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How to Protect Yourself Against Online Spying

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With many people up in arms about the revelation that the U.S. government is spying on its own citizens in the name of “homeland security”, here are a few ways to protect your information from prying eyes. 

I’m not a tech geek, so when I started digging around, there were a lot of terms that I thought were over my head, but I’m here to dumb things down.

Encrypt Everything

Remember back when everyone had cable and some dishonest people wanted cable, but didn’t want to pay for it and they got a “descrambler” for their TV? The descrambler hooked into the cable so you could watch TV and pay-per-view events, but from the cable provider’s point of view, they couldn’t tell what you were doing. It’s like that, but for your computer. When something is encrypted, it means that no one else can read that file, so if you have sensitive data you don’t want others seeing, like passwords, credit card numbers, banking information, social security information, etc, you’re going to want to encrypt all of it. There are different programs based on what kind of machine you have. Try BitLocker for Windows and FileVault for Macs.

Adjust Social Media Privacy Settings

I think it’s safe to say that pretty much everyone is on Facebook, and a good chunk of people are on Twitter, and while social media is great, if you don’t have your privacy settings up to snuff, anyone can see what you’re doing, so make sure your privacy settings on your social media pages are as strict as possible. Facebook should be friends only for everything, don’t allow tagging, or search engines to find you. For Twitter, set it so your tweets are protected and people have to ask to follow you. And finally, don’t post anything on social media you don’t want to come back and haunt you.

Don’t Use Google

Google is great, but did you know that Google also records your search data? Not cool. There are other search engines out there like DuckDuckGo that don’t save your search data. If you truly love Google, but hate that they save your search data, there’s a program out there called Tor that protects your Google search data.

Finally, make sure that you clear your cookies and browser data as often as possible. You can do that from the Start Menu. Click the Start button and look for Settings. Go to Control Panel and then to Internet Options. Under the tab labeled “General”, you should see “browsing history”. Click the “Delete” button and let it go to work. It’s also a good idea to do a virus scan to look for trojan spyware, malware and key stroke logging programs. For those who use a webcam, it’s a good idea when you’re not using it to cover up the lens. Even though you may not have it turned on, it doesn’t mean that someone else can’t get in there from somewhere else in Internetland and snoop around.

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