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3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Online Privacy

January 7, 2015

In 2014, JP Morgan Chase, Sony Pictures, Lowe’s and 757 other companies experienced major security breaches. Given the high profile nature of many of these attacks, plus the proliferation of social sharing and cloud storage, consumers have begun thinking about their online privacy in ways they hadn’t before.

In 2015, being proactive about security means a lot more than coming up with a killer password (heads up: jumbling your cat’s name with some numbers won’t cut it). Here are three steps you should be taking to protect your privacy for the new year:

1. Share a little less.

While hackers are taking the big headlines, online privacy doesn’t just mean shielding your data from black hats — you also have to think about who you willingly giving your data to as well. Coming up on that big anniversary? You might not think it’s time to pop the question, but Facebook sure will, bombarding you with advertisements for diamond rings that just happen to snugly fit your budget. While you might think all of this is a secret between you and Facebook, chances are that data is out there to anyone who wants to buy it. Good online privacy habits begin with social media: make sure you aren’t sharing any information that could be used to nab your passwords (remember those security questions?), avoid apps that require you to share social data, and adjust your privacy settings lock your information down as much as possible.

2. Don’t let the cloud rain on you.

The cloud is the new default for storing and sharing data, and it seems everyone is taking advantage of it. If you save and share documents with Dropbox, or post photos to iCloud, your privacy is only as good as your cloud provider’s security strategy. While you would hope your sensitive information would be safe, there’s truly no such thing as a hack-proof system. By keeping your data on a big cloud storage service, you’re removing a level of obscurity that otherwise would protect it. Chances are, no one is drooling over cracking your network at home, but you can bet there are legions knocking on Dropbox’s door.The solution is simple, and follows an old online privacy adage: if you want to keep it private, keep it offline — but if you do have to put it out there, make sure it is encrypted.

3. Don’t give hackers (or advertisers) easy email paydirt.

Given how frequently most people use email, it’s no wonder that mail servers are such a common target for hackers. While everyone would like to think they’re better than the Sony executives that let it all fly in their correspondences, chances are your inboxes has things you’d like to hide from just about everyone. (Ever send an embarrassing note to yourself, just to save it? What about internal communication about a vendor, which may not have been so flattering? We won’t tell if you won’t.) With email, all standard online privacy practices apply, like using complicated passwords, enabling multi-factor authentication and using encryption. Encryption protects your messages by obfuscating them, making them impossible to read without a security key. Even if your email account is breached, if your messages are encrypted, all the hacker will find is useless, jumbled text. By hiding the data, you’re preventing your email provider from being able to snoop on your conversations.

With the growing ubiquity of social media and the cloud, maintaining your online privacy has become more complicated than ever. That said, it only takes a few good habits to keep the watchful eyes at bay — and away from your inbox. Virtru works with the email service you’re already using, like Gmail, to provide client-side email encryption for your messages and attachments. Download Virtru today to see how easy it is to protect your email privacy.

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