Over the past few years, hackers have blackmailed celebrities by hacking their phones, made vast and horrifying intrusions into both our electoral and energy grids, and apparently found a way to steal your banking details from Amazon’s Echo. You now live in a terrifying future where all of your most valuable personal information is up for grabs and can be sold on the Deep Web by some shady character from Belarus, or at least that’s what his IP address says today. And it simply doesn’t look or feel as cool as what we watched on Bladerunner.
But instead of turning off the computer and hiding in the woods Unabomber style (not fun), you can learn how to responsibly protect yourself and your private data with a few simple precautions.
Here are three easy fixes.
Strengthen Your Passwords
If you would prefer that people not have access to your financial information or the “bad pictures” you keep in your email files, then you need to strengthen your passwords. You can find great advice from the DIY Online Safety guide, which is meant to help women who are being stalked but offers great advice to everyone. You can certainly find online advice on how to crack your passwords. Learn some defense.
Tips for Strong Passwords
1. Try not to reuse passwords across multiple sites. If you’re having trouble remembering your 60 or so Passwords, then you can use a strong password generator site and hope that it doesn’t get hacked.
2. The longer the password, the better.
3. Create passphrases instead of passwords.
4. Always use a combination of upper and lower case characters with special characters if allowed.
5. Avoid pop culture or dictionary words.
6. Try to avoid personal information such as date of birth.
Use a VPN If You’re Serious About Security
Serious computer professionals recommend buying an inexpensive VPN if you’re serious about protecting yourself from intruders or copyright hounds. A VPN encrypts your data so your ISP can’t see the details of what your viewing and also changes your IP so the website can’t trace things back to your residence.
Use Anonymous Browsers
Another way to hide your tracks from either thieves or data mining marketers is to use anonymous browsers. It’s also helpful if you’d like to download something that would shame your mother or a prominent Hollywood copyright protection organization. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Here’s a quick list of three:
The Tor Browser: This is probably the most famous anonymous fully secure browser in the world. It’s your go to if you’re a criminal, quite frankly, or if you’re a dissident in a country that whips, prosecutes and/or hangs dissidents. In theory, it allows you to travel the web anonymously even though some countries like China or Russia will crack down on these tools. But its easy to install even though at times it can be slow to load. The TOR network might also be crackable according to news accounts and the first episode of Mr. Robot.
The Epic Browser: This was actually rated as the number one secure and private browser by Techworld. It automatically “strips out every conceivable feature to maximize privacy.” Like Tor it offers a fully encrypted connection by way of a one button proxy feature. But like Tor you will find that your browsing experience does slow down at times. It’s also free.
HTTPS Everywhere: This is more of a plugin to the Chrome or Firefox browser that you’re already using. But its great if you’re using a lot of public wi fi spots.