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PCMag SecurityWatch
How to Disappear From the Internet in 8 Easy Steps
As a cruelly labeled “geriatric millennial,” I’m part of a generation that grew up without the internet in our daily lives but took to it as soon as it was available. As a kid, I spent as much time playing outside as I spent on internet bulletin boards and GeoCities sites as a teenager. During my time online, I quickly learned that while the internet was framed as a haven of anonymity, the ads that seemed to follow me wherever I went told a different story.

Big companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have made a lot of money over the years on the back of our browsing habits. Unfortunately, we’ve also given away plenty of personal data voluntarily, as well as against our will, through breaches and hacks. It’s frustrating. Should we all give up and let the powers-that-be keep track of our every online interaction?

Of course not. As PCMag’s Features Editor Eric Griffith writes, there are easy ways for everyone to minimize their online footprints and make themselves harder to track. For example, using a burner phone or an app that creates anonymous phone numbers to make calls and send texts can improve your privacy. Another way to make yourself harder to track and hack is by maintaining a firewall on your home network. In addition to these methods, you should also enable privacy browser extensions, surf in anonymous mode, turn on a VPN, send encrypted emails, avoid clicking on spam links, and lockdown (or eliminate) your social media.

All of these tips are pretty easy to follow, but they add an extra step or two to your online routine. The big companies mining your data hope you don’t have the time or the desire to complete these tasks to stay anonymous online. Show them your privacy is worth the trouble. Take the time today to lock down your online life.

Stay safe,

Kim Key
PCMag Security Analyst

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Don’t Let a Data Breach Get You Down: How to Protect Your Privacy Online
It’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month! Each October, the nonprofit National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) come together to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity in the United States. This year, each week in October has a designated theme. This week, the topic is Be Cyber Smart. The theme stresses the importance of maintaining stringent online privacy practices, such as using a password manager to store your unique, complex passwords. You should also use a VPN while browsing online.

Earlier this year, I spoke with Troy Hunt, the man behind a site named Have I Been Pwned. He posts evidence of data breaches every day on his website. In an excerpt from that interview, Hunt had some advice for anyone who finds their email address or other personal information posted due to a data breach.

Q: So, what kinds of activities should I look out for if my data shows up in a breach?
A: The first thing you want to do is make sure that if there’s a password involved, that password isn’t used anywhere else you would be looking at for people potentially logging into your other accounts. So as opposed to monitoring that, we’d much prefer people to use some good password habits in the first place. Now getting into the most sinister side of things, I’d be more worried about things like identity theft as someone [may have] enough information to take out a loan in my name or try and get a tax refund in my name.

Have you found your information in a data breach? What were your next steps for improving your online security? Let us know in the comments.

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Russ Roberts