Protect your personal data: avoid malware, password, VPN

Protect your personal data: avoid malware, password, VPN

Nowadays, it is essential to protect your personal information. It is often leaked to advertisers, who send you unnecessary ads and spam but even worse than that, it could also be leaked to hackers. This is far more dangerous for your personal security and confidentiality as well as for your computer safety. In this article, we will guide you through the best precautionary measures to protect your data.

Why do you need to protect your personal data?

The cybersecurity news on the Web worries many people. In the digital era, it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep your information confidential because everything is stored on cloud servers. Different companies and organizations keep information about our purchases, movements, personal calls, and correspondence to sell to advertisers.

If your computer, phone, or tablet is poorly protected, then your personal data can be easily stolen by hackers. This, in turn, leads to other problems: fraud, illegal operations, blackmailing, as well as severe damage to the device’s operating system, and loss of important information. Below, you will find several effective ways to protect your data as much as possible. Here's how to improve your data protection.

Install an antivirus

Reliable antivirus software is the foundation of your cybersecurity. Install a proven antivirus program to protect yourself from any malware, such as phishing, suspicious programs, spyware, or data fraud. One of the most famous free antivirus software is Avast Antivirus but you can find other options in our dedicated article.

Use a two-factor authentication process

You may be wondering what is “two-factor authentication”: it is a two-step process in which you have to prove your identity to gain access. It adds an extra layer of protection both for you and the software or website that you want to access. Usually, when entering your email or social network, you need to sign in with your login and password. With two-factor authentication, the system can send a one-time confirmation code to your mobile device or ask you a secret question. Some services might become suspicious if you regularly log in from one part of the world and then suddenly, from the opposite side. This way, you will have to confirm that it’s your identity (if it's you) by submitting a code or other security information.

Because our mailbox is usually targeted by hackers by stealing information or sending virus links to your acquaintances, we recommend you protect it with two-factor authentication. You can manage your password, and secret information asked when logging-in in security settings for Outlook, Google, Yahoo! and other email services.

Use a VPN

What is a VPN? It is a network that allows you to securely connect to the Internet by simulating an internet connection from a different location. Currently, it is one of the most widely used methods for data protection and privacy. Make sure to choose a secure VPN service that is adapted to your personal needs. You can easily install a VPN on your computer and other mobile devices.

Backup your data

Always make a back-up of your essential files and folders, so they are not lost in case of system corruption or infection by hackers. Use USB sticks, external hard drives, cloud storage systems to save some important files in more than one place.

Encrypt your data

Encryption prevents any stolen data to be opened, used, or exposed if, for example, someone has stolen your computer. You can encrypt your entire hard drive on Mac or PC in security settings. For PC go to Settings > System > About and scroll down to Device Encryption. For Mac go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault and turn it on. If your PC doesn’t support Device encryption you can download Bitlocker or VeraCrypt software to encrypt your data.

Password-protect your documents in Word

In order to restrict access to important or confidential files and folders, you can password-protect them. However, you should always save a file containing the passwords in use so that you don't forget them.

You can password-protect Excel and Word documents. For Word documents, you can do so with the following steps: After creating the Word document, click on Tools and select Protect document. In the field labeled Password to open and Password to modify, enter passwords of your choice. If you’d like to remove your personal information from this file, checkmark the Privacy tab.

password protect word documents
© Word

Other tips

  • Don't sync your files if it's not necessary: some devices enable cloud syncing for all of your files and photos when you start using it. If you don't want to cloud share some files, adjust your cloud settings.
  • Use strong and unique passwords: try to use different compounded passwords or use a reliable password manager to create difficult passwords and keep track of them. Try 1Password, Bitwarden or Dashlane.
  • Avoid clicking on links sent by strangers: it could be a phishing attack.
  • Update your apps and software regularly: often, the newer updates have improved security features.
  • Adjust privacy settings in your social networks. Often they can be very vulnerable because of the huge amount of personal information open to everyone (such as your parents' or pets’ names which are often used as a secret word to recover a password).
  • Try to avoid using public Wi-Fi because of the risks related to wireless networks: there are many free Wi-Fi networks created by hackers to steal your data, and sometimes it's impossible to distinguish good Wi-Fi from a bad and dangerous one.
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