a blog from CenturyLink

Online privacy best practices

by | May 3, 2021


In many ways, technology makes life easier for us. We pay bills online, connect quickly with friends on social media and rely on navigation apps to provide us with directions.

However, living in the digital era is not without its downsides. In the past decade, there have been a number of major data breaches in which people have had personal, financial, and other sensitive information exposed. It’s not the tech itself that is the problem, but rather hackers with nefarious intentions who wish to take advantage of it.

This is where online privacy best practices come into play. Online privacy, also known as internet privacy, refers to the technologies, protocols, and concepts designed to protect users in their use of the global Internet. With just a few steps, you can significantly improve how you safeguard your privacy and increase your protection against attackers online. Explore the cybersecurity tips below to help ensure your internet privacy is up to par.

Woman on a laptop takes steps to protect herself online

Tips for protecting your online privacy

Tip #1: Secure your accounts

Much like locking your car in a crowded parking lot, lock your accounts to help keep unwanted visitors out. A strong password is a key component in helping keep your private information private. Your passwords should be long (around 12 characters) and include a mix of numbers, letters and symbols. Mix up the letter casing to make the password harder to crack. Also, never use the same password for more than one account.

Creating and remembering a long list of unique passwords can be difficult, but password managers can make the job much easier. Password managers such as Keeper, Dashlane, and LastPass generate strong passwords and remember them for you after you create an account. We recommend using a password manager to help keep your life simple.

Lastly, use multi-factor authentication as an added layer of security on your accounts. Multi-factor authentication is a method by which you’re granted access to your online account only after a code is sent to your phone number, email, or authenticator app. Although multi-factor authentication is a little more effort, the extra security it provides makes it worth it.

Tip #2: Don’t be fooled by phishing

Most of us have been the target of a phishing email at one time or another. Phishing is a common online scam in which an attacker uses deceptive emails and other tactics to acquire your personal information. Phishers often request money, passwords, or other sensitive information with seemingly honest intentions. They then use the information they acquired for stealing and exploitation.

To protect yourself from phishing, don’t provide sensitive information to people or groups you don’t know. Avoid clicking on links, downloading files, or opening attachments if you don’t recognize the sender. In addition, be on the lookout for domain spoofing. Domain spoofing is when phishers use a fake website name or email domain to trick users. For example, let’s say you receive an email telling you that you’ve won a new iPhone. You notice the domain name on the email is appleiphone.com—a false domain name that appears legitimate at first glance. This deceptive technique is an example of domain spoofing, a common sign of a phishing attack.

Lastly, be on the lookout for misspellings, poor writing, and generic greetings like “Hello Sir” or “Dear Madame.” These three items may also be indicators of a phishing attack.

Tip #3: Watch out for cookies

A cookie is a small text file sent to your browser by a website you visit. In many cases, cookies are harmless. For example, a shopping website may use cookies to build your shopping cart. Cookies help the website remember what items you added so that your cart is ready to go when you check out.

However, not all cookies are so sweet. Supercookies are malicious files that track your browsing behavior. Supercookies generally aren’t stored in your browser, making them harder to detect and remove. Supercookies allow third parties to track, record, and sell your online data before you even know they’re there in the first place.

Browsing in incognito mode can help protect you against cookies you don’t want. Making sure you only visit secure websites and using a VPN can also help you avoid unwanted cookies. We explain a few other reasons to use a VPN below.

Tip #4: Use a VPN

A VPN, or a virtual private network, can help protect your online privacy. Public WiFi networks, such as one you may connect to at a hotel or coffee shop, aren’t necessarily safe. When you connect to a public WiFi network, someone could easily watch you and try to steal your information.

Using a VPN isn’t a 100% guarantee that your information won’t be stolen (malware can still defeat a VPN), but it can certainly help. Remember to install a VPN on each one of your smart devices, covering all of your bases.

Tip #5: Make social media accounts private

Social media platforms are an excellent way to connect with friends, both old and new. However, it’s important to be careful about what information you share and with whom. To best protect your online privacy, make your profile private so that only family and friends can see your profile.

Even after your profile is set to private, be careful about what information you share. Don’t post sensitive information, such as your phone number or where you live. Keep that info offline

instead and only share it in person with those you know. Learn more about social media safety.

Tip #6: Invest in antivirus software

Viruses can harm your computer. Depending on the type of virus, it may also leave you susceptible to a cyberattack. As such, downloading antivirus software on your computer is an excellent idea. Consider CenturyLink High-Speed Internet service, which comes with McAfee Security to help keep you and your devices safe. McAfee Security protects against malware, viruses, unsafe websites, and other threats.

Antivirus software does require occasional maintenance. You may need to download updates now and then to keep your antivirus software functioning at its best. Don’t ignore or delay software updates, as this may put your personal information at harm’s risk.

Supporting laws that protect your online privacy

Keeping your online information safe is incredibly important. If you’re looking for more ways to protect your internet privacy, you can start supporting laws that do. Read up on current internet privacy laws to learn what your rights are. By supporting online privacy on both a personal and public scale, you’re helping keep yourself and others safe.

Internet privacy is a complex subject, and there’s always the opportunity to learn more. Further your knowledge on online privacy by exploring internet security best practices today.

CenturyLink will never call a customer or email a customer asking for financial information, account login information, password, or social security number. CenturyLink will never ask you to download software or ask you to pay your bill via wire transfer or by online gift cards. If you suspect you may be the victim of a scam, hang up and call back official CenturyLink representatives to verify the call.

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