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How to Protect Your Privacy in an Era of Rising Cybercrime

You hear so many horrifying stories these days about the threat of cybercrime. Criminals are spying on us and our children in our very homes, using the devices we buy to keep them safe. Hackers are stealing kids’ school enrollment records, and using the data they contain to steal our kids’ identities years before they’re even old enough to know what that means. With cyber criminals seemingly closing in from all directions, what can you do to protect yourself?

Well, protecting your privacy can go a long way towards protecting your personal information and other valuable data, such as when you plan to go out of town or what your family’s routine is (data like these could help criminals schedule a time to burgle your home). If you’re taking appropriate steps to protect your privacy, criminals won’t be able to access your private data – or they’ll at least have a harder time of it. Here’s what you need to do to stay safe.

Keep Your OS and Apps Up to Date

It’s very important that you’re always using the latest, most up-to-date versions of your favorite browsers, apps, and operating system (OS). Why? Because developers know that no software is completely impervious to malware and viruses – every software is going to have points of weakness. Developers study their work to find those points of weakness – or, in many cases, they become aware of the weaknesses when criminals take advantage of them. Updates contain patches that fix these security flaws, so they’re crucial if you want to keep your devices safe. 

Use Antivirus Software

You absolutely need comprehensive internet security software if you use the internet at all. Microsoft Defender has gotten pretty good at protecting Windows from viruses, but only if you have the version installed on Windows 10 or later. Most antivirus software scans your device in the background for malware, viruses, ransomware, and other malicious code that hackers could be deploying to steal your personal data, take over your system, cryptojack it, and so on.

Turn on Your Firewall

Firewalls protect your computer by monitoring the communications between your device and other devices on the internet. It will block communications from any source that isn’t specifically permitted. Firewalls can make it hard to download apps, and often, devices are shipped with the firewalls turned off because not being able to download apps annoys a lot of users. But once you have all the apps you need, turn your firewall on to keep hackers from being about to connect with your system. 

Use Strong Passwords and Two-Factor Authentication

If you’re using the same password for all of your online accounts, and a hacker gets ahold of that password, well then, you’ve just given him or her the key to all of your accounts. Heaven help you if you’re using the same password for your online banking portal, credit cards, shopping accounts, social media, and email – now all of those accounts are compromised.

Each and every one of your online accounts needs its own unique, strong password. Use a password generator to create passwords that contain a random combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. A password manager can help you keep them all handy.

Stay on Guard Against Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks are the most common form of fraud, and they’re getting more sophisticated, so you really need to stay on your toes in order to avoid all of them. Remember, no government agency, bank, or shopping website is going to ask you to resolve an issue via a link sent in an email. If you get an urgent message saying that your bank account has been compromised or thanking you for the expensive Amazon order you didn’t place, you can safely ignore it. If you need to verify that it’s a scam, do so by opening a browser window, going to the organization’s website, and signing in from there.

Be Careful Who You Give Your Data To

Whether you’re shopping online or using social media, you have to be careful about what you’re sharing. When shopping, always verify that you’re shopping with a legitimate website. Read their privacy policies and don’t shop there if they will share your info. Make sure you know how to recognize if a website is secure so that you know your financial information will be encrypted. 

On social media, be careful what you share. It might seem normal to share about your family’s routine or your date of birth, but this is valuable data that you should protect. Remember, you’re not just sharing your social media with your friends and family. You’re making that info public to the whole world. Hackers can easily find what you share on social media, and can use it to guess your answers to security questions or case your house, for example.

Cybercrime may be on the rise, but you’re not helpless. You can take important steps to protect your privacy, and that will help you protect your information from thieves.