How to manage your privacy and stay safe online during coronavirus quarantine
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to spend more time at home than we normally would. For many people, this means more time spent online, whether it’s work-related activities or free time spent streaming movies/TV shows. However, cyber crime has also become more active during quarantine, with cyber crooks seeing a great chance to make money from vulnerable people.
How to manage your privacy and stay safe online during coronavirus quarantine” width=”1018″ height=”800″ />Cyber criminals are fully aware that with people spending more time online, there are more opportunities for them to act. During the whole of quarantine, scammers have launched many COVID-19-related spam email campaigns, advertised fake medication, tricked users into downloading questionable apps/programs, etc. But it’s not just cyber criminals who are taking advantage of the situation. Because you’re spending more time online, you are also providing marketing companies with more of your data.e past few months have been a stressful time for everyone but it seems it will be a long time before we can return to a somewhat normal reality. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time at home and online, we have a few tips on how you can stay safe online and protect your privacy. After all, what better time to develop good browsing habits and learn to protect your privacy than when you are stuck at home with ample time.
Staying safe online and protecting your privacy during quarantine
1. Review your privacy settings
It’s no secret that certain companies are after your data. Companies like Facebook and Google track you everywhere you go, collecting information so they could show you targeted ads and share the data with advertisers. Unless you completely stop using those services, it’s quite difficult to get away from the tracking. However, if the amount of data Facebook and Google have about you is worrying you, you can change certain privacy settings and make the tracking less intrusive, though the settings can be difficult to find since companies don’t want you to opt out of tracking.
If you have a Google account and/or use Google, review your privacy settings and disable location tracking, search history, targeted ads, etc. In Facebook, disable off-Facebook activities, location history, ads based on your profile information/activities, etc. You can also look into alternative search engines or browsers that are more private and collect less data about users.
Being mindful of your own online privacy is especially important during the pandemic when you’re spending the majority of your time at home. You’re likely doing all of your shopping online, essentially giving marketing companies access to information about your shopping habits. And that is the kind of information that is the most valuable for marketing companies looking to show you targeted ads.
2. Use a VPN
A virtual private network, or VPN in short, is a program that allows users to browse more privately and safely by masking their IP addresses and encrypting connections. VPNs can be used by anyone but they are particularly useful for those who need their browsing hidden from prying eyes. For example, journalists and activists who work with sensitive information. It’s also a very necessary tool to have for those working from home during the quarantine. If you’re working from home and deal with sensitive/important information, your connection should be encrypted to avoid someone spying on what you are doing.
A VPN would also be useful for those who just want to have more privacy when browsing the Internet. The thing about browsing is that what you do is visible to certain parties, such as your Internet provider. Granted, if you’re not doing anything illegal, you’re probably not too worried about this, and it’s not like there’s someone actively watching what you do on the Internet. However, if, for whatever reason, you want your browsing to not be visible to anyone or you want to prevent companies like Facebook and Google from gathering data about you, using a VPN is the way to go.
When you use a VPN, your connection is routed via the VPN’s server, which is commonly located in another country. You’d essentially be browsing using the server’s internet connection. VPNs usually allow you to choose from a variety of different servers all over the world. For example, if you’re located in Europe but connect to a server in the US, your IP address would be in the US. This would also allow you to access geo-restricted content.
3. Use anti-virus software
If you do not already have anti-virus software installed, you should get it now. Anti-virus programs not only protect your computer from existing threats but also stop malware from entering in the first place and protect you while you’re browsing.
Having a clean computer is especially important when you’re working from home during quarantine. If you work for a company, your work computer should have all the necessary security programs installed to protect company data. If you work with company data from home, your personal computer needs to be protected for the same reason.
4. Don’t forget to install updates
Many users release an annoyed sigh when they get yet another notification about needing to install updates. While needing to constantly update your system and programs may be annoying, there is a great reason for that. Updates not only improve performance and fix certain errors, they also patch known vulnerabilities that could be used by malware to get inside. We recommend you enable automatic updates so that your device is always up-to-date.
5. Be skeptical of unsolicited COVID-19-related emails, messages, posts, etc.
With COVID-19 still wrecking havoc all over the world, people are actively looking for information about the virus. Cyber criminals are fully aware of this and are taking advantage of the situation. From the very beginning, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned users to be careful of criminals pretending to be from WHO. According to the organization, scammers claiming to be from WHO send fraudulent emails and social media messages to try and trick users into clicking on malicious links or opening infected email attachments. The Federal Trade Commission has also warned that scammers are taking advantage of the fears surrounding COVID-19.
Be very skeptical of any COVID-19-related information you receive, especially in email form. Do not open unsolicited email attachments and do not click on random links.