Utmost Beginner’s Guide to Internet Privacy

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The time we are living in is remarkable. We have an opportunity to make use of automatic machines almost everywhere: at work, at home and other places. Computers make our lives more comfortable and much easier.
With the appearance of the Internet, there are even more opportunities. We communicate with friends and colleagues, spend free time on the network, work and what more. On the one hand, we’ve become free, but on the other hand, we have to take care of our online privacy.

Let’s find out:

  • Why should you stay private?
  • Who are we hiding personal information from?
  • What kind of information to keep private?
  • How to stay private on the Internet?
  • Without any further ado, let’s start right now.

Why should you stay private?
It seems that almost everyone wants to keep his or her personal data in secret as this is one of the most discussing issues nowadays. There are definite reasons why not ignore this issue and think of your private using the Internet.
Still, there are such people who don’t care what information to share on the network and whether it is seen or monitored by third parties. And they have the right to think in such a way.
We do understand that some companies collect information about us, but we often don’t realize what kind of personal data is really gathered and what it is used for.
Moreover, with the growing number of reports about people and companies whose online privacy was invaded, it’s quite reasonable to think if your data is shared in a secure way.

Who are we hiding personal information from?

Governments
There are different laws on internet privacy in different countries. Some governments with strict censorship and privacy laws totally monitor what internet users do online and what websites are visited. Unfortunately, even countries that claim about internet freedom still may track some metadata, which is impersonal, but based on them, it’s possible to know about your actual geo-location, for example.
If you read this guide, you probably don’t know about the alliance of Five Eyes that appeared after World War II. In 2013 Edward Snowden made that alliance the focus of attention after he exposed the facts of surveillance performed by that organization.

ISPs
In some countries, there are laws that oblige Internet Service Providers to collect and keep data about internet users there. The period of retention varies from 6 months to a few years.
Moreover, ISPs from ‘’Five eyes’’ countries must furnish the local authorities with data if they put out a call to them. You have nothing to be afraid of if you are a law-abiding citizen (and we don’t encourage any kind of crimes), but the thought of being monitored by the government is something that may make people scared, doesn’t it?

Hackers
Though companies use the data about users in order to advertise goods and services to them, hackers also may gain access to your personal, and what’s more important, compromise your personal information.
If you don’t want to fall victim to cyber attacks, you should encrypt your data, which is applied if you use a VPN service.

Advertisers
Advertisers usually use your personal data in order to target you with ads when you surf the Internet. Without any doubt, constant ads are quite annoying, but what is sometimes more serious is malvertising.

Internet users are often ‘’attacked’’ by fake ads sent by companies which do not actually exist. By clicking on these malicious ads, you risk your computer being infected or your personal data being stolen by hackers.

What kind of information to keep private?
Currently, we spend online so much time and tend to leave more and more data about ourselves on the network. With so much information left online, our lives become less private. Moreover, some of the data can tell even more about us than we actually think. So what should we keep away from prying eyes?

  • Passwords
  • Metadata
  • Payment information
  • Browsing history
  • Social media and online chat communications

Now let’s dive into details right now.

Passwords
If you use the only password for all your accounts and services, you are quite careless as regards your online privacy and security. Very simple passwords containing just a few numbers or letters are vulnerable to being hacked by means of brute force attacks. Just imagine that a stranger may access your social media or shopping account!
To avoid hacking attacks, be sure you use password generators and managers to keep all passwords in one place. Moreover, each time you type in your password, an internet connection should be encrypted and via Virtual Private Network that is often offered by such VPN providers as Avast (more details are in this expert Avast VPN review).

Metadata
Metadata is a kind of descriptive information about our online communications and activities on the network. This information lets authorities collect information about you even without direct monitoring of your devices. At least, they can identify users’ geo-locations.

Payment information
Nowadays we can’t imagine our lives without paying online. We do shopping online, book and buy tickets online, and etc. For these needs, we have to provide our credentials online to make a payment transaction.

Unfortunately, financial information is one of the most targeted types of personal data. Once being hacked, strangers may not only compromise it but also steal money from your credit card.
Fortunately, most of online payment services use two-factor authentication, but you should never rely on third parties and apply additional privacy and security tools that encrypt your bank transfers.

Browsing history
Actually, lots of sites visited by you collect cookies from your browsing history. What do they need them for?
The data collected from users’ browsing history is used to show them more targeted ads. That’s why it is necessary to clear your browsing history as often as possible.

