We live in a digital age. The rapid development of technology has changed our lives irreversibly and continues to change them every day. The development of computers and the Internet has moved a significant portion of our lives into the digital world; we care about our online presence as much as we do about our appearance in real life. It goes without saying that our parents did not have to worry about any of this –even we did not worry about this a few decades ago. However, today, it is a crucial element of our lives, and many people would like to gain access to it to exploit it. Digital criminals have become just as dangerous as real-life ones. How do you then protect yourself on the Internet?
What dangers lurk on the Internet?
Just a couple of years ago, you had one, or maybe two computers at home, whereas now you have a whole wireless network of devices, including home computers, laptops, smartphones, TVs, even refrigerators and gaming systems, which are all connected to the Internet and thus vulnerable to attacks from hackers and anyone who seeks to use your personal data for their own benefit. It is precisely the complexity of these home or office networks that makes them easy targets. However, it is not only hackers that can access your personal data, but big companies whose services we use also have access to them, and whose records and resources can be used for surveillance and monitoring.
So now that we are aware that practically anyone can try to collect our private data, how can we go about protecting it?
Browsing the Internet
One thing that we need to bear in mind is that the Internet is, after all, a public place, and it would be foolish to expect that we can remain completely private when we go online. We can, however, assure that, for example, the search engine that we use does not collect our browsing data.
A search engine that does not record your activity called DuckDuckGo has rapidly grown in popularity since the news about the NSA accessing the citizens’ private data appeared. Aside from using DuckDuckGo or some similar engine for your Internet searches, you can also take care to block ads and regularly clear your internet cookies, which are used to track your online activities. There are numerous add-ons, like AdBlock Pro or uBlock Origin that you can add to your browser to help mask some of your online activities. You should also try using a VPN service, which creates a secure connection for your browsing, by encrypting and channeling your data through specialized servers, which makes it very difficult for anyone to steal your data.
On your computer
You have to keep in mind that the contact with the Internet does not only happen through your browser, which is why ad blockers are not enough to keep you safe. One thing that you must have is a good antivirus; there are plenty that you can choose from, but ideally, you want something that can work in the background all the time, especially something with real-time protection, which can detect viruses and other malware as soon as it reaches your computer. There are also firewalls that you can use, and which are easy and cheap to install and operate, but which filter which elements of your system can be accessed and communicated with from the outside.