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Online privacy is a strange topic in today’s world. Data is playing a greater role in our lives, for better and worse. While it can improve our interactions and provide tailored recommendations, there are also drawbacks to consider.

Even when you’re avoiding social media and simply browsing the internet, there’s still plenty of data left behind. This all contributes to your digital footprint, which people can collect your data from. This can lead to issues such as identity theft or having your data sold to organisations.

Although people are more aware of what the risks are, many aren’t actively protecting themselves. We’ve explained some of those risks in greater detail and provided a few simple protective measures you can implement.

Data breaches

Data breaches have been a frequent topic in recent headlines. Many companies will hold the data of their customers within databases. These could be used to contact people or for reference purposes.

Hackers can exploit this wealth of information by launching a cyberattack against these organisations. If they have poor cybersecurity, it can lead to significant portions of customer data being compromised. This data will usually be valuable personal information, like emails and passwords – or even bank details.

Selling your data

When you’re using the internet, there’s potential for people to snoop on what you’re doing. All your traffic goes through your network, meaning your internet service provider (ISP) will have a log of activity. The same goes when connecting to a server, such as the one linked with your email provider.

This data can potentially be sold to third parties who would benefit from this knowledge. The same goes for when you get access to free things online. If you’re filling in an information form to get something without charge, it’s likely your data is the cost. Your information will be collected within a database, which is then sold on for profit or additional marketing purposes.

Cyberattacks

Our personal information is also sometimes the target of malicious individuals online. This could be done via malware obtained through suspicious downloads, phishing scams, or doxing.

Any of these can compromise your data online and, in some cases, leave you in a vulnerable position. Ransomware can hold your private files hostage, while spyware can secretly collect data for an extended period.

What can you do to protect your privacy online?

There are plenty of actions you can carry out to keep your data safer online. It’s simply a case of being proactive rather than reactive. Here are three of the easiest things you can do to keep your data more secure online.

Close old accounts and use GDPR to your advantage

Any old social media or online accounts you may have can contain valuable personal information. Deleting these accounts can help reduce the chances of someone accessing that information. GDPR measures can also be used to request that companies erase any data they’re holding on you if it’s now irrelevant.

Install a virtual private network (VPN)

Using a VPN gives you an easy way to hide your IP address from malicious individuals and others who may be watching. So, what is a VPN and what does it do for your privacy? It minimises your overall digital footprint when using the internet, so there’s less data to gather on you.

Many only require a simple click to turn them on, giving you a significant boost to your privacy with minimal effort.

Invest in the right cybersecurity software

Using a strong firewall in tandem with antivirus or anti-malware software will help deal with problematic programs. Having these in place can greatly enhance your computer’s reaction if a threat tries to compromise your files. Choose cybersecurity software from reputable vendors that is updated against new threats regularly.

By using these three things, you’ll be going from just being aware of your data to actively protecting it. With how valuable your data is, especially with the growing popularity of online banking, inaction isn’t an option anymore.