Practice

The Four Things You Should Do Right Now to Improve Your Digital Privacy

It’s no secret that I’ve been pretty enthusiastic about getting fitted for a tinfoil hat and diving down the rabbit hole of privacy and reducing the level of digital surveillance in my life and the lives of people I care about. All those dystopian novels I devoured as a kid seem to be coming true in ways that I never expected (Captain America is now a Nazi, and France is possibly not far behind).

But it is a rabbit hole, and every time you think you’ve found the bottom some other new surveillance program or hacking technique is brought to light, and you can keep going deeper. I do not recommend that. It’s sort of the equivalent of “Fear Of Missing Out” but instead it’s “Fear of Not Doing Enough.”

So let’s combat that with “Sense of At Least Doing Something”, and give you four things that you can – that you should – do at a minimum that will help reduce your digital footprint.

  1. Improve Your Passcode: Every phone or tablet has one. Are you using yours? If not, then do. If you do, it’s probably four digits; make it six. It’s six already? Ok, make it alphanumeric. Just don’t use the fingerprint for security…because it’s really, really not secure.
  2. Use Two-Factor Authentication: This one is a little more complicated, though the Electronic Frontier Foundation has step-by-step guides for doing it with almost all the big online services. It does make things a little less convenient, but readers of this blog can just look at that as an extra opportunity to cultivate patience, and also a way to keep something like this from happening. Pro Tip: you want to use an authenticator app, not SMS codes, because those are (you guessed it) not secure.
  3. Use a Password Manager: Now, there are pros and cons to this; the pro is, you can have ridiculously complex passwords different on all kinds of sites, and the apps like 1Password will keep track of them. The con is, what happens when someone hacks 1Password? Short of keeping a little black book next to your computer, this is the next best thing to having private and complex passwords for all your accounts. There is a bit of a learning curve, but I’ve been using 1Password for about a month and it becomes painless pretty quickly.
  4. Use a VPN: Let’s make one thing clear – a Virtual Private Network doesn’t hide what sites you’re visiting, it simply tells someone other than your local ISP what sites you’re visiting. This is part of the reason that it’s important to do your research about which Virtual Private Network you plan on using. The old “you get what you pay for almost certainly applies here. I currently use Freedome (I don’t get anything in return for recommending them, by the way) but you should make your own decision, looking at reviews like this one.

Are there other things you can do? Sure. Get a privacy shield for your phone. Stop using unsecured apps for texting. Set up a Faraday cage around your office and…

No, I’m just kidding. While you could do those things, they definitely qualify as “down the rabbit hole.” But those four steps up there? You could do all of these within an hour and be far more secure than if you didn’t.

Got more suggestions? Or questions that I can pass on to my expert consultants? That’s not a euphemism; my company does engage an infosec specialist who likes to help people with their security concerns.

Just don’t do nothing. Because you have been warned…

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