by Elaine Fogel

3 Easy Tools That Protect Your Privacy Online

 

keys with privacy written on key fob

Are you concerned about your privacy online? What about your customers?

With the growth of the Internet of Things (ioT) and the incessant hacking behaviors of bad actors, how safe can we really be? It’s worse in the U.S. now that President Trump has reversed President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation that required ISPs (Internet service providers) to ask first before selling your data.

Thank goodness, some of the big ISPs signed a pledge that allows users to opt out of selling your data for third-party marketing. It’s good idea to check yours for compliance.

You might think it’s ironic that I’m a marketer promoting privacy protection. After all, it’s the marketers who benefit from your data.

But, I’m also a user, and that overrides any marketing advantages. In my opinion, we should only collect data from people who agree to share it.

No one is impervious to security breaches, but there are tools you can use to protect yourself. But first, protect your customers.

As of 2016, about half of all web page visits used https – the secure version of http. Migrating to the https protocol makes sense for several reasons including increasing trust in your brand. If you haven’t done it yet, it’s time.

Here’s an excellent article from Rice Media on why you should migrate: “5 Reasons why your website needs HTTPS.” Visit your web host’s site for instructions on migrating to the https protocol.

Now, back to your online security. I did some research before selecting these three tools that can protect your privacy.

  1. HTTPS Everywhere

    is a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that “encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.” I like the fact that the extension comes from two nonprofit organizations: The Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

    The Tor Project offers a free network by connecting users “through a series of virtual tunnels rather than making a direct connection, thus allowing both organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation “is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world.”

    The extension does not promise a rose garden, but it’s a good start. It does not conceal the identities of the sites you access, the amount of time you spend using them, or the amount of information you upload or download from a particular site. Here’s what it does:

    On supported parts of supported sites, HTTPS Everywhere enables the sites’ HTTPS protection which can protect you against eavesdropping and tampering with the contents of the site or with the information you send to the site. Ideally, this provides some protection against an attacker learning the content of the information flowing in each direction for instance, the text of e-mail messages you send or receive through a webmail site, the products you browse or purchase on an e-commerce site, or the particular articles you read on a reference site.”

  2. Last Pass

    I use the Last Pass browser extension to store my multiple passwords. You can use your own passwords or the tool will generate them for you. This free version is also available for download to Android, Apple, and Windows devices.

    The tool implements “AES-256 bit encryption with PBKDF2 SHA-256 and salted hashes to ensure complete security in the cloud. You’ll create an account with an email address and a strong master password to locally-generate a unique encryption key.”

    There’s also a paid Teams version for organizations with 50 or fewer employees that offers unlimited shared folders. The Enterprise version adds directory integration, custom security policies, and cloud app provisioning. Both are reasonably priced.

  3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    A VPN enables you to encrypt all the data that passes through your ISP. This tool masks your IP address and online behavior from tracking tools.

    VPNs are already a standard security recommendation for anyone working over unsecured WiFi—like what you might find in a coffee shop. But with ISPs now collecting data, and not just routing it, the workaround makes sense for home use as well.” (Popular Science)

    The downside of using a VPN is that it can slow down your Internet speed and some membership sites, like Netflix, won’t allow you to use its service. I always use a VPN when I’m on a public network. I would never open my email or use a credit card without one.

    Some experts advise using paid VPN subscriptions for better security. According to PC Magazine, these are the best VPNs.

If you have other recommendations, please share them!


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