August 13, 2021

Three Digital Tools to Use for Strong Online Privacy and Safety

Posted by Rhiannon

Your digital privacy and safety go hand in hand. “Privacy” refers to your right to take actions online without being observed by others on the web. There are many third parties who monitor what you do online, including the websites you visit, the browsers you use, your internet service provider, advertisers, government agencies, and more. Not only do these organizations watch what you do online, but they may also make money from the data they collect about your activities.

Meanwhile, “safety” is a term that describes being protected from dangers and risks online. There are many digital dangers we face when using the web, including data breaches and malware. Cybercriminals are behind most of these dangers. While many internet users consider poor online privacy and safety to be par for the course when using the web – a necessary sacrifice for digital access – that doesn’t have to be the case. Any and every user can have strong online privacy and safety by combining three digital tools.

  • Install a VPN
  • Use antivirus software
  • Search with a private search engine

Install a VPN

VPNs, or virtual private networks, are a type of software designed with two purposes in mind:

  1. They encrypt your data. Almost everything you do online can make someone else money by invading your privacy. For example, your internet service provider may earn money by selling your search history to advertisers. The advertisers then use that data to show you ads based on your interests; if you make a purchase from the ad, the advertiser makes money. So does the company who hired the advertising service. Meanwhile, you’ve lost money on your purchase, while also losing your privacy. With a VPN installed, third-parties can no longer easily see your online activity, because the VPN encrypts it. If they can’t see your data, they can’t sell it.
  2. They make you anonymous. All of your online activity is associated with your IP address, which is an identifying number assigned to you by your internet service provider. IP addresses ensure that websites are able to show you the right information as you browse the web, and are a hugely important element when it comes to making the internet function. However, while they allow the web to work, they also broadcast a lot of personal information about you to anyone who knows how to look for it. When you use a VPN, the service assigns you a temporary IP address, which contains no personally identifying information, thus keeping you anonymous online.

Use Antivirus Software

VPNs are excellent tools for digital privacy. However, there are some dangers on the web they cannot keep you safe from, simply because that is not their purpose. For example, a VPN cannot detect malware or warn users if a website is unsafe. For that, you’ll want to pair a VPN with some antivirus software for strong online privacy and safety. Antivirus software can:

  • Protect your files. If you accidentally click a dangerous link or download malicious software, a good antivirus software should stop it in its tracks and delete it before it causes damage. However, without antivirus software, a virus or bit of malware can delete or lock your files, or wreck your entire computer.
  • Prevent spying. Some malware won’t appear obvious to you. Instead, it may spy on your activities and log everything you type. In these cases, things like your passwords, emails and messages, banking information, and more might be stolen from you without you even noticing it.
  • Increase speed, decrease spam. Malware and adware can slow your devices down, which frustrates the most patient of us. It can also cause annoying spam pop-ups to jump out at us at the worst times. Antivirus software prevents this from happening.

Some popular antivirus programs include Norton Antivirus, Kaspersky, and McAfee.

Search with a Private Search Engine

VPNs do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to privacy online. However, there are a few ways companies get around their efforts. For example, many search engines allow you to create your own profiles/accounts to add bookmarks, save your passwords, and more. Using these accounts even while protected with a VPN means that your search engine can still track some of your activity online. You can correct this issue with a private search engine like DuckDuckGo, or Startpage. Check out our blog about the best private search engines available today, and the reasons you should use one.

Although many people think that strong online privacy and safety is a myth in the digital age, with hackers and other snoops roaming the web, the truth is that privacy and safety is not only possible but easy to obtain. By combining a VPN with a private search engine and antivirus software, you can benefit from the strongest tools for both digital privacy and security.

Posted by Rhiannon

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