Running a software development firm means I regularly get questions from colleagues, clients, and friends about online security and how to protect personal data on the web. With a growing number of high-profile online security breaches in the news, many people are taking an interest in securing their online presence. To provide a comprehensive answer to this question, I’ve examined my own online profile and the steps I take to keep it secure. Here are seven simple tips that will help you secure your online presence and protect yourself against fraud and information theft.
1. Use Browser Script Management Software
2. Manage Your Smartphone Settings
Checking your geo location settings on your mobile device is an important way to manage the information you share. From time to time, take a few minutes and go into the geo location services settings on your phone and check the setting for each app. Turn off geo location access for apps that don’t require your location to operate. For apps that do need to know where you are to function, set them to only access your geo location while you are using them. If you’ve never looked at this setting before, you’ll likely be surprised at the number of apps that access and share your location without your expressed permission.
3. Clear Your Online History and Browser Cache
Many sites employ cookies to collect and share your personal information, making it important to regularly clear your cookies and history to secure your online presence. I recommend checking and clearing your browser history and deleting cookies at least once each month. Combining this with the script management software I mentioned above will greatly reduce the amount of personal information you inadvertently share while you’re online.
4. Tell Google to Stop Following You
Sound paranoid? It’s not. There is actually a documented process to stop Google from saving your search keywords and history, which it stores by default any time you use Google Search, Images, Maps or YouTube.
To disable your Google search history, follow these steps:
- Visit https://history.google.com/history/
- Click the Settings icon in the top right
- Click “Turn off” to stop Google from saving your searches
To delete your existing Google web search history:
- Click the “Open Menu” icon in the top right corner of the history page
- Select “Delete”
- Select “Advanced” and ensure “All time” is selected, then click “Remove”
5. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or IP Forwarding
If you’d like to use the Internet completely anonymously, using a VPN or IP forwarding service will secure your online presence and keep all of your web activity private. Many people think that only those with something to hide in their browser history use these tools, but you don’t have to be up to something nefarious to justify maintaining your privacy. Privacy is a right, and employing a VPN or IP forwarding service will keep your online activity out of the watchful eyes of those who could use your information without your consent.
6. Reset All of Your Forgotten Password Hints and Questions
The single most-used hack to gain access to private accounts is breaking the forgotten password process. Social media and online databases make finding the answer to basic questions like “What is your hometown?” or “What was the name of your high school?” simple and fast. To secure your online presence, ensure the answers to your forgotten password questions are information that only you would know. This will prevent hackers from using the forgotten password process to reset your passwords and gain access to your accounts.
7. Extra Credit – Use Privacy Programs Like CoverMe, PGP Email or TOR
For those truly concerned about keeping messages, calls or online activity private, there are a number of programs that provide next-level security services.
- CoverMe is a secure messaging/calling app for your smartphone that stores private contacts, messages, photos and passwords
- PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy, and PGP email provides users with keys to encrypt and decrypt messages so they can’t be read by unauthorized parties
- TOR software bounces your online communications to relays around the world, meaning someone watching you can’t see what sites you visit or where you’re located.
Secure Your Online Presence Today
None of these steps are particularly difficult or time-consuming, but employing even one of them can help you secure your online presence and protect your personal data against use by online businesses and hackers. Remember, once your online presence and history become bits and bytes of data, it can be stored and referenced… forever. Who knows how that might be used in the future? It’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you have further questions, additional resources can be found at StaySafeOnline.org, or you can contact an expert at Venice Consulting today. I would personally recommend making time to follow all of these steps – it won’t take long to increase your online security, and you can never be too careful with your data on the Internet. Surf safe. Stay safe!