Five Tips for Protecting your Digital Privacy

Advancements in technology over the last few decades have transformed our lives, but it’s also left us vulnerable to breaches of privacy.

Data breaches, companies tracking your every move, your day-to-day life on social media for the world to see; it’s clear that the proliferation of digital technology comes with its downsides. However, there are steps you can take to minimise invasions of your digital privacy. With that in mind, here are five tips for protecting your digital privacy.

Use secure passwords
You should always use strong passwords or passphrases for your accounts, and avoid using real words, or worse, things relating to you like your name or street. Use a mix of upper and lower-case characters, and add some numbers and special characters. You should also use different passwords for every website, to avoid all of your accounts becoming compromised in the event of one getting hacked. The ideal solution would be to use a password manager to generate strong, unique passwords for every account; all you need to remember is the password for this service, rather than potentially dozens of others. Good password managers that are free to use include Myki, LogMeOnce, and NordPass. You’d be surprised how many of your accounts have been subject to breaches in the past. The website let’s you find out if this has happened to any of your accounts – the chances are, it has. In 2018, a collection of almost 3,000 data breaches was found online, containing more than 80 million unique email addresses.

Install antivirus software on your computer
Malicious software can cause all sorts of problems, so it’s better to take precautions by installing a decent, up-to-date antivirus on your computer. This is true regardless of whether you’re running Windows or Mac; while Mac malware is certainly rarer, it does exist, and you should protect yourself against it. Malware can take many forms, from annoying pop-ups mining bitcoin and draining your CPU, to ransomware stealing and encrypting your data. If you’re looking for a Windows antivirus, we’d recommend Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Kaspersky Antivirus for Windows, or Norton Antivirus Plus; Windows Defender, built into Windows 10, will also do the job. If you’re a Mac user, give Bitdefender also do a Mac antivirus program.

Encrypt your data
While it might seem like your password offers protection in the event of your computer or laptop getting stolen, it doesn’t – anyone with a SATA cable can remove your hard drive and access its contents. To truly protect your data, you need to encrypt it. Encryption takes data and scrambles it into an unreadable format, only becoming readable again with a unique decryption key. Encryption can be hardware or software based. Hardware based encryption is built into a device, such as a self-encrypting drive, or SED. Software encryption is more common, and encrypts data as it is written via software. Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise both come with BitLocker, the most common Windows encryption tool, already installed. If you’re using any other Windows OS, you’ll have to purchase BitLocker or another encryption tool separately. Mac users running any version of Mac OS X since 2003 can set up FileVault to encrypt all of their data for free.

Check your social media privacy
If you use social media, you should take steps to ensure that your accounts are set to an adequate level of privacy. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram offer a fairly simply way of doing this; by setting them to private, only people who request to follow you can see what you post. Facebook, on the other hand, offers varying levels of privacy for friends and non-friends, meaning your personal life is potentially available for all to see. Facebook typically offers a more personal look into your life – with your educational establishment, place of work, and relationship status all potentially public.

Use messaging apps with end-to-end encryption
End-to-end encryption ensures that only you and the recipient(s) of your messages can read what you’re sending. With end-to-end encryption, not even the company operating the app you’re using is able to read your messages. The most well-known example of a messaging app that utilises end-to-end encryption is WhatsApp; other notable apps include Signal and Telegram. With end-to-end encryption, not even governments can read your messages; back in 2016, the UK government proposed a bill that would force communication service providers to remove end-to-end encryption for anti-terror purposes.  

Digital Privacy