If you spend any amount of time on the Internet you have likely given some thought to how you can stay safe online. You might be considering ways to keep your personal information safe and to keep hackers out of your business. Unfortunately, understanding what to do hasn’t always been a simple task.
Information on ways to stay safe can be complicated. Becoming savvy about the complete picture of security measures you can take can bring you down a rabbit hole. Before you know it, the more you learn the more you realize what you need to know. The effort can quickly become overwhelming.
A new tool makes it easier to protect yourself
Now Citizen Lab and a group of security experts are trying to make things easier. They’ve developed their own website called Security Planner, a simple guide that can act as a checklist for laymen wanting to shore up their online activity. The guide is safe, confidential, and easy to understand. It asks basic questions about a user’s concerns and helps them take steps to make their online activity as secure as possible. Areas it addresses range from web browsing and device usage to remaining smart about managing your Internet connections.
In addition to being easy to understand, Citizen Lab also wants to keep its suggestions current. They’ve often seen that privacy information is out of date but hasn’t been either revised or removed. One of the goals they have is to use a peer review process so that their suggestions are as relevant as possible.
Privacy recommendations overview
The advice offered by Citizen Lab’s Security Planner and other tools centers around some core areas connected to online privacy. Below is a round-up of some of the things that they address. The recommendations start with how to securely connect with the Internet, to how to be safe when using a device, and go on to talk about everyday privacy practices that make a difference.
Safely making an online connection: One of the first ways to stop hackers is to keep your Internet connection as secure as possible. A best practice recommended by Security Planner is to use a Virtual Private Network to encrypt your activity. The service suggests multiple options including both free and subscription-based possibilities.
Another measure you can take is to install a firewall to prevent unwanted connections to your system. Security Planner also suggests that advanced privacy nerds try a Glasswire Firewall, available at no cost, that offers more comprehensive monitoring services for Windows systems.
Browsing privately: There are a lot of options for web browsers and some of them offer more privacy than others. Security Planner advises users that Chrome and Firefox browsers are the ones to use. Both have advanced security features, are available across multiple platforms, and will support other recommended online security tools. Additionally, Security Lab highly suggests the use of the Tor Browser in conjunction with the Privacy Badger plugin so that your location and activities remain confidential.
A third recommendation that Security Planner makes in regards to browsing is to use the free HTTPS everywhere tool. This encrypts users connections to thousands of websites to keep web browsing secure and prevent unwanted connections.
Managing apps and accounts: This area covers many of the well-known practices you may have heard of. While they’re basic, they’re also important. To start, consider if the passwords you’re using are complex enough and are regularly updated. Also, think about how you manage these passwords and consider a secure password management service to keep these private and to make using your passwords easier. Thirdly, identify some of the most important, sensitive accounts that you regularly use (such as financial accounts) and check to see if two-factor authentication is installed on them.
Another overall step that users will want to take to boost security is to run the provider-offered security checkups on the major accounts that you use such as Facebook and Google. Running these will help you to lock down your settings and will identify which devices and apps have access to these accounts.
Keep up to date on phishing techniques and suspicious attachments: As soon as users begin to understand how to keep safe, hackers will come up with new ways to try to get you to give away your data. Even the smartest people have fallen for these from time to time but if you keep up with them to have the best chance to avoid falling into these traps.
How can you start to build your knowledge? Simple first steps to practice are to never open an attachment from someone you haven’t heard of. In addition, become savvy about which kinds of information you should never be asked for online. But your knowledge of what to do shouldn’t end here. More scams are being developed every day so being constantly aware of what to do will give you the best chance to avoid problems.
Securing smartphones and other devices: Accessing the Internet through your smartphone can give hackers a whole other way to access your information. Security Planner suggests using Whisper Systems’ Signal to encrypt calls and text messages for privacy. They also remind users to become familiar with the built-in encryption tools that are already on their phones and to know how to back up the data on their phone, to find their phone if it becomes lost, and to be able to remotely wipe the information from their phones if it winds up in the wrong hands.