10 Ways to Protect Yourself Against Website Tracking
Sadly, Big Brother and his all-seeing eyes are no longer just fictional concepts. These days, there are numerous reports of surveillance from government entities and even private individuals. On the one hand, cybercriminals are looking to steal users’ data and siphon their funds. On the other hand, government agencies, such as the CIA, are looking to gather information as part of their duties. To add to that, on every side, the average internet user is assailed with different security challenges.
Not to worry, you can remain safe even in the face of these threats. There are several key steps you can implement to shore up your security. The ideas here are simple and easy to implement. Here goes.
1. Clear Browser History
This is a simple task that a lot of folks neglect. In the instances when people actually wipe off their browser history, it is to protect themselves from suspicion. However, periodic clearing of your history can do much more than save you from the ire of your spouse. It might be the sole decider of your safety.
Typically, when you visit any site, you accumulate “cookies” on your computer. These cookies track you, gathering information about your shopping habits, articles read, and all that. The presence of cookies explains why you automatically get logged in to a site even though you did not activate the “Remember me” option. In most cases, these sites gather these pieces of information to be better informed on how to interact with you. However, there is the possibility that some unscrupulous ones could sell your data to data mining companies. To keep safe, always clear your browser history after each session.
2. Do Not Reply Unsolicited and Suspicious Emails
It is surprising the number of people who fall prey to phishing scams regardless of the abundance of information on the subject. The advice here is simple: do not reply to unsolicited emails. The same goes for social media. Regulate what you share, who you share with, and how often you do. A hacker can access your device through something as easy as when you click an innocuous-looking link.
3. Install an Adblock App
Adblock apps are a dime a dozen. Although there are free ones you could download and install, premium versions offer the best benefit. A paid ad blocker will prevent ads from popping up even when you visit sites that are notorious for spamming you with ads.
You must understand that an ad blocker not only makes sure you have a smooth ride while using a website, but it could also act as a very important security measure. Some ads have malware and nefarious viruses embedded in them. Hence, when they show up, there is the possibility that they could infect and corrupt your device. From that point, the damage that that could result in may be unquantifiable. Identify and subscribe to any of the many ad blockers available. Your online privacy and security will be all the more secured because of it.
4. Use a VPN
VPN is short for (Virtual Private Network). A VPN is an app that is specifically designed to improve security and privacy online. When you install a VPN, it encrypts your connection and gives you a virtual IP address that is secure. Due to this encryption, third parties will be unable to get on your network. This includes advertising firms, your Internet Service Provider (ISP), and even government entities. Every traffic that emanates from the VPN-protected device is secured, except if the user chooses otherwise.
There are a plethora of providers in the market today. Some offer their services at no cost – although the consensus is that free providers are unsafe. On the other hand, the subscription offers by the different providers vary. Some are steep, while others are relatively cheap and affordable. A VPN offers you total protection of your device. It might be a great idea to check one out.
5. Create Strong and Unique Passwords for Every Platform
Do not make the mistake of using the same password for every platform. That is a sure recipe for disaster. It might seem like a lot of work, but do take the time to create a separate password for every platform you have to sign in to. When you do this, even if a hacker breaches one platform, the rest remains safe. Make them hard to decipher, nothing as easy as your birthday or easy-to-guess words like “password”. Do not share your password except with trusted friends and family. Finally, if you get to sign in to an account on a public device, do well to sign out and clear your details immediately you are done.
6. Use a Non-Tracking Search Engine
Google and Bing are the two most popular search engines all over the world. They also have been known to gather and retain information about their users – with Google being the more guilty of the two. When you type in a keyword, these search engines store it, analyze your browsing patterns, and send you ads based on those. As an alternative, you use non-tracking search engines. There aren’t a lot of them out there. However, if you pay close attention, you’ll locate them.
7. Read Terms and Agreements
The average Joe does not bother with reading agreements while downloading and installing apps on their devices. App developers know this and sometimes hide unsavory terms within the fine prints of their agreements. While clicking on the I Accept icon, you potentially may be granting a third party the right to keep you under surveillance.
Do well to read the terms of every app before you install. Only accept if you are comfortable with every term. Else, look for an alternative. It might seem like a lot; however, when compared to the scary traps you could be blindly walking into, it is well worth it.
8. Use Incognito Mode
An incognito mode is an anonymous setting that you find on browsers like Google Chrome, etc. The idea is that when you activate it, you will be safe from tracking. However, that is not exactly how it works. For most browsers, even when you use the incognito mode, your network provider, employer, and the website you visit are all aware of your activities. Thus, it might be a bad idea to visit suspicious sites while relying on protection from the incognito mode.
The incognito mode is mostly to make sure that no data is left on your device when your session ends. Hence, log in details, cookies, and browser details will all be wiped off at the end of your surfing experience. This is better than nothing.
9. Encrypt Your Emails
There are tools you can make use of to encrypt your emails, effectively shutting out snoops. When your emails are encrypted, a third party cannot access them without your private password and the answer to a secret question. In the same vein, the connection with the sender/recipient will be encrypted. That way, anyone tapping into the network would be unable to decrypt and access your communication. This is a surefire means to send and receive secure files and messages using email.
10. Make Payments with Cryptocurrencies
This may seem like overkill and certainly applies only to those who are hung up on maintaining privacy. Cryptocurrencies give you the option of remaining anonymous while making payments online. It is even more remarkable that they are gaining mainstream acceptance as a veritable means of offsetting debts. You may want to hop on this train to strengthen your security further.
It might be impossible to eliminate all the possible threats you face when you use the internet. However, being proactive and security-conscious can protect you from a lot of them. The steps above show you simple actions you can take to protect yourself from cybercrooks.