How to Safeguard Your Information While Surfing Online

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Did you know that a hacker tries to steal someone’s information every 39 seconds? Browsing the internet can be a fun, engaging time-killer. And, many of use the internet to facilitate our work and inspire our minds. But what if everything you did online was visible? That’s the world we’re living in.

The internet wasn’t made to protect consumer privacy. So, every click you make, and every interaction you take puts you at risk. Everything we do online generates data. When you go to Google Maps to look for directions, your location, browsing behaviors, and personal information is being recorded and stored for future use by Google (typically for data aggregation and business intelligence.)

That opens you up to very real risks. Over a third of Americans have been subjected to identity theft (the average cost of which is over $1,000). That doesn’t include the number of consumers who have had their privacy violated due to stolen phone numbers and emails. Making sure that your information is secure when you surf the internet is crucial for people who want to be outside of those statistics. But how do you do it?

Use A Virtual Private Network

From the moment you connect to the internet, you’re sharing data. Your connection data may seem harmless, but it tells a lot about you. How you shop, what websites you visit, and what banks you frequent are all information that you probably want to be kept to yourself. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

How do you secure your browsing data before you connect to the internet? You use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt your data and tunnel it to a private server before releasing it to the internet. That means that your data is not only secure, but malicious threat actors won’t be able to track your location based on your browsing activity.

Don’t believe that threat actors can use your browsing behaviors to track you? Check this out. Scary, right?

Secure Your DNS

Time for some good news and some bad news. The good news is that VPNs protect you against malicious threat actors. The bad news is that they don’t necessarily protect you against your own ISP. With the slow death of net neutrality and the ever-expanding responsibilities of ISPs, we’re facing a crisis. ISPs can easily track and sell your data. And they’re doing just that!

How? They have a trick up their sleeves — your DNS. Your ISPs Domain Name System (DNS) servers allow you to connect to the internet and browse. But they also track and store browsing information and location data. But they don’t sell it to random companies… do they? You bet!

On laptops or desktops, you can change your DNS server to an open one (though these offer their own security issues). But what if you’re in the majority of people who browses the internet via phone? We live in a mobile world. Over 95% of Americans own phones capable of connecting to the internet. Over 85% own smartphones. And, these mobile devices are changing the way we browse and consume internet content.

Luckily, there’s a DNS solution for smartphone addicts. DNS apps automatically change your DNS settings to private DNS servers outside of the reach of your ISP.

Share As-Little-As-Possible

Here’s the big secret — you can’t browse the internet without sharing something. You’ll have to fill out some forms, share critical details with businesses, and interact and engage with the world at large in ways that (at some point) compromise your data. Having a VPN and DNS reduces your threat landscape significantly, but it’s important to implement best-practice strategies for data sharing.

Share as-little-as-possible. What does this mean? It’s ok to share some information! But make sure that you needto share that information. If a website asks for your email, try to get around giving it to them. If a website asks for your name, use a different one. Try to limit the amount of data you’re sharing with businesses. Remember, businesses aren’t immune to hacks.

In fact, over 60% of small businesses were hacked last year. Your data is probably safer with nefarious ISPs than it is with most businesses. Remember, there’s no way to completely avoid risks associated with browsing the internet. You have to share some data. Just try to minimize the amount you share.

Final Thoughts

We generate over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every second. As identity theft levels increase and businesses continue to spread your information far-and-wide for a penny, finding ways to reduce the amount of data you share online is a critical safety measure in today’s technology ecosystem. VPNs and DNS services can help you safeguard your information to an extent, but simply reducing the amount you share is also important. The truth is, there’s no cure to the data pox. You just have to try to minimize the damage.

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