Online Privacy Steps To Take Now

Online privacy was the top subject last year and it appears it’s the same for 2019. Last week, Facebook and Google delivered messages about their efforts to guard your privacy.  See the New York Time article here. While we wait for these features to go live, here are steps you can take now to guard your internet privacy. 

What kind of online privacy are we talking about? Most of us are concerned with the data that Google and Facebook hold onto. They want privacy to mean that the data they hold is not sold to third parties.  Regardless, for us users, it still means we have to trust Google as our data steward, and why should we? Certainly, the US government doesn’t think we should. They are after stronger laws to police violations and impose penalties.  In April, Facebook said it expected to be fined up to $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations. Then in May, Mr. Zuckerber’s college roommate, Chris Hughes, wrote an op-ed suggesting a separation of Instagram and Whatsapp from Facebook. The split would virtually eliminate privacy invasions, fake news and Russian trolls he said.

If you look at competitors like Snapchat, Mr Hughes may be right. Snapchat invented the idea of disappearing photos, and when Facebook embraced the idea and tried to buy the company, but was rebuffed, Facebook responded by copying the idea and using it on Instagram. The Instagram Story feature is now used by over 500 million people daily, while Snapchat has under 200 million active daily users. 

Online Privacy Steps To Take Today

ClickAway technicians often install these programs and set them up for clients but you can also do it yourself if you want. Here’s what we suggest you try:

Web Browsing Protection

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Maybe you don’t tweet about your views on gun control or a medical condition but your internet browsing history is documented and saved. How do you think those ads follow you from place to place? Stop this from happening by using a browser extension like ublock origin for Chrome and Firefox. It will block ads, data collected and prevent malware from running in the browser. You can turn it off for sites you know are secure. Another handy tool is simple opt out, which lets you stop data collection from sites like Netflix, Reddit and others. We also suggest you use HTTPS for every website you visit, as oppose to HTTP. ClickAway can also set you up with a virtual private network (VPN) if you want an added layer of security. Ask us about the pros and cons of VPNs.

Keep Software Updated

Regardless of the device, manufacturer updates are far better than any antivirus software at deterring attacks and threats. The recent hack into WhatsApp is a good example. The company issued an update immediately after discovering apps on cellphones of staff in law firms and other big companies were targeted. We suggest you keep your phone and computer operating systems, browsers, smart home devices and apps up to date. Make sure they are set to update automatically. Not sure, drop by and we can tell you or we can remote in and have a look. Most updates on phones can be checked in the App Store or Play Store, depending on what device you have.

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How to update WhatsApp on iPhone.

Account Security – What To Do

Use a password manager. Try 1Password or LastPass to generate and save complex, differing passwords for every account. Sorry but 123Netflix is not a safe password and online privacy hackers know it. The programs can also monitor security breaches and will make suggestions if you still are trying to use weak passwords. Yes, they will also sync the passwords between your phone and laptop. While you’re at it, change default passwords on your home devices as well such as routers, smart home devices and security cameras. Many come with “password” or “1234” as the login code. We suggest you change that ASAP.

Use a two-step verification. Most social media and bank apps have this option and ClickAway suggests you take advantage of it. Once set up, you typically log in with your password and then receive a 4-digit code via text message on your phone to complete the log in.

NO NO Scrappy Software 

If you spend much time on Google Play, chances are you’ve seen apps that allow shady practices like click flooding. They track your location everywhere you go and harvest your data without asking for consent. These are apps like Fun Kid Racing and Clean Master

We suggest you stop downloading junk software. Download apps direct from the company or official app stores. Get rid of what you don’t need or use. Your phone will work better without them anyway. Have a look at the privacy settings on the apps that are left. Surveys say the average smartphone user accesses 9 apps a week and up to 30 a month. If you have more than that on your phone, consider deleting some.

Antivirus Software Is Still Needed

Malicious software is not as problematic as it was 10 years ago but we still see a lot of troubled computers coming in our doors. Whether they are scanning for personal information or annoying you with pop-ups, viruses can wreak havoc. Ask us which antivirus we recommend for Windows and Mac computers.

Enable Laptop Encryption

Most of us know how to lock down our phones to prevent data theft if it’s lost or stolen. But if someone takes your laptop, a clever thief can get your tax returns just my poking around a bit. ClickAway can encrypt your storage drive so that a password and key protect your data. You can also find instructions here.  We also suggest backing up your data securely. Try Backblaze, an online backup service with encryption. 

Read Roger S.‘s review of ClickAway Computer + Phone + Network Repair on Yelp