How to Protect Your Online Privacy

When you open your laptop or your mobile device, what is the first thing you do? Do you head to your favorite social media site to skim the latest news, or do you place your weekly grocery delivery order? No matter what your daily online habits are, even the slightest degree of caution can go a long way in staying secure online.  

That’s because hackers are experts at hiding malware in your everyday online routines, or even infiltrating your cookies to steal login information and learn about your personal preferences.  

 There are many hoops to jump through when navigating the digital landscape. By taking the necessary steps to remedy vulnerabilities in your digital activity, you can dramatically improve your online protection.  

Three online threats to watch out for  

Cybercriminals take advantage of online users through routine avenues you would not expect. Here are three common ways that cybercriminals eavesdrop on online users.  

1.  Adware 

Adware, or advertising-supported software, generates ads in the user interface of a person’s device. Adware is most often used to generate revenue for the developer by targeting unsuspecting online users with personalized ads paid by third parties. These third parties usually pay-per-view, click, or application installation.   

Though not always malicious, adware crosses into dangerous territory when it is downloaded without a user’s consent and has nefarious intent. In this case, the adware becomes known as a potentially unwanted application (PUA) that can remain undetected on users’ devices for long periods of time. According to a report by the Cybersecure Policy Exchange, an unintentionally installed or downloaded computer virus or piece of malware is one of the top five cybercrimes that Canadians experience. The PUA can then create issues like frequent crashes and slow performance.   

Users unknowingly download adware onto their device when they download a free ad-supported program or visit a non-secure site that does not use the Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) to encrypt online communication.   

2.  Malvertising 

Hackers also use invasive tactics known as ad injections, where they inject ads with malicious code for increased monetary gain. This is a practice known as “malvertising.” If a user clicks on a seemingly legitimate and well-placed ad, they risk exposing themselves to numerous online threats. These ads can be infected with malware such as viruses or spyware. For example, hackers can exploit browser vulnerabilities to download malware, steal information about the device system, and gain control over its operations. Hackers can also use malvertising to run fraudulent tech support scams, steal cookie data, or sell information to third-party ad networks.  

3.  Autofill 

Another vulnerability that many may not realize is their browser’s built-in autofill functions. As tempting as it is to use your browser’s autofill function to populate a long form, this shortcut may not be safe. Cybercriminals have found ways to capture credentials by inserting fake login boxes onto a web page that users cannot see. So, when you accept the option to autofill your username and password, you are also populating these fake boxes.   

Tips for rethinking your online habits  

Take a proactive approach to your digital protection the next time you are browsing the internet by reassessing your online habits. Check out these five tips to ensure you are staying as safe as possible online.  

1.  Clear your cookies on your browser 

Cookie data can contain anything from login information to credit card numbers. Cybercriminals looking to exploit this information can hijack browser sessions to pose as legitimate users and steal cookies as they travel across networks and servers. As a result, it is essential for online users to regularly clear out their cookies to better protect their information from falling into the wrong hands. Navigate to your browser’s history, where you can wipe the data associated with each browser session, including your cookies.   

2.  Use a reliable password manager 

Clearing your browser’s cookie data will also remove your saved logins, which is why leveraging a password manager can make it easier to access regularly visited online accounts.   

Many browsers come with a built-in password generator and manager; however, it is better to entrust your logins and passwords to a reputable password manager. Browser password managers are not as secure as password managers, because anyone who has access to your device will also access your online information. A password manager  provides a more secure solution since it requires you to log in with a separate master password. A password manager also works across various browsers and can generate stronger passwords than those created by your browser.   

3.  Adjust browser privacy settings 

In addition to clearing cookie data, users should adjust their browser settings to ensure their online sessions remain private.   

Another option is to access the internet in Private Browsing Mode to automatically block third-party tracking, making it a quick and easy option to ensure private browsing. Users can also enable the “do not track” function of their browser to prevent third-party tracking by advertisers and websites. Additionally, you can adjust your browser settings to block pop-up ads and control site permissions, such as access to cameras and locations.   

4.  Use an ad blocker 

Ad blockers suppress unwanted and potentially malicious ads to ensure a safer browsing experience. Ad blockers can also make it easier to view page layout by removing distracting ads and optimizing page load speed. Additionally, they prevent websites from tracking your information that third parties can sell.  

5.  Leverage a reputable security solution  

Deploying a security solution like McAfee+ Ultimate ensures the safest internet browsing experience through a holistic approach for threat detection, protection, and remediation. Equipped with a password manager, antivirus software, and firewall protection, users can effectively sidestep online threats while browsing the internet. Moreover, it includes comprehensive privacy and identity protection, such as our Personal Data Cleanup, dark web monitoring, and credit monitoring, along with ways you can quickly lock or freeze your credit file to help prevent accounts from being opened in your name. 

Take action to ensure safe browsing  

Your online behavior can say a lot about you so make sure you safeguard your internet protection. Whether it is through malvertising or invisible forms, hackers can glean information to paint a picture of who you are to target you through deceptive tactics. Cybercriminals are always looking for vulnerabilities which is why assessing your online habits sooner rather than later is a critical first step to smarter online browsing.  

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