6 sure-fire ways to keep your personal data safe online

Nearly everyone has scrolled through Instagram only to find an ad for the hotel they were just talking about 10 minutes earlier. Whether it was just a coincidence or you were "being listened to" is always up for debate. Still, it's hard not to feel uneasy knowing someone or something is potentially using your info to manipulate your spending habits. If these apparent mind-reading ads know how to influence your purchase behavior, who knows how that can impact your lifestyle and beliefs!

But while online ads may not be in your control, other personal information about you online, like your credit card numbers, address, and more, definitely isn't for anyone else's eyes but yours. And while it may seem like putting your info out onto the web makes you incredibly vulnerable to theft, hackers, and more (which it sometimes can), it's essential to do what you can to keep this sensitive data safe. 

1. Create strong passwords and update them every once in a while.

You use passwords to protect so much of your online data, from emails and bank accounts to educational portals. And if you're still using your birthday, address, or other easy-to-guess passwords for this stuff, it's time to upgrade. It's best to use symbols and numbers if you can and in arrangements that only you can remember. And while it's totally annoying to have to remember all these things, changing them periodically, like every six months or so, can keep you even extra protected — just be sure to write them down somewhere! 

2. Install an antivirus program.

In addition to fending off nasty viruses that eat up all your info and send you annoying pop-up ads every time you turn on your computer, an antivirus suite can protect you against a wide array of malware. No longer will you have to worry about annoying spam, data held at ransom, and more. In other words, it's like arming your computer with a team of huge, scary bodyguards,

3. Use Offcloud to share files, download content, and more safely.

Toting an impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot, Offcloud proves to be a fool-proof way to protect yourself. With this platform, you can safely perform various tasks online, including downloading from BitTorrent, unlocking file-hosting and streaming sites, remotely syncing your files with the cloud, speeding up downloads and saving bandwidth, and so much more.

No matter what you do online, using Offcloud can ensure you stay completely anonymous and secure online. Plus, you can use the app's Zapier integration to automatically upload or sync files that need protection to cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon Cloud Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. 

4. Use a VPN, even if you never leave home.

Using a virtual private network, otherwise known as a VPN, makes it, so your connection is always secure and safe from prying eyes. Working in a public place, like a library or a coffee shop, seems to be an obvious call for a VPN, but you still ought to protect yourself while using secure connections, like at your home office. These services encrypt your internet traffic so that no one can sniff around your online data, keeping your email account, card numbers, and even the things you watch online totally private.

5. Get used to paying for things with your smartphone instead of a card.

You've probably seen that more and more places are accepting digital payment methods like Apple Pay in addition to cars and cash. And while this may not seem as secure of a payment option as a credit card, it can actually be much safer. That's because, unlike a debit or credit card, mobile-pay exchanges use a one-use authentication code that can only be applied to that transaction and nothing else. Credit cards, on the other hand, can be unlocked, allowing some serious theft to occur, including stolen identities. 

6. Don't forget to clear your cache.

You'd be surprised how much info your browser collects in a month's time, let alone an entire year. From saved cookies to shopping sprees to searches, all this info is stored in your cache. So if you get hacked, all this info will be up for the taking. But before you break out into a cold sweat, remember that something as simple as clearing your cache every once in a while can rid your browser of this sensitive info, keeping you a little safer on the web. 

Take note that different operating systems and web browsers use varying cache-clearing methods, so be sure to look up the proper way to do so before attempting it. It's also a good idea to save any crucial info you might need off your browser before clearing your cache.

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