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How To Protect Your Online Identity – Tips for Browsing the Internet Safely


With Facebook’s debacle of sharing its customers’ data without their express consent and the recent news of Gmail providing third-party developers with the access to its users’ email, the harsh reality of utilizing state of the art “free” services is slowly dawning upon the majority of internet users.

If these incidents had been mentioned just a few years ago, then most of us would have written them off as conspiracy theories. The idea is very resonating… and scary, since the real-world enormity of just thinking about having your private data shared with unknown parties is enough to run a shudder down your spine.

While protecting your online identity is important no matter which walk of life you belong to, it gets even more imperative when you are using office equipment and infrastructure to browse the internet, since anything you do on that office workstation, laptop or event through the provided Wi-Fi tracks back to your desk, and if a malicious party was to get a hold of your professional data, then you are in additional trouble along with having your digital identity being compromised.

To ensure that you steer clear of such troubles, all you need to do is to take a few simple yet effective steps in order to keep your defenses up to the technological advancements of the interwebs as well as the physical antics of your coworkers.

Use a VPN Software

Even if you use an assigned laptop or workstation, you can easily install and use a free VPN at your workplace in order to ensure that you are not leaving behind breadcrumbs of your office’s IP address to any websites you visit, as you never know if the last website you visited was hacked or not, which could lead the hackers right back to your physical address.

This holds true especially if you are visiting websites from small-to-medium businesses, as they remain the most susceptible to hacking attempts and prove to be a goldmine of data for hackers who are fishing for information on any unsuspecting locals.  A smart idea to protect yourself while you browse the internet is to use a VPN as explained here

By using a VPN, you will not only be able to hide your IP address from the sites you visit, but it will also let you browse any third-party websites anonymously, which could come in handy in certain scenarios.

For instance, if you are vetting different candidates for any kind of vendor-partnerships, then having different IP addresses will allow you to do a few surveys with their online employees before deciding on whether or not to hire their services for your business.

Private Browsing is Your Friend

Imagine this: your friend from work is getting married and the bachelor party preparations landed on your shoulders. You did a few online searches, sought out a club, got some drinks, maybe some dinner. The night went well, everyone was happy.

A few days later, you are giving an online presentation on the same laptop you used to search for the party’s ideas, when during the browsing session an ad for a strip club shows up on your browser – and you instantly curse yourself for having searched about “bachelor parties” ever on your workplace.

The lesson? Save yourself the embarrassment by using the handy features of Incognito or Private browsing from popular providers such as Chrome, Mozilla, or Safari.

By using Private mode and different email IDs for searches related to workplace and personal aspects, you can ensure that you stay away from such pesky online ads at all times. What Private mode does is to let you browse the internet without ever saving any cookies or history information, and this way, your actual browser remains separate from its search preferences.

Never Save Your Credit Card Information on a Workplace Device

While it may be tempting to hit “Yes” when your browser asks you to save your credit card information after an online purchase just so you do not have to enter the information, again and again, always refrain from doing so on a computer that largely remains on your workplace.

Even if you take measures of locking your screen each time you step away from your desk, the chances of anyone using your computer are more probable than you would know, which is why you should keep any sensitive autofill information away from your workstation. Alternatively, you can save the information on your phone’s browser, so that you do not have to waste your time by entering redundant details each time you have to make a purchase while also remaining safe.

This step will ensure that your financial data does not fall into the hands of malicious parties.

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Make Sure You have an Antivirus Installed

If your IT department is not that proficient to have installed an antivirus software at your workstation, then don’t wait and think about “this is not my job,” but instead take the initiative to either ask your IT support to install such a solution right away, or if you have the authority, then go ahead and do so without thinking twice.

The world of the internet remains full of perils for any online browser no matter how proficient in technology they could be. Therefore, it is extremely important for any computer to have an efficient and up to date antivirus software installed on it so it safeguards the respective machine from any attacks by bad actors in the technological space.

Always Be Wary of Sharing Sensitive Information with Any Website or Individual

Needless to say, do not trust any website or even an individual in your workplace blindly with your login or financial information, since you never know how an entity could react towards you if you hand over the path to your Achilles’ Heel on a silver platter.

Therefore, always be wary of protecting your login credentials to your computer, emails and banking sites in order to keep yourself safe from unsavory scenarios.

By implementing these few simple steps in your everyday routine at work, you can ensure that you have safeguarded yourself all that you could, so that you do not have to regret the day when you decided to go lax on your cybersecurity only to compromise your and your workplace’s security with it.

Sean Jacobson

I'm Sean, a former HR and business consultant providing you insights into the business world for Leader to Leader.

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