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    Categories: Technology

Protecting Your Digital Identity in 2016

If you weren’t conscious of the privacy risks you were running online before 2013, thanks to a certain NIA employee, you are now.

His name if you haven’t already guessed it, was Edward Snowden, and his revelations of the extent on the US Government’s online surveillance programme and data collection against its own citizens shocked the entire world.

Sure, we are told that this programme has now been scaled back, and reassurances are given that it was all anonymized, and if we had done nothing wrong, we had nothing to fear. But for many of us, the Snowden revelations were the final straw.

It was the time when more and more people started to take their online privacy seriously and take real steps to protect themselves against government surveillance, as well as the very real threat of hackers and other cyber-criminals.

Since 2013, there has been one story after another of the US Government’s efforts to snoop on the private online activities of its citizens. Every time there is a security incident in the USA, the Government responds by trying to undermine privacy still further in the name of security.

Digital privacy tips

And of course, the US Government is not alone. The UK Government is passing high intrusive legislation at the moment, and of course, those less-than-liberal states such as Russia and China have been leading the way for some time now. The term online privacy in those countries is rarely used without a sarcastic tone of voice.

But if you are concerned and do want to take steps to protect your online privacy, what exactly can you do? Well, there are a number of pretty simple and affordable steps you can take which are hugely effective.

I have worked in the cyber-security industry for some time now, and there aren’t many security apps and programmes that I haven’t road-tested at one time or another. And in this article, I have compiled my top 3 Tech Tips to Protect Your Digital Privacy in 2016. (Oh, and if you want to know how to watch Netflix in Europe, or elsewhere in the world too, one of my tips is good for that too!:

How to Protect Your Digital Privacy in 2016:

  1. Download Anti-Virus Software

If you are not already aware of anti-virus software, you are very much in the minority in this day and age. But you may not think about it as being important for your online privacy as well as your online security.

Viruses, Trojans, and Malware are some of the most popular ways for snoopers to gain access to your devices and the data they contain, and so combating them with an effective anti-virus is essential.

There are plenty of anti-virus software providers out there, from established names such as McAfee, Norton, and Kaspersky. If you don’t fancy paying for one, there are also some reputable free options such as AVG and Avast.

But to my mind, the best on the market right now is the free 360 Security. It is the complete package of anti-virus and online security services and offers real-time protection against viruses, Trojans, and malware for computers and mobile devices.

It also has a range of privacy functions which let you protect private messages and contact lists, as well as a filter service for both calls and SMS messages.

And there is more. An additional ‘Boost’ feature allows you to manage your phone’s memory to make sure it is running optimally. And there is also a function which lets you clean up your mobile and completely remove unwanted apps.

360 Security has raised the bar for online anti-virus programmes across a whole range of devices and platforms. It everything you will need and more and is an essential download for anyone serious about protecting their digital privacy.

  1. Use a Password Manager:

I would hazard a guess that every one of your online accounts is protected by a Password. They almost all are these days. But if you are like most people, you probably struggle to remember all those passwords. Perhaps you just use the same password for everything, or you stick to something simple like ‘Password’, or ‘123456’.

If you do use these, or any passwords that aren’t an unintelligible combination of lower and upper case letters, numbers, and symbols, you are leaving your accounts open to hackers or surveillance agents to access. It really is that simple for them.

The solution is to use a Password Manager. They can remember every one of your passwords for you. All you have to do is learn one single password to access your password manager service.

They can also help you generate strong passwords which will be much harder for snoopers and hackers to crack and access your data. A Password Manager is a must-have in this day and age.

There are plenty to choose from, but my pick of the bunch is KeyPass (or KeypassX for mobile devices). It is open-source software and has the best security features on the market.

  1. Use a VPN:

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, everyone should be accessing the internet via a VPN. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a tool which works by sending all your online data through an encrypted connection to a remote server.

This encryption protects your online data from snoopers, while it also hides your IP Address. Sites and services can only see the IP Address of the server, meaning you are essentially anonymous online too.

There are plenty of VPNs on the market, to suit different budgets and requirements, and I recommend checking out a comparison site before taking the plunge.

And the answer to the question how to watch Netflix in Europe or anywhere else overseas, a VPN is the answer.

Melissa Thompson :Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.