Five Easy Ways to Protect Your Data Online for Free

Protect Data Online for Free

Protect Your Passwords and Credit Cards Online

Shopping and banking online make life easier, as we can complete many of our daily tasks from our smartphones or desktops while at the office or when traveling. While it is certainly convenient to take care of important transactions online, it also opens us up to cyber security risks. Web browsers volunteer many time-saving features, but some of them should be ignored or disabled when possible. Sometimes we save personal data unintentionally and have features enabled by default, not realizing that the data is available across multiple devices and apps.

The best way to keep yourself secure online is to limit what information is stored online. Do not save credit cards to each website where you shop or anywhere else you pay online. Yes, you will have to reenter the payment card number each time you checkout, but not storing data with every website you visit will help lock down your financial information.

Delete Chrome Saved Credit Cards

Chrome stores payment methods including saved credit cards and other payment methods like PayPal in your Chrome web browser if you permit it to do so. Chrome makes it easy and convenient to shop online. When you reach the checkout step on a website, Chrome checks for saved payment methods. If you have a payment method saved, you can then pay with that saved payment information and reduce your checkout time. If you share your computer with anyone, they may have access to these credit cards and payment methods.

Keep your credit cards safe by removing saved credit cards from the Chrome web browser. Follow our tutorial on how to delete Chrome stored credit cards. It’s true it will make shopping online take a little bit longer and it will less convenient, but not allowing Chrome to store payment information will keep your money more secure.

If you use Google Pay you may have other stored credit cards and payment methods saved there as well. Google Pay is more secure than Chrome saved payment information, but any virtual wallet comes with risks if it is ever hacked or you lose your mobile device.

Destroy Your USB Hard Drive

We use USB flash drives to quickly store and transfer data between devices. This is necessary as sensitive information or large amounts of data cannot always be transferred across devices securely. For example, I recently needed to obtain copies of tax forms and government ID numbers. At one point in internet history, we used images as email attachments to send private information. We all know that now computers are perfectly capable and in fact, very good at reading the content contained in images.

It is secure to transfer information using a USB drive. However, the data must be destroyed afterward and to make it more secure, destroy the USB drive too. Simply erasing information from a USB drive or any hardware does not mean it is permanently wiped out. Deleting information from hardware just means that the directory on the drive has been altered to “forget” the location of the files. The data is still solidly on the drive, it is just much harder to find. A skilled hacker can easily read sensitive data from a USB drive, so it must be destroyed to secure your data.

Destroy your USB hard drive by physically damaging it. We have a good video about destroying a USB flash drive by blow torching it and another flash drive is destroyed with a drill.

Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Two-factor authentication is the use of an additional step to complete the login process for an online account. The simplest form of two-factor authentication is accomplished by sending an SMS text message to a registered phone number. This can also work by sending an automated phone call to the device. The user must respond to the message before access is granted. More secure forms of 2FA involve using an app, biometrics, or hardware to gain access. In all cases, the legitimate account owner is notified that there is an attempt to login into their account. Two-Factor Authentication dramatically decreases fraudulent activity.

Stop Using Public WiFi Permanently

Using open, public WiFi connections is one of the riskiest and likely behaviors you can engage in online. Shared WiFi is any internet connection found in public spaces like coffee shops, retail stores, and airports. Although they may require the use of a password, this does not make them secure. Hackers can easily monitor the internet traffic to and from any device using a shared WiFi connection including your laptop or phone. This is known as sniffing, and the hacker records all of the data sent across the connection. When you use shared WiFi connections, whether there is a password or not, you are sharing all your transmitted data with everyone who is using the same WiFi connection. Account usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers can be sniffed and gathered.

Many are aware that they should not transmit sensitive information like credit cards or bank accounts numbers over public WiFi, but posting on social media is risky behavior too. Each time you access Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook or other social media, you are transmitting your account credentials. Hackers can use this login information to begin gathering increasing personal information about you and use it to launch a social engineering attack. Common password reset questions are frequently stored in social media accounts, in plain sight.

If you really need to connect over a shared WiFi connection, then use a virtual private network (VPN) app. I’ve used Tunnel Bear very successfully at busy public places like airports and cafes. It works. There is a freemium model so if you are not a power user or data hog, then you can use Tunnel Bear to protect your data online for free.

Delete Google Chrome Saved Passwords

In addition to saved credit cards, Chrome also saves passwords in the web browser. Once again, this makes web browsing easy as passwords to websites and social media accounts are stored in the browser. There is no need to remember any password when you allow a web browser to save it for you. Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari will log you in automatically if you allow them to save passwords. Make web browsing more secure by locating and deleting Chrome saved passwords. Follow this guide to removing Chrome passwords and securing your online accounts. Remember that if you are syncing your Google accounts across devices, the passwords are accessible by all devices that are logged into the same account. One device can access multiple Google accounts too.

If you still feel the need to use your device and keep passwords saved in a web browser, then use an app like Google Authenticator to add two-factor authentication to your login credentials.

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Michelle writes about cyber security, data privacy focusing on social media privacy as well as how to protect your IoT devices. She She has worked in internet technology for over 20 years and owns METRONY, LLC. Michelle earned a B.S. in Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Michelle published a guide to Cyber Security for Business Travelers