Ideally, your online accounts should be equipped with two-step factor authentication. Most banks and social media offer this option now. You can enter a phone number and a password that no one but you has access to.
Check for Your Personal Info on the Dark Web
Companies will offer a dark web scan as a service that, as the name suggests, searches the dark web for you. It checks for stolen passwords, usernames, credit card numbers, and Social Security numbers for sale. Your company of choice will let you know if they find your personal data anywhere on the dark web.
Unfortunately, you can’t get your personal information removed from the dark web, but you can be proactive in protecting it from theft once you know what information has become vulnerable. Before that, let’s go into the details.
The Dark Web Uses Encryption to Hide Locations
You can’t access the dark web through a typical search engine because dark websites use encryption to conceal their locations. A large portion of this web is dedicated to transacting stolen personal and financial data. This information can be used to buy things with stolen credit card data, open new lines of credit, or take out loans in the unsuspecting victim’s name and Social Security number. It may even be possible to transfer funds from a hacked bank account.
The following types of personal information are typically transacted on the dark web:
- Login details for payment services
- Credit and debit card numbers
- Driver’s licenses
- Login details for subscription services
- Medical records
- Social Security numbers
- Phone numbers
- Fake diplomas
The Anatomy of a Dark web Scan
As mentioned, a dark web scan will search the dark web and alert you if your info is found in one or more collections of stolen personal data. If you find your social security number has been leaked, you can report it to the respective authority, as with any other stolen information. Unfortunately, no company can search the whole dark web. As data breaches don’t always expose all personal data, a scan can’t find every instance of stolen data.
Free Dark web Scans
Some cybersecurity services will offer free dark web scans. Proceed with caution and make sure the service is legitimate. In every event, reliable search results are worth paying for.
Upgrade to the Latest OS Version
If your computer is running on Windows 10, Defender is sufficiently reliable as an inbuilt element of the OS. Most users will be happy with the degree of security it provides. Always upgrade to the latest version of your OS as older versions quickly become vulnerable to attacks. For example, malware can scan and intercept sensitive personal data as well as drive you insane with popups. Set up reliable antivirus programs and upgrade them as often as possible, especially if you work on a shared computer.
Be Wary of Targeted Advertising
You are leaving a far more discernible digital footprint than you imagine. Every company’s site collects data about user locations and browsing habits. Data advertisers and marketers on social media use all the information you share to learn more about you. Disabling targeted advertising is one way to keep them from getting your data.
To disable ads from Twitter, Apple, Google, or Facebook, manual adjustments might be in order. Sites like Netflix and Reddit have comprehensible opt-out instructions. Follow them and the volume of information collected from you will drop dramatically. Some adjustments will even stop companies from accessing any data whatsoever.
Use a VPN
Virtual private networks have helped lots of people protect their personal info. They are mandatory if you need to connect to public Wi-Fi frequently. They can guarantee privacy from your internet service provider and limit IP address-based tracking substantially. Of course, there are VPNs that sell their users’ data or are otherwise untrustworthy. Always select reputable providers whom you can trust.
Get HTTPS Everywhere Installed
Last but not least, HTTPS Everywhere is a free, open-source extension that you can use to access the safe version of every website – at least every website that has such a version. Nobody can steal your information from a secure version of a website though, so HTTPS Everywhere is highly recommended, especially if you’re using a store, airport, café, or hotel’s public Wi-Fi.