simple and easy ways to enhance and protect your digital privacy

simple and easy ways to enhance and protect your digital privacy

Many of us may be exposed to hackers through our mobile phone or personal computer, resulting in electronic information theft or extortion. So dear reader, here are the top 5 simple and easy ways to enhance your digital privacy and security.

1 - Update your devices

One of the easiest and most effective ways to protect the security of your computers and mobile devices is to keep your software up to date. Manufacturer updates help patch vulnerabilities quickly, says Maria Reerich, Senior Director of Product Testing at Consumer Reports.

After you install an update, it's a good idea to re-check your digital privacy settings to make sure nothing has changed in the process. To do this, look in the Settings menu or System Preferences on most digital devices.

Although phone and computer manufacturers are usually vigilant about informing you of updates and even letting you update your devices automatically—a smart option—this is not always the case with devices such as routers, security cameras, and baby monitors. So take the time every few months to check for software and firmware updates for these items. (For instructions on how to run updates, search online or check your device's user manual.)

 2- Use two-factor authentication

What if you find a way to make your password useless to a hacker? This is what two-factor authentication does. Instead of relying solely on a password, user accounts secured by two-factor authentication require an additional level of proof of identity before access is granted. This may involve the use of a physical device (such as a phone or card) or certain biometric signs (such as a fingerprint, voiceprint, or facial recognition).

How does two-factor authentication usually work
When you sign into your account on a new laptop or smartphone, you'll be prompted for your password, but once you enter it, you won't immediately be able to access your account. Instead, the website will ask for a one-time-use code sent via text message to your phone. The second factor is your phone. Without it and the password, your access will be denied.

Almost every major online service offers some form of two-factor authentication as an option. To find out how to enable it, simply search for “two-factor authentication” online (or “2FA” for short) with the name of the company, such as Amazon, Apple, Gmail, or the name of your bank.

3- Freeze your balance

There's not much you can do to stop a data breach, but you can reduce your financial risk with a credit freeze, says Justin Brockman, director of consumer privacy and technology policy for Consumer Reports. This prevents most lenders from seeing your credit history, preventing them from issuing a credit card or approving a loan to an unauthorized party.

The only problem is that freezing also locks out the vendors you do business with. This might include obvious companies - such as a mortgage lender or a car maker financing company - and others that are less obvious, such as a cell phone company or even a potential employer.

4- Install a password manager

A password manager is essentially a virtual vault that creates and then stores complex, hard-to-crack passwords for all of your online accounts, allowing you to access them with one easy-to-remember password. Dashlane, 1Password, KeePass, and LastPass are among the most popular password managers, and they are either free or inexpensive ($2-5 per month). To close all of your accounts, you must log into each account separately, choose to change your password, and then let your password manager do the rest.

If this sounds like a massive headache, try sorting. Focus on your most important accounts—your email, bank, and healthcare accounts—and change the rest as you log into them.

5. Make privacy a priority

There is a lot to be said about choosing strong privacy protection when you sign up for a new online service or set up a new device. Some of these settings can protect you from hackers. But others, like turning off location tracking on your phone, can slow the erosion of your digital privacy that occurs when technology companies collect and share information.

On a very basic level, retailers and social media companies rely on consumers to volunteer information. When you make a purchase or set up an affinity account, they will ask for your phone number or email address. But just because they're asking doesn't mean you have to answer. And if the seller asks you to authenticate your email address, set up a clone account that you use for shopping and other non-critical online activities, while keeping your primary email address for important tasks like banking and healthcare.

Your devices also ask for your information, often without your knowledge. Start by checking your smartphone settings to determine which permissions each mobile app requires. Do you want to access the phone's microphone? location data? your contacts? If you're not sure why the app needs this information to function, turn off the permission. If this prevents the app from working the way you want it to, you can always restart it later.

Using these powerful digital privacy settings will help preserve your privacy while encouraging businesses to pay more attention to consumer privacy.