2017 is winding down and, boy oh boy, what a year it was for cybersecurity. This year, we witnessed the unprecedented global outbreaks of the WannaCry and Petya ransomware variants, the rise of Internet-of-Things botnets, the high-profile security lapses in big companies like Uber and Verizon, and of course, who can ever forget the life-changing Equifax disaster, the largest credit data breach in history?
In this increasingly connected online world, the threat of having your money and identity stolen by hackers and cybercriminals is greater than ever. Couple this with the various ways tech companies and government snoops can track your online and offline activity - if you don't care that much about your privacy, it's high time you do.
That's why every week we bring you an essential tip that helps you improve your privacy and security. In case you missed any of this valuable information, here are the top five privacy and security tips from 2017 that you need to know.
1. Keep criminals off your Wi-Fi with ease
Here's a must-read privacy tip from 2017. I've said it before, but I'm going to say it again: Criminals love open home Wi-Fi networks.
They can attack your gadgets and steal your information; they can download - or upload - illegal files, and they can generally do whatever criminal activity they want. When law enforcement traces their activity, you - the router's owner - are left holding the bag.
In this privacy tip, I'll walk you through every step of the process to make sure you don't leave any hole open for someone to sneak through.
2. How to stop your smart TV from spying on you
Of all the "smart" devices, few are more controversial than the smart TV. The idea makes a lot of sense: Combine the best parts of a computer and a television into one super-machine. What could go wrong?
The latest issue: privacy. Certain models keep tabs on their owners in uncomfortable ways, and there's really no good reason for this kind of shifty behavior.
Our advice: Turn the feature off. Here's how you do it.
3. One essential step to prevent identity theft
With the excessive amount of data breaches that are happening, our information is perpetually at risk. Criminals are always scouring for personal data - names, Social Security numbers, addresses, and birthdates - they can use for identity theft and credit card fraud.
Identity thieves can either start charging your credit cards with unauthorized purchases or worse, opening new credit lines under your identity. You may not even realize what's going on until the collection agencies start stalking you for accounts that you don't remember creating.
If you suspect that your identity has been compromised, there's one essential step you must take to stop criminals from opening credit card accounts under your name.
4. Test your firewall to make sure it’s working
One essential tool that keeps hackers from seeing your computer online is a firewall. Even if they manage to know your computer's location and IP address, the firewall keeps them from accessing your system and your network.
But how do you know if your firewall is doing its job?
5. How to erase everything you ever searched for on Google
Does the idea of Google knowing your every move creep you out?
Think about it, the tech giant knows every car that you've thought of purchasing. It also knows more personal details, like what medical conditions you are ailing from, which coworkers you've tried finding information on, and where you're thinking about taking your next trip.
Google knows all of these things from your many internet searches. It's understandable if you consider this is a terrible privacy risk because it is. That's why in this privacy tip, I'm going to tell you how to erase all your Google searches.