Social media and online communications
All of us use messengers and other online communications tools. Among them are Skype, WhatsApp, Telegram, and others.
Unfortunately, they are also vulnerable to being hacked by cyber criminals. Once being stolen, it can be compromised by strangers and who knows in what way they would use it.

How to stay private on the Internet?
Despite the fact that our online privacy is sometimes compromised, there are efficient ways to avoid your personal data to come to third parties’ hands. Here’s the list of 10 tips to help you stay private online:

1) Encrypt your internet connections, no matter what you do online: just watch a film or pay. Modern VPN services encode user traffic with a 256-bit encryption and higher.

Military-grade encryption is quite enough for a common internet user to keep his/her personal data far from prying eyes of hackers and snoopers. Even your ISP has to decode to see what you do online. But it is believed to be hard to crack even nowadays.

2) A VPN provider based out of ‘’Five eyes’’ will give you an additional level of privacy. Those providers who are under the jurisdiction of the countries with no data retention laws let you think you aren’t monitored by the government.

Moreover, be sure a VPN is no-log service as some of them still collect users’ information. They may gather only e-mails, but sometimes even IP addresses are kept by them. That’s why you should always carefully read Privacy Policy or Terms of Service where it is often ‘’hidden’’.

3) Change VPN locations as often as possible. An IP address can tell where a user is actually located. In case you are connected via VPN, your true geo-location is hidden from third parties. They’ll only identify the IP address belonging to your VPN provider.

A good VPN service should offer various countries for connections. In such a way you’ll be able to change VPN servers not to be identified by prying eyes.

4) Another useful privacy-oriented feature you should know about is a kill switch. How does it work?

Once a VPN app doesn’t work properly or out of order for some reasons, a user is disconnected from the Internet. The main aim is to prevent the leaks of users’ IP addresses. If you already use a VPN, be sure this feature is provided as well.

5) Be sure you use a web browser with advanced privacy configurations. According to the latest ratings, Mozilla Firefox and Chrome are the best browsers to keep your data private. Moreover, many VPNs have extensions compatible with those browsers.

In addition, be sure you know how to clear the history of your online activities. The best way to protect your privacy is to do it at least once a day after you finish your work.

6) Protect yourself against advertisers. Many websites collect cookies to monitor your behavior on the website and Internet so that to target you with ads.

The settings of your browser let you block cookies or determine which kind of them you allow to collect from you.

7) Avoid using free public Wi-Fi without Virtual Private Network. Free Wi-Fi hotspots are vulnerable to hacking as they are also open to strangers. Most of the passwords and user credentials are stolen there.

If you aren’t a careless user, protect your Wi-Fi connections with VPN encryption. Any traffic that goes out of your smartphone or laptop will be hidden from for both strangers and ISPs.

8) Thinks of your passwords. As it has been mentioned above, they shouldn’t be very easy to crack, because they are vulnerable to brute force attacks.

Never associate passwords with your date of birth or something else that can identify your personality. Don’t apply one password for all services. It’s sure that it’s very difficult to generate a unique password every time you need, that’s why use a password generator. Don’t forget to change them from time to time.

9) Care about your emails. How can you do it?
First and foremost, use private email providers. That’s considered to be more private as Gmail for example, can be linked to other services’ accounts which give third parties additional information for monitoring.

Always delete your old emails as modern tracking technologies let easily monitor what’s inside your letters.

10) Always visit only HTTPs websites. Having provided you with the first tip, we mentioned that all internet connections should be encrypted. It is not secure to transfer ‘’bare’’ traffic over the network.
This issue is also related to the websites you visit. Such browsers as Chrome, for example, even block access to HTTP sites with no encryption.

In case a website doesn’t use HTTPs, anyone monitoring the network can easily see what is shared from your computer while visiting the sites. It’s especially important if you share your payment information on such sites. Never do it!

How does VPN work?
In the tips above, we have mentioned a lot about VPN, but it’s worth explaining how it works for beginners.

Well… Once you are connected to VPN, your IP address is changed to another one belonging to the provider. Moreover, VPN creates a private tunnel where all internet traffic, that is passed through it, is encrypted and goes out of it protected and hidden from prying eyes. With the help of special data transfer protocols, data is securely transferred through the network.

What’s the conclusion?
We should admit the fact that our privacy largely depends on ourselves. We have to keep an eye on what we information we share and how we do it. Be careful with any kind of personal information you use online, follow the 10 tips above and make your online life more private!

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