Some people felt that the Edward Snowden revelations in 2013 would be a tipping point. Surely after the world became aware of the extent of the secret surveillance of online activity of the entire US population, things would have to change.
In many ways they were right, but perhaps not in the way they expected. Publicly at least, the US government has taken a few steps back from their bulk data collection. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it continues, once again, in the shadows and behind closed doors.
And since then, more than a few other countries have followed suit. As the perceived terrorist threat to the Western world continues, more and more governments are making the case that bulk data collection and online snooping is necessary if they are to defend national security.
In other parts of the world, less democratic countries are increasingly aware of how effective online snooping can be to cement their control of a state or to quash opposition to their policies. As the technology becomes cheaper, so more and more governments are turning to such techniques.
And it is not just stated actors who are a threat to the online privacy of netizens around the world, Hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated in their techniques and more often than not are one step ahead of the security companies we all rely on to keep us safe.
So the question many people are asking themselves is, what can we do in this day and age to protect our online privacy?
Well, the fact remains that there are a number of security and privacy tools out there which remain effective. And while they may not offer any guarantees, they can make the job of those who would snoop on your online activity significantly harder. Often this is enough as hackers, in particular, tend to be looking for easy targets.
But what are they? Well, here is a run-down of the top 3 simple & effective ways to protect your online privacy in 2016:
1. Use a Password Manager: RECOMMENDED – 1password
Ask someone how many online accounts they have and most people would struggle to give you an accurate figure. Ask them if they can remember all the passwords for those accounts, and you will often get an answer in the affirmative.
Why? Because almost all of us are far too lax when it comes to setting passwords. We know we won’t remember anything too complex, so we settle for something simple and easy to remember. Often we will use the same password for all, or many, of our accounts.
And all of this plays into the hands of an online snooper, as cracking one password can give them access to all your data. It is so unnecessary too when there are password managers on the market.
A password manager will help you to generate complex, hard-to-crack passwords for all your accounts. It will then remember them for you, hiding them behind one single secure password, which is all you need to remember.
There are plenty on the market, but for me, 1pass is the pick of the bunch right now for its security features and also it’s user-friendly interface.
2. Use a VPN whenever connected to the internet
A VPN or Virtual Private Network is just essential these days for anyone interested in ensuring their data remains private online.
They work be rerouting all your online traffic via an encrypted pathway to an external server. This encrypted pathway means that all your online data is encoded and secure from hackers and other prying eyes.
Rerouting your data also hides your IP Address and this makes you almost completely anonymous online too. This is important if you want to ensure privacy while using your webcam to call someone on Skype, using FaceTime, or especially any online webcam-enabling site.
And what’s more a VPN can travel with you, so you can also be sure of your privacy on notoriously insecure public Wi-Fi networks.
There are too many out there, and too many different factors, to make a single recommendation of a VPN, but I do suggest you check out a reliable comparison site to see which VPN is the right one for you.
3. Use a Reliable AntiVirus – RECOMMENDED – Avast
Last but by no means least, a reliable and regularly updated anti-virus program is also vital.
Sure, they are not always perfect, but they are better than nothing, and as long as you ensure that they are regularly updated, most do offer a reasonable level of protection against some of the most common tools used by hackers and online snoopers, such as Malware.
There are plenty of paid-for anti-virus providers on the market, but in my view, there are free tools which are just as good. My pick at the moment is Avast, but if you don’t think they are the right ones for you, head to a comparison site again to find one you like.