Digital privacy is paramount in a world where data is more valuable than gold. Everybody wants it: governments spy on their citizens, companies and advertisers track users online, even the Internet service providers (ISPs) in the US are allowed to collect their customers’ data and sell it to third parties. Add cyber criminals, hackers and other malicious snoopers, and you’ll get a pretty harsh picture of the online world we live in.

With so many cyber threats lurking around, keeping your personal data private is a real challenge. If you’re not taking the right measures to protect your digital privacy, someone may be collecting your information without you even knowing. Fortunately, there are things you can do to stay private and secure on the Internet.

#1: Set up 2FA for Your Accounts

Enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) in your accounts will add an extra layer of security and keep hackers away. How does 2FA work? Simply speaking, it requires a combination of something you know (your password) and something you have (your phone) to log you into your account.

Many popular services such as Gmail, Facebook, and Instagram support two-factor authentication. You can either rely on SMS-based 2FA when a security code is sent via text message, or use a separate authentication app, such as Google Authenticator.

#2: Install a Password Manager

Creating strong and unique passwords for each of your online accounts can be a headache. Use a password manager instead – it will keep your personal accounts safe and sound. A password manager automatically generates lengthy, hard-to-crack passwords and stores them in its vault. The greatest part is that you don’t have to memorize them all, only the master password.

#3 Search Anonymously

Many popular search engines collect data of search queries to do user profiling. Whenever you enter a keyword, you’re giving away your personal information that is highly valued by marketers and government agencies.

If you don’t want anyone to see what you’re interested in, switch to privacy-focused search engines: for example, DuckDuckGo. It doesn’t generate identifiers to create profiles of unique users and doesn’t log your search data.

#4: Encrypt Your Online Activity

By monitoring your Internet traffic, one can learn a lot about you. For example, your Internet service providers (ISP) can see all websites you visit; or malicious hackers can intercept your connection on unsecured Wi-Fi networks. The easiest countermeasure against such tracking is using a virtual private network (VPN).

VPN secures your online activity from unwanted snoopers by changing your IP address and encrypting your Internet traffic. This way, you can browse truly privately. When choosing a VPN service provider, skip those that are free of charge, as your personal data may end up for sale. Instead, choose among popular VPNs that are both easy-to-use and offer advanced security features. Most of the VPN providers offer in-depth guides in regards to VPN functionality and use so there is plenty of information where you can learn more about virtual private network and other cybersecurity products.

#5: Review App Permissions

Review the permissions granted to the applications on your smartphone. Do they all seem necessary or do some look like attempts to collect data about you? If some specific settings look a bit too much, for example, a photo editing app requiring access to your contact book, turn them off. Extensive permissions are often needed for advanced features of an app, so if you don’t need those, go ahead and cut off given access rights for the sake of your digital privacy.

Hopefully, these tips will help preserve your digital privacy in 2018, a time when data breaches, leaks and scandals seem to be the order of the day.

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