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5 ways to be more private online

By Carrie Rogers-whitehead, Contributor  |  Posted Jul 11th, 2017 @ 4:45pm



SALT LAKE CITY — Recent changes in internet service provider regulations and an increase in online fraud have spurred an increased interest in online privacy. Here are five tips to stay safe online:

1. Private browsing

A simple and free method to be more private online is to use “private browsing” or “incognito mode.” These are browser tabs that ensure your private data is not stored in cookies and disables your browsing history.

Private browsing mode can be found by checking the settings of most web browsers. It is highly recommended particularly when banking online, shopping or doing anything that requires you to enter personal data.


2. Browse on HTTPS connections

HTTPS, also referred to as HTTP over transport layer security, allows for secure communication over a computer network. It creates a secure channel of communication over an insecure network that protects against cyberattacks and third parties attempting to eavesdrop.

“There are two ways to attack you in the transactional space: someone pretending to be someone else or someone listening in to steal that information. There’s no way to tell if someone is listening in unless you employ encryption technology,” said Jeremy Rowley, executive vice president of emerging markets at Utah-based company DigiCert.

By looking at the URL of the site, you can tell if the site is encrypted. The address bar will have HTTPS at the beginning of the URL instead of HTTP and there is typically an image of a lock before the address bar.

3. Utilize browser extensions

Free and inexpensive browser extensions or add-ons can help protect your security when online. These can be installed through whatever browser you use most frequently such as the Chrome Web Store or Firefox Add-ons.

Some popular extensions for privacy are:

  • Ghostery — This extension detects and blocks tracking and protects your data.
  • HTTPS Everywhere — When installed on a browser this can rewrite HTTP sites to HTTPS.
  • 1Blocker — This extension and app for Apple blocks ads and stops tracking.
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    4. Email digital signatures

    Online fraud often manifests itself via email. Many times, cybercriminals will commit "CEO fraud" by impersonating CEOs and other directors to steal money through wire transfer. German firms recently lost millions of euros in a scam that used faked memos from top executives to entice accounting personnel to transfer funds, according to Reuters.

    “Emails are sent totally unencrypted and easy to intercept and change,” Rowley said.

    To counter that type of fraud, encrypt your emails through a digital signature. In an internal network, like a company, the digital signature can reside on a computer and signs all emails sent from that computer.

    "A digital signature is basically a computer algorithm that is applied to the email that says, 'yes, this is truly signed by this person,'" Rowley said.

    5. Check your connected devices at home

    The amount of items now connected to the Internet of Things (or IoT), is forecasted to grow to over a trillion dollar industry by 2021. With more items being connected at home and elsewhere, the likelihood of cyberattacks increases.

    “You have air conditioners, you have fridges — everything is being connected but not everything is being secured. Nobody thinks about security until after it’s too late,” Rowley said.

    When buying an item that will connect to the internet, ask yourself:

  • What is happening to the data this item collects?
  • How is this item secured?
  • How does this item connect?
  • Can I turn off the internet connection?
  • Technology changes quickly, so educating yourself before an attack is essential. Being safe online is a proactive game, not reactive.

    Carrie Rogers-Whitehead

    About the Author: Carrie Rogers-Whitehead

    Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is the CEO and founder of Digital Respons-Ability. She is a TEDx speaker and instructor at Salt Lake Community College and regularly trains on subjects such as information science, STEM, communication and digital literacy. In addition, she is the co-creator of Wizarding Dayz.

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