Data breaches, stolen private information, hackers, and cybercrimes. You keep hearing all these terms on the TV, read about them on social media, or hear others panicking over them.
But what is all that? Why is everybody so panicked about getting their data stolen? And what is this data anyway?
Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers to these questions! As an average Internet user with no specialized tech knowledge, it’s only natural that you’re confused about the answers to all these questions. But we’ve got you covered!
This article explains all the things you need to know about why using the Internet can be dangerous, what is this data that can be stolen, and why would anybody want to steal it anyway.
Internet Security 101
First things first, before we tell you how to protect yourself when using the Internet, it only makes sense to tell you why and what you should protect yourself from.
So, let’s start with the beginning.
User Personal Data Explained
If you didn’t know, the data you share on the Internet, be it on social media, websites, or other online services has become a precious commodity. Some people would pay unimaginable amounts of money to gain access to all the data users share.
But what data are we talking about? Basically, anything you share about you online, from name to age, gender, email address, location, financial information, and more.
But that’s not all. User data also incorporates data that you don’t specifically share, such as your internet activity (what you search for on the internet) or what you buy. Such data, even if you don’t specifically share (as you do when you are asked to provide your name or other personal data on a website), is tracked and recorded by different parties, from the browser you use to the websites you access or the brand you interact with.
Who Steals Your Data and Why?
Now, why would anyone be interested in your data? And who would want to steal it?
Well, we’re guessing that you know that it’s hackers who want to steal your data. But let’s see why.
Hackers have plenty of reasons to steal data from Internet users, from ransom to identity theft, to sell it to other criminals, and even just because they can. Yes, sometimes hackers mess with your online privacy just to prove themselves that they have the skills to do it.
However, most of the time, they do it for the money because once they get their hands on it, they can monetize it in various ways, including taking out loans or making purchases under your name and selling it on dark web markets.
How Can Your Data Be Stolen?
Last but not least, let’s make sure you know how hackers get their hands on your personal and financial data.
Hackers and other cybercriminals have many ways to steal data:
- Different types of malware
- Password cracking
- Identity theft scams
- Malicious mobile apps
Simple Tips for Online Security
All this sounds really scary and intimidating, right? Probably so scary that you may never want to use the Internet ever again.
Well, if you’re realistic, you know that this is almost impossible in today’s modern and digitalized world. Plus, you don’t have to avoid going online to stay safe. There are a few simple things that you can do to ensure that you don’t become a victim of hackers.
Create Passwords You Don’t Even Remember
As odd as it may sound, creating really difficult to remember passwords is one of the easiest and, yet, most efficient ways to protect yourself from hackers.
Think about it: your passwords are the only layer of protection between hackers and all your accounts, be it on social media, email, or various websites. So, if you don’t have complex passwords, you’re basically making it easier for hackers to guess them and gain access to your accounts.
How do you make sure this doesn’t happen? Think of passwords that include combinations of lower and upper case letters, numbers, and special symbols. These are the most efficient passwords that are making it harder for cybercriminals to access your data.
Stick to Sharing Irrelevant Data on Social Media
We’re sure you don’t think that the funny pictures of your dog that you share on social media are irrelevant. Neither do we! Yet, this kind of data is irrelevant to hackers because no one would pay them for pictures with cute dogs. However, they would get a lot of money for personal information like email addresses, telephone number, or financial data.
So, when we’re saying that you should only share irrelevant data on social media, we mean only to share data that is of no use to hackers.
Browse in Incognito or Private Mode
Browsing in private or incognito mode is the best way to ensure that your device won’t save your online activity, such as browsing history, cookies (messages passed by web servers to your browser when you surf the Internet), or temporary files.
It’s not difficult to do so because most web browsers today have this feature of allowing you to practice incognito browsing. Some call it Incognito Mode, others Private Browsing, or InPrivate Browsing. No matter what they are called by the browser, they all do the same: allow you to surf the web incognito.
Another thing you can do to browse on the Internet more safely is to use browsers that take data privacy really seriously. For example, the Tor browser applies data encryption layers and doesn’t allow advertisers, Internet service providers, or other parties to take user data.
Stay Anonymous with A VPN
Ever heard about VPN? It stands for Virtual Private Network and what it does is that it basically allows you to stay anonymous online by hiding your device’s real IP address. So, with a VPN, you search the web without letting websites know who you really are.
Plus, VPNs also have many other benefits besides the enhanced security.
Protect Your Devices
Antivirus software is a must-have! On all your devices. Keep the software updated to ensure that no virus gets into your devices to mess with your files or data.