Are you a safe and secure internet user, or do you use the same password for every website? On this very special Safer Internet Day, we encourage you to start taking web security seriously with the help of four easy-to-use applications. These apps will help you manage your passwords, avoid snoops, shut down trackers, and secure your social media privacy settings. Let’s jump right into it.
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February 9th marks the 18th annual Safer Internet Day, a global event where we teach people safe browsing practices and share important resources for web security. This year’s Safer Internet Day may be the most important yet, as COVID-19 has pushed millions of web-illiterate kids and adults to spend more time online, often without any help or supervision.
You can learn more about Safer Internet Day or browse through some web security resources on the Better Internet for Kids website. If you’re a parent, journalist, or industry leader, consider using your position to share resources and help educate people on Safer Internet Day.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) routes your activity through a secure web server, effectively hiding your identity, location, and browsing history from websites, hackers, advertisers, and service providers. While you don’t need to turn on a VPN every time you browse the internet, doing so can help you avoid being hacked or spied on, especially when you’re connected to unsecured, public Wi-Fi networks. VPNs can also help you get around region-locked content on sites like Netflix and Hulu, which offer different shows and movies depending on which country you’re connecting from.
For $13 a month, you can’t get much better than ExpressVPN. But you can go cheaper if you don’t mind losing some features. While Tunnelbear isn’t as fast or customizable as ExpressVPN, it starts at just $3.33 a month and is a perfect solution for those who only need to use a VPN while at work or school.
If you learn one thing on Safer Internet Day, it’s that you should stop reusing passwords. People hack websites to steal login information all the time, and if you aren’t using unique passwords for every account, then all of your accounts could be compromised after just one successful hacking attempt.
Should you go back to writing down your passwords? No way, that’s a pain in the butt. Instead, you should use a password manager to generate and store unique passwords for all of your accounts. Password managers have an edge over the password client that’s built into your browser, as they can sync login info, credit card numbers, addresses, and other secure information across all of your browsers, computers, and mobile devices.
We suggest using 1Password, which starts at just $3 a month and has more robust security controls than similarly-priced password clients. If you don’t want to spend money on a password manager, consider signing up for the free version of LastPass, which stores and syncs passwords across all your devices but lacks some of 1Password’s premium security and sharing features.
No matter how much time you spend perfecting your privacy settings on Facebook, there’s always a chance that you’ll miss something, or that a setting will mysteriously change behind your back. So why not automate your social media settings with the Jumbo Privacy app?
Jumbo Privacy regularly scans your social media accounts and tells you how to improve your privacy settings. It saves you the trouble of looking through draconian, ever-changing menus and helps you reach maximum account security without running into maximum headache. Plus, Jumbo Privacy can regularly delete and archive your posts and messages on social media, defending your conversations from hackers and hiding your embarrassing old posts from the world.
The Jumbo Privacy app works with most major websites and social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Linkedin, Amazon Alexa, and more. It can also scan the dark web for data breaches and block online trackers. Jumbo Privacy starts at $4 a month, or $10 a month for the Pro plan which includes dark web scanning for credit card numbers and social security numbers.
At a glance, it may seem as if everything on a website comes from a single source. But most websites contain advertisements, widgets, and images from 3rd party sources like Google, Amazon, and Facebook. Because these and other companies have such a wide reach over the internet, it’s very easy for them to track (and sell) your web activity, which is frustrating and creepy. To add insult to injury, these trackers can increase the load time of websites, slowing down your browsing experience.
While a VPN can prevent trackers from seeing your IP address, it’s better to stop trackers at the source with a browser extension like Privacy Badger or Ghostery. That way, trackers can’t record your web activity at all, and websites won’t take so long to load. We don’t often recommend browser extensions because they’re a bit of a security risk. But Privacy Badger and Ghostery are both popular and open-source, so we feel comfortable using and recommending them.
Privacy Badger is a free browser extension developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). It has a very simple interface and automatically stops advertisers and invisible trackers from spying on your web activity. Aside from blocking malicious trackers, Privacy Badger automatically replaces helpful trackers (like Soundcloud widgets or embedded videos) with click-to-activate placeholders.
Ghostery does essentially the same thing as Privacy Badger, although it doesn’t automatically block content. Instead, it warns you when you’re being tracked and gives you the option to block, ignore, or provide limited access to the malicious tracker.
With just a little extra work today, you can make sure your online identity and information are safe tomorrow and beyond. Many of these services—like Jumbo or Privacy Badger—are set and forget, so once you go through the trouble of getting everything going, you don’t have to think about it again.