With more and more business and communications taking place online, most people are providing a significant amount of personal information to websites, and making personal information available through social media. At the same time, very few of us take the time to read the “terms and conditions” documents we acknowledge when we establish accounts online. It is not realistic for most people to avoid using the internet in this manner, but there are things we can do to help protect our privacy while still enjoying these conveniences.

Passwords and authentication

  • PIN or fingerprint protect your mobile devices: longer PINs are more secure
  • Use secure passwords or pass phrases: the longer, the better. Include numbers and punctuation.
  • Never use the same password or passphrase for more than one site.
  • Use a password safe* to manage your passwords.
    • Keepass free open source for PC’s and Mac’s
    • Lastpass free online service – use with 2-factor authentication
    • Dashlane free online service – use with 2-factor
  • Use 2-Factor (2-step) authentication for important accounts.

System administration and maintenance

  • Enable auto-update to get important security fixes.
  • Regularly update / patch software that does not have auto-update capability.
  • Install anti-malware software for PC’s, Mac’s, and Android devices.
  • Examine and change default settings.
    • Disable guest accounts.
    • Change default administrator passwords.
    • Disable features that you do not use like file sharing and remote desktop.
  • Enable encryption.
    • BitLocker full drive encryption in Windows 8 and 10.
    • File Vault full drive encryption in Mac OS X.
    • Veracrypt for thumb and removable drives.
    • Android device encryption (varies by manufacturer).
    • iOS devices are encrypted by default.
  • Enable the built-in firewall.
  • Backup regularly.
    • Automatic backup software or services are preferred.
    • A second backup to a disconnected removable disk is a good practice.

Wireless and Internet access

  • Enable WPA2 on your home wireless router.
  • Disable Universal Plug-and-Play and device management from the Internet.
  • Use web-filtering DNS at home.
  • Always use a virtual private network (VPN) when connecting to open Wi-Fi hotspots. This VPN Comparison chart can help you find one that works for you.

* Product, services, and web sites listed are not endorsements by the University of California