The Internet is full of peeping eyes. What are you doing to protect yourself and your identity? The options range from practical to paranoid, so find yourself a happy medium with a combination of the following.
Turn On Your Firewall
No matter who you are, you should be using your computers built-in firewall. It will encrypt some data and help keep people on the same Wi-Fi network as you from peeking into your computer.
It's a good first step, much like locking your front door. You can search online for easy to follow instructions, for both PC and Mac.
Every major browser has a Private Browsing feature of some sort, which records no information about what you do, including cookies and history, data you enter, files you download, and the like.
This feature is ideal when you use a public computer, as well as for a great variety of other things if you think creatively. Hide surprise birthday purchases from a spouse, log in to multiple Google accounts simultaneously, and more.
How to activate the feature:
- Chrome and Opera: Ctrl+Shift+N.
- Firefox and Internet Explorer: Ctrl+Shift+P.
- Safari: Safari>Private Browsing.
Private browsing is a great first step, but still leaves behind plenty of evidence, so you need to take other measures.
Learn how to completely erase your footprints, including by using a CCleaner software that tidies things up nicely.
Turn On DNT
Do Not Track (DNT) is a browser setting that helps keep advertisers from tracking your Internet usage for purposes of targeted advertising. Check your browsers security settings to turn on DNT. It won't do everything, but it helps.
If advertisers and data miners are your major privacy concern, consider subscribing to a service like DeleteMe, which handles the dirty work of pulling your personal information from sites like BeenVerified, which often sell your info to spammers. Or take the hard route and do it yourself.
Make Software Changes
The Onion Router, aka TOR, is a technology designed by the Navy for maximum security; it throws off trackers and hackers by accessing data through a network of tunnels rather than a straightforward IP address on a network. The free software will make you extremely invisible.
If you dont want to go that far, consider installing HTTPS Everywhere, a Firefox and Chrome extension that automatically encrypts your browsing on most websites. HTTPS (the s is for secure) is one of the best and easiest ways to amp up security in everyday browsing. Or try Hotspot Shield.
Use A VPN
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is one of the surest ways to go invisible online. HowStuffWorks likens it to a submarine in the ocean of the Internet, where most people travel by ferry.
Some VPNs are free, but the ones that offer the most security cost anywhere from $40 to $80 per year. Nevertheless, if you spend a lot of time on public networks (such as coffee shops or airports), travel outside the country, or deal in confidential matters, a VPN is a wise move.
SEE ALSO: Data Encryption Dictionary
If you have to sign up using an email address but are concerned about spam, use a disposable email address. Countless such services exist, they let you create a bogus email within their parameters (e.g. email@example.com) and trick the website into thinking its realyoull just never see the junk they send you.
If you have to fill in full personal info on a sketchy website, get yourself an entire new identity from Fake Name Generator, which comes up with a creepily-specific false persona, complete with address, mothers maiden name, and blood type. Save the first one they give you and make it your online alter ego.