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In the age of the internet, natural disasters and economic collapse aren’t the only catastrophes we have to worry about. Cyberattacks are a huge threat to the security of both individuals and the masses around the world. Whether or not you have something to “hide,” data collection and cyberspying are real and dangerous problems that need to be addressed.
A prepper’s emergency management strategy is not complete without a thorough plan for how to stay secure and combat cyberattacks. Even low-tech users can take easy steps to become experts on cybersecurity, helping to ensure that family and loved ones are kept safe from hackers, extortionists, and cyberthieves online.
Whenever you use the internet, you’re putting yourself and your personal information at risk. Occasionally putting your browser in private or incognito mode isn’t enough to protect you and your data.
Since virtually everyone uses the internet in some capacity, that means there’s a huge amount of information tracked and collected about people all over the world, from criminals and terrorists to your cousin Tom and the sweet old woman next door.
Your phone use, email correspondence, web searches, and other online behaviors are all vulnerable to being spied upon by hackers, the government, and pretty much anyone with enough time and enough desire to find out information about you.
How else do you think the internet learns so much about you? It’s not a coincidence that you did a Google search for “waterproof backpacks” yesterday and today your browser has been infiltrated with ads for — you guessed it — waterproof backpacks.
Your every move is being tracked. Companies use this data to carefully calculate and predict your online habits from what you want to search for and what you might be interested in buying, to even who you correspond with the most and what you’re saying to them.
So how do you protect yourself from a cyberattack or a plain and simple invasion of privacy in a world where your smartphones and virtual assistants can record your conversations even when they’re switched off?
Whether or not you feel like your own personal information is interesting or valuable enough to protect, consider the implications and consequences of a world with a complete lack of privacy.
Even if you don’t care if everyone in the world knows your address, do you really want your bank information and emails to be public knowledge? Most say no.
Protecting Your Data
The good news is that because more and more people are using the internet every day, the issue of cybersecurity is widely discussed in every industry.
That means more and more people are putting effort into finding ways to protect data so people can continue to use the internet safely and have more control of their own information. Cybersecurity professionals have to constantly adapt to the changing methods of hackers and surveillants.
“Although virtual, cyberattacks have the potential to manifest real world harm for a business and its employees,” says Arizona State University. “There is an increasing trend toward weaponizing the internet and awareness of such events is becoming another essential function for emergency response training coordinators.”
But there’s no need to call in the professionals yet. Here are a few simple things you can do on your own personal computer to keep your online communications safe:
Using the incognito or private setting on your browser is a great first step in tightening up your cybersecurity efforts. In anonymous search mode, your searches and history won’t be saved and it’ll be harder for search engines to create a profile of you using all this collected data.
Encryption can help make information that is collected by cyberattackers virtually unreadable.The presence of “https://” at the beginning of a URL ensures that encryption is taking place. A lack of “https://” is basically like handing out the golden ticket to access all of your information.
Avoid Online Storage
Online storage platforms like drives and clouds put your personal information in jeopardy. You are placing a lot of trust in a third-party provider when you dump all your data onto their site, and if you’re going to do it, you should make sure to be aware of and stay up to date on their policies. Another great step to take is to encrypt your files before uploading them onto storage clouds or drives.
Being smart about passwords is one of the easiest things you can do to protect yourself online. Gone are the days of using your first name and date of birth as your password and calling it good. Today, the longer and more random, the better. Using a password management tool is a great way to keep track of passwords that might be too complex to remember.
Virtual private networks (VPNs) help keep you anonymous while you’re online, making it harder to track your actions and gather the data that’s trackable because of those actions. VPNs encrypt your data so it can’t be read even if it does end up getting collected by someone with ill intent.
If you use online banking or connect to public Wi-Fi networks on a regular basis, you should absolutely consider using a VPN. However, be sure to conduct thorough research before choosing a VPN to make sure you select a company that will protect your data above all else.
A Post-Snowden World
Ever since Edward Snowden leaked classified information revealing the NSA’s extensive surveillance projects, people around the world have become increasingly concerned about their online privacy. And rightly so.
The more we live our lives online, the more data we put out there to potentially be tracked and collected. Even though many of us are aware of the threat of cyberattacks and the presence of web tracking and surveillance, we continue our online activities because that’s the world we live in.
So why not take a few extra steps to ensure the safety of your data and the data of the people you care about?