Safer Internet Day: A quick guide to staying safe and private online

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Since our launch in 2014, our vision has been to build an internet where privacy is the default. For us, this not only means empowering people with the right tools to defend their online privacy, but also encouraging safe and responsible use of the internet. 

For Safer Internet Day this year, we’ve compiled a quick guide you can follow to protect yourself on the internet. 

Limit the personal information you share online

The first step to staying safe online is posting as little information about yourself as you can on the internet. The more information you reveal about yourself, the easier it is for a hacker to access your data, steal your identity, or commit other crimes, such as cyberstalking(new window)

By limiting how much personal information you share online, you can make thoughtful choices about what content gets shared, with whom, and where. Nevertheless, remember that regardless of the audience you choose for your posts, the organization is still tracking and collecting your data. The best way to protect your information is to not hand it over in the first place. 

Increase privacy settings on your social media accounts

If you’re a social media user, increasing the privacy settings on your social media accounts can help you control who sees what you post. However, don’t think of increasing your privacy settings as something you do once and forget — many social media sites regularly modify their privacy settings, so review and update them once in a while.  

Some social media sites also allow you to prevent people from automatically tagging you in images, locations, and activities. With this setting enabled, you can review and approve tags before they are posted to your profile. 

Use strong passwords

Our online accounts hold a lot of data about us, and using secure and complex passwords is one of the most effective methods to protect that data. You should use different passwords for all your online accounts, so if one account is compromised, your personal information in other accounts is safe. If you’re having trouble coming up with good passwords, read our guide(new window) on creating and remembering strong passwords. 

Another tool you can use to store your passwords safely is a password manager. Password managers not only eliminate the hassle of memorizing different passwords, but they also generate strong and unique passwords for you. We recommend using open-source password managers(new window) that support end-to-end encryption. 

Practice safe browsing

Your browser allows you to access and retrieve content from the internet, but it also knows a great deal about you, such as your location, IP address, operating system, and more. Through information provided by your browser, websites can identify you and track your online behavior in a process known as browser fingerprinting(new window)

To defend against it, you can use privacy-first browsers(new window), such as Brave(new window) and Tor Browser(new window). Alternatively, you can install ad-blocking extensions like Privacy Badger(new window) that automatically blocks invisible trackers. Last but not least, you can also adjust the privacy settings in your browser to reflect your privacy preferences.

Use a VPN

When you use the internet, your internet traffic passes through your internet service provider’s (ISP) servers. This means your ISP has the ability to see and log everything you do online, and in some cases, sell your browsing history(new window) to advertisers. A measure you can take to protect your data from being collected and sold is to use a VPN.

The main purpose of a VPN is to encrypt your internet traffic and route it through secure tunnels, but it can also:

  • Hide your IP address
  • Keep your browsing history private
  • Let you use public WiFi securely
  • Allow you to use file-sharing services like BitTorrent safely

For a safe and private VPN, sign up for Proton VPN(new window). Our Free plan:

  • Has no bandwidth or speed limits
  • Has no ads
  • Has a strict no-logs policy
  • Is protected by Swiss privacy laws

Be vigilant against phishing attacks

There are many kinds of phishing attacks, but email phishing is the most common type and has been on the rise(new window) throughout the pandemic. Email phishing happens when an attacker impersonates a genuine and trusted entity over email and tricks a victim into revealing sensitive information. 

To protect yourself against email phishing, use an encrypted email provider with state-of-the-art security features like Proton Mail. Proton Mail offers several levels of protection(new window) against email phishing and spoofing:

  • DKIM: DomainKeys Identified Mail is an email authentication technique that allows you to detect forged sender addresses. 
  • DMARC: Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance helps you identify which emails have been spoofed. If an email fails the DMARC check, it might have come from a suspicious source.
  • Link confirmation: When you enable this feature, a window will pop up every time you click on a link in an email. The window displays the link’s full URL, giving you the opportunity to verify its legitimacy. 

Following these six easy tips can help you stay safe online and protect your privacy. You can also share this guide with your friends, family, and community to help them safeguard their personal data. 

Once again, thank you for being part of the Proton community. We appreciate your support!

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Lydia Pang

Lydia is a lifelong book-lover and her professional experience spans several industries, including higher education and editorial writing. She's excited to write for Proton and champion privacy as a fundamental right for everyone.

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