Perfect Privacy: Upgrade Your Browsing Habits
One mistake that people make is thinking that once they have a VPN, they’re perfectly safe from online threats and prying eyes. This is not true! In fact, the way most people browse, an enterprising snoop can still gather enough data to profile them even if they’re using a VPN. It’s much harder, and it’s not as accurate, but it’s still possible.
So how can you upgrade your browsing habits to make sure you’re not undermining the security provided by your VPN? Here are the ways.
Be careful of cookies.
It’s interesting how something that sounds so innocuous can be so dangerous to privacy. Cookies have long been contentious — while they provide useful functionalities such as allowing for seamless site usage and the service of relevant content, they can also be easily geared to track and store a user’s online habits.
It’s good form to clear your cookies regularly, though this may have the slight inconvenience of logging you out from all sites you’re currently logged into. Clearing cookies is just a few clicks away, though the exact instructions may vary depending on the type of browser you’re using. Alternatively, you may use an external tool such as CCleaner to remove all cookies especially if you’re using multiple browsers.
Be careful of downloads.
Browsing the web, it seems there are more malicious download links than there are legitimate ones. This is especially true for gray-area downloads such as cracked versions of copyrighted content.
We had been conditioned to think of malicious software that might hitch a hike into our system through downloads as “viruses”. And by viruses, we mean software meant to disrupt our computers by crashing windows and breaking things. But in recent years, malwares have evolved to be less obtrusive while being more destructive. Instead of causing annoyance by breaking your system, the modern-day malware sits quietly and collects your personal information. This information is then periodically sent to the creator of that malware, for him to use as he pleases. And no amount of VPN connection or encryption will help if the problem is in your computer itself.
To prevent this from happening, steer clear of illegal downloads as much as you can. Only download legit copies of anything through the internet, and then only do those through the product’s official site. Executable (.exe) files are well-known for being common breeding places of malware, but even some common files like PDFs have security loopholes that can be exploited by hackers.
Be careful of passwords.
How many accounts do you have online? Too many to count, probably. Now, how many of those accounts have the same passwords?
Most internet users have the bad habit of using pretty much the same password for their online accounts. This is pretty understandable, because nobody wants to have to remember fifty different passwords for fifty different online services. However, this is a security issue. If any of these services gets breached and your password is released into the wild, cyber criminals can try using that password to get to your other accounts. No VPN can protect you from that.
To get around the problem of having to memorize various passwords, it will be best to use password managers. There are several highly-recommended password managers that generate highly complex passwords for your accounts, and remember each of them for you. All you need is a master password to unlock the manager, so this is the only password you have to memorize. The data is then encrypted in military-grade encryption, much like a VPN connection.
In addition to this, you can create another layer of protection by turning on two-factor authentication whenever possible. 2FA is available in most major services, such as GMail. This method requires an additional verification (such as a one-time password sent via SMS) before you can log into your account from an unrecognized device. This is the last line of defense if a hacker gets hold of your password — he will be blocked from logging in if he doesn’t have the authentication code.
Be careful of your browser.
The very tool you’re using to go online can be the same tool used by third parties to spy on you. Almost all browsers send anonymized data to their servers, and they also store local data about your browsing habits. This local data, housed in your hard drive, can be harvested by unscrupulous actors.
To prevent this, you can either switch to a privacy-respecting browser, or use the private browsing option found in most mainstream browsers. This private browsing option (sometimes called “Incognito”) tells the browser to stop storing your activities in its local files, therefore helping prevent any leakage. To know how to catch and fix other leaks from your browser (and your VPN in general), check out our guide to VPN leaks!
Aside from this, you can also install extensions that will help promote your privacy, in addition to the encryption provided by your VPN. These include Privacy Badger, HTTPS Everywhere, and Decentraleyes. These extensions help ensure that tracking details are not sent over from you to the internet, and also ensures that secure versions of websites are used as much as possible.
Be careful of your VPN!
This one brings us back full circle, and it’s worth bringing up again! VPNs can either be your Aegis or your Trojan Horse. A good VPN can block any attempt to get at your browsing data through the streams you send over the internet. But a bad one not only fails that, but also stores your data to sell to third parties!
In our reviews, we clearly mark VPNs with the best reputation for keeping their customers’ privacy as their top priority. We also raise red flags for those VPNs that have been known to gather data, sometimes in violation of their own logging policies. Read on, and learn more about these VPNs so you can make an informed decision! After all, now that most of our lives are lived online, a privacy breach is one of the worst things that can happen.