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Why is it even more important to integrate online privacy into our daily lives?

By Mihai Rida, Privacy and Cybersecurity Expert, Director of Product Marketing, CyberGhost

Today, most people share a wealth of information about themselves in one form or another online. In doing so, we expose ourselves to certain risks that we should be aware of, writes Mihai Rida.

In the age of artificial intelligence, growing government surveillance, and increasingly sophisticated cybercrime techniques, knowing how to protect your privacy online has never been more important.

From social media platforms to online shopping sites, we share a lot of personal information online, which can make us vulnerable to cyberattacks, identity theft, and other online threats.

So if you haven’t really thought about online privacy in the past, now is the time.

What is the risk?

Today, most people share a wealth of information about themselves in one form or another online. This information is not only held by us but also by the companies with which we have shared it in order to access their services.

When we share our information with companies, we expose ourselves to certain risks.

Even as companies take more care to protect their customers’ information, data breaches are still a major problem.

If companies aren’t careful or intentionally share customer data with third parties, it can lead to spam ads and additional risks to your online security.

Reading the privacy policies of websites and apps before using them, while not a particularly fun task, is one way to help you make informed decisions about which websites and apps to use and what information to provide.

Still, this won’t completely mitigate data breaches or accidental data sharing.

We are the biggest threat to our online privacy

Verizon’s Data Breach Investigation Report highlights that there were more than 1,000 data breach incidents in Europe in 2021, 307 of which resulted in a confirmed data disclosure.

Europeans are well aware of this risk, with a Eurobarometer survey revealing that 46% of Europeans are concerned about the potential misuse of their personal data by companies.

Yet, while there is growing concern and awareness about how companies use our data, ultimately the greatest threat to our online privacy is ourselves. .

When we share information online, whether on social media, a company website, a review site or a dating app, we are sharing information that, when put together, could enable someone to get a picture of who we are and give it some insight. in our interests, beliefs or concerns.

Add to that the information you share when creating online accounts or shopping online, and your online identity could suddenly become much more complete than you’d like, especially if the wrong people come across it.

Be careful not to overshare

Excessive sharing online can therefore create serious risks, including identity theft and fraud.

It can also give malicious actors the tools to emotionally manipulate victims and make them susceptible to further attacks.

Take phishing attacks, for example, a common form of cybercrime.

While many of them are random and unsophisticated, once a hacker has some initial information about you – which may include, for example, the names of your family members or co-workers, details of your work or companies you’ve shopped with before – they can become very personalized and compelling.

According to the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA), phishing attacks are the most common form of cybercrime in Europe, and we see no signs of slowing down.

What can we do about it?

Integrating online privacy into your daily life is an ongoing process that requires vigilance and effort. But by taking a little more care and implementing a few additional safeguards, you can protect your personal information and reduce the risk of cyberattacks and identity theft.

The simplest, yet often compromised rule for protecting your privacy is to be careful about what you share online in the first place.

Be careful what personal information you disclose, especially on social media platforms, dating sites or online forums.

Along with personal information such as your phone number or home address, sharing photos and videos online can also provide a huge amount of information to potential spies, including information about your location, connections, and interests.

The same can be said for any opinions or updates you share on social media or elsewhere.

Think about your sharing settings and consider what you want to share completely publicly rather than with family and friends.

Everything can be exploited in one way or another

Your browsing history and search data also provide a lot of information.

You might have seen this if you searched for something online and the next minute you get a flood of ads for related products all over your social media feed.

This is where privacy tools such as ad blockers and virtual private networks (VPNs) can come into play.

Ad blockers can play a vital role in preventing pesky companies from invading your privacy by blocking the use of cookies to track you while speeding up web page load times.

Of course, you’ve probably heard people tell you about the importance of strong passwords.

Yet using strong passwords that are hard to guess and different for every online account is one of the most effective ways to protect your privacy and security online.

Using a password manager to generate and store your passwords securely can be an effective tool to save you from having to remember your own.

Two-factor authentication, in addition to a strong password, provides an additional layer of security to protect your accounts from unauthorized access.

Public Wi-Fi networks could know everything about you

Many of us use public Wi-Fi networks on a daily basis. They allow us to work, shop online, or enjoy a favorite TV series or podcast, while on the go.

However, you also have to be careful with public Wi-Fi.

There is no guarantee that these networks are secure, and an experienced hacker can easily compromise them.

While most websites are now encrypted (look for the https:// in the web address to verify), not all are, and neither are all apps.

This provides a window through which someone can monitor your activity and see your requests and responses.

Additionally, public Wi-Fi networks have notoriously extensive terms and conditions for their privacy policies.

You should generally assume that you agree to all your web traffic being tracked on these networks.

Be aware that things change quickly

Ultimately, it is prudent to be aware that the digital world and the risks associated with it are changing rapidly.

Although this is an area that will continue to develop, by incorporating these practices into your online habits, you can help take important steps to strengthen privacy in your online life.

Mihai Rida is the Director of Product Marketing at CyberGhost VPN, a privacy and cybersecurity expert, and a digital rights advocate.

At Euronews, we believe that all points of view matter. Contact us at view@euronews.com to send presentations or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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