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When it comes to protecting your data online, you might think that you need a cyber security degree to do that. While expert handling is unmatched, by making a few simple changes to your devices and accounts, you can maintain security against unauthorized access to your data while also protecting your privacy from those you don’t want to share your information with. It’s simple to get started. Here’s a rundown of a few simple changes you can make to protect yourself and your data online.

Keep Your Account Secure:

Why: Equifax, Facebook, Home Depot, Marriott, Target, Yahoo, and a slew of other corporations have experienced data breaches and password leaks in the last decade. If you have any online accounts, at least one of them has most likely been hacked. Do you want to know which of your accounts has been hacked? Have I Been Pwned? allows you to cross-reference your email address with hundreds of data breaches by searching for it.

How: Using a password manager to generate and remember unique, complicated passwords for each account is the most critical thing people can do today to safeguard their privacy and security. LastPass and 1Password are two of Wirecutter’s favourite password managers. Both can generate passwords, monitor accounts for security breaches, advise weak password changes, and sync passwords between your computer and phone. Password managers may appear overwhelming to set up, but after you’ve done so, all you have to do now is surf the web as usual. The password manager saves your passwords as you log in to accounts and proposes that you change weak or duplicate passwords. You wind up with new passwords for most of your accounts over the course of a few weeks. Change the default passwords for any devices in your home at this time — if your home router, smart light bulbs, or security cameras are still using “password” or “1234”, change them.

Everyone should utilize two-step authentication for their online accounts whenever possible. This is an option that most banks and major social media platforms provide. Two-step authentication, as the name implies, entails two steps: entering your password and entering a number that only you have access to. Logging in to Facebook with your username and password, for example, is the first step. In step two, Facebook offers you a temporary code through text message or, better yet, an app like Google Authenticator, which you use to log in.

Protect your online browsing experience:

Why? Because businesses and websites keep track of everything you do online. Every ad, social media button, and website collects data on your location, surfing patterns, and other factors. The information gathered tells a lot more about you than you might think. You may think you’re clever for never tweeting about your medical problems or revealing all of your religious convictions on Facebook or the cyber security certificate programs that you are attending, but the websites you visit on a daily basis are likely to offer advertisers with all the information they need to figure out what kind of person you are. This is one of the reasons why targeted adverts are still one of the most unnerving aspects of the Internet.

How: uBlock Origin, for example, is a browser extension that prevents advertising and the data they gather. The uBlock Origin extension also protects your browser from viruses and provides a simple option to turn off ad blocking when you wish to support sites you know are safe. When you combine uBlock with Privacy Badger, which prevents trackers, advertising are less likely to follow you around. Disable interest-based advertisements from Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter to further slow down stalker adverts. Many websites have options for opting out of data collecting, but you must do so manually. Simple Opt Out provides direct links to opt-out instructions for popular websites such as Netflix, Reddit, and others. This will not totally solve the problem, but it will greatly reduce the amount of data collected.

Install the HTTPS Everywhere addon as well. When a site supports HTTPS Everywhere, it automatically redirects you to the secure version, making it harder for an attacker to digitally eavesdrop on what you’re doing, especially if you’re using public Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, airport, or hotel.

A virtual private network (VPN) may be useful for some people, but it is not required for everyone. A VPN is handy if you frequently use public Wi-Fi since it gives an extra degree of security to your browsing when HTTPS isn’t available. It can also assist decrease tracking based on your IP address and provide some privacy from your Internet service provider. However, because all of your Internet activity passes through the VPN provider’s servers, you’re choosing to trust that firm over your ISP not to store or sell your data by utilising one. Make sure you grasp the benefits and drawbacks first, but Wirecutter recommends IVPN if you need a VPN.

Install antivirus software:

Why: Viruses are still around despite being less common than a decade ago. Malicious software can cause pop-ups, bitcoin mining, and personal information theft. If you open harmful links or share a Windows machine with others, use antivirus software.

How: If you have Windows 10 in your computer, it’s about time you utilise Windows Defender. Wirecutter recommends Windows Defender as the best antivirus for most people after consulting various experts. A second layer of security may be needed if you use an older version of Windows (we recommend Windows 10) or a shared computer. Malwarebytes Premium is recommended. Malwarebytes is unintrusive, works well with Windows Defender, and doesn’t send lots of unwanted notifications.

Mac users are generally satisfied with the security features built into macOS, especially if they only download software from Apple’s App Store and utilise well-known browser extensions. Malwarebytes Premium is now available for Mac if you want an extra layer of protection. Antivirus programmes should be avoided entirely on your phone, and you should only download reputable apps from certified marketplaces.