We recently told you how to avoid Internet snoops, and that got me thinking about online privacy in general.
Sometimes it's easy to forget that before the Internet became ubiquitous, privacy was a normal, everyday thing. People just couldn't see your stuff whenever they felt like it.
Now, however, it's important to be aware of what you're doing online — and how much of your own personal information you may be allowing others to access.
Everyone knows (or should) to use complex passwords. But do you use your web browser's private browsing mode when checking your bank account or paying a credit card bill?
The rest of these tips should serve as a refresher and help you surf the internet safely.
1. When checking your bank account or paying a bill online use the incognito mode or private browsing.
Normally web browsers store information like your browsing history, images, videos, text, and cookies in a "cache". A cache stores information about a webpage that lets it load faster the next time you visit.
Private browsing mode or incognito mode is a setting available on all modern browsers (Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox) that prevents the browser from logging this information. That means that the information cannot be retrieved at a later time.
While private browsing isn't a surefire way to protect yourself from online predators, using it while visiting banking, credit card, and other sensitive sites is an added layer of security that makes sure your information will not be stored on your computer.
2. Put a passcode on your computer and smartphone. If your devices fall into the wrong hands it'll be one step harder to access your information.
3. Put a Google alert on your name.
Putting a Google alert on your name will make sure that you always know what's being said about you online.
Its simple to set up. Start by heading to google.com/alerts. Type in your name, and other variations of your name too. Make sure to put quotations around your name so that the search engine can look specifically for you.
4. Get in the habit of signing out of Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, and other social networks when you're done using them. Even if you leave Facebook and surf to another web site, anyone else can re-enter your account if they use the same web browser after you.
5. You should also check your Facebook and other social network security settings at least once a month, too. Social media sites change their privacy rules regularly.
6. If you use Gmail, sign up for 2-step authentication.
Gmail's 2-step authentication is an added layer of protection for your email. Whenever you log into your email you'll also need a special code that is sent to your phone via text message. This means that if someone gets your password, they still won't be able to log into your email unless they have your cell phone too.
To enable 2-step authentication, head to your Google Account settings and choose security.
7. Use complex passwords, not "password" or "1234." Also, consider using a password service like 1Password or LastPass.
8. Clear your browser history and cache at least once a month. This prevents other people who use the same machine as you from seeing where you've been on the net.