With hackers, brute force attackers and other malicious users lurking on the web, the Internet has become a fairly dangerous place. Unless you take the proper precautions, your sensitive personal data may be at risk.
The Federal Trade Commission notes that identity thieves can begin using your personal data in fewer than 10 minutes after it becomes available on the dark web. To prevent yourself from suffering any harm in a data breach, you’d have to act immediately.
Unfortunately, most people don’t have the time to proactively patrol their accounts to ensure that their online life remains as private as possible. That’s why several companies offer services that are designed to protect you when you venture out onto the Internet.
The reality is that many of these services are expensive, and even someone who wants to be vigilant about protecting themselves online may not be willing to shell out potentially hundreds of dollars every year.
Free alternatives to many of these protective measures are available. While many of these are not necessarily as robust or comprehensive as the paid services, they frequently are adequate for the average online user. Moreover, many of these security measures can be beefed up a bit for a nominal cost. You can always try the free versions first to see which ones are most effective and important to you.
Since free is a price that never goes out of style, this list sticks to offering you four free ways to stay safe online.
1. Use a VPN.
While it’s true that you have to pay for most VPNs, there are still numerous services out there that won’t cost you a penny. If you are really worried about security but also are on a tight budget, then a free VPN may be the perfect solution.
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, can make it look as if your computer is in Germany when it’s really in California. It accomplishes this by routing your Internet traffic through a server. This helps to mask all of your online activities, thereby ensuring your enhanced security whenever you’re online.
It is especially critical that you use a VPN whenever you are using a public WiFi connection. Hackers and thieves know to target WiFi hot spots when they want to cash in on other people’s private data. The VPN will mask your web traffic, making it safe to browse anywhere you like.
A VPN also may encrypt your data so that bad guys have a much harder time stealing and using it. This may be one of the most important security measures that you can use.
Another important aspect to consider when using a VPN is their logging policies, as shown by Privacy Australia choosing the a VPN service that has extremely strict and transparent logging policies is essential.
2. Create Complex Passwords.
The longer and more complex your passwords are, the harder thieves will have to work to get into your accounts. In fact, if you’re really good with your passwords, then you may never get hacked at all.
It’s not enough to come up with one long password that contains upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. It’s also essential to use unique passwords for all of your online accounts and memberships. What’s more, you probably should change these passwords on a regular basis.
It’s not an easy safeguard to implement, but it is effective.
3. Enable Two-Step Authentication.
Whenever a website asks you if you would like to enable two-step authentication, your answer should be an enthusiastic “yes.” Sure, it’s a pain when compared with just signing in, but think of how much more inconvenient it is to have to deal with the fallout of all of your financial information being hacked.
Two-step authentication means that the website will send a unique code to your phone that you’ll have to enter on the login page before you can sign in. Only you will be able to do this because only you have your phone. If you’re using a trusted device, you may be able to register it so that you don’t have to go through both steps each time you log in.
4. Turn on Privacy Settings.
The way you use social media and your browsing history are of great interest to hackers. That’s why it’s essential that you maintain control of the data that you broadcast to the larger world. Use your privacy settings on all social media accounts and web browsers. This severely limits what information third parties can get from you. Other users who are not using privacy settings are much more attractive to hackers.