How to mask your digital trail
Cyber security expert Evan Dumas offers tips to keep your online activity private
Like it or not, we leave traces of ourselves on the Internet every day.
Your browsing history, cookies and posts on social media contribute to your digital footprints, which are fast becoming a gold mine for marketers to pry into your online behaviour.
Last month, United States President Donald Trump signed a repeal of broadband privacy rules, allowing Internet companies to sell people's browsing histories without their permission.
"Most of us today trade privacy for convenience," said Mr Evan Dumas.
He is the head of emerging technologies for Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa for cyber security firm Check Point.
For example, signing in to your Google account on the Chrome browser allows it to tell you where your car is parked or recommend nearby restaurants.
The downside is that Internet companies or hackers can then learn about you and your online behaviour and use that information to market products or attack you.
Mr Dumas shared with The New Paper four ways to keep yourself safe online.
1. PRIVATISE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
"The difference between browsing online and using social media is that when you post something on social media, you are openly giving permission to anyone to find out about you," said Mr Dumas.
Malicious actors can then target you by researching your preferences and background before sending you targeted attacks such as phishing e-mail.
"What you can do is read through the privacy settings of your accounts and restrict access to your posts, limiting who can gather information on you," he said.
2. USE A VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) allows you to encrypt the data sent out via your smart device, blocking anyone from seeing your location or exact identity, said Mr Dumas.
"In the corporate world, you can use a VPN for scanning to make sure the traffic is safe," he said.
3. USE YOUR BROWSER'S PRIVATE MODE
Every browser has a private browsing mode - Chrome's is called Incognito - that you can use to mask your identity as you surf online, similar to a VPN.
"What they see is someone surfing that particular page, but it doesn't pinpoint that it is you," Mr Dumas said.
This is particularly useful if you wish to mask certain browsing habits, such as online shopping, so that there are fewer cookies or trackers placed on you, he said.
4. KEEP YOUR DEVICES SECURE
All these efforts to hide your digital footprints will come to nothing if your device ends up compromised, said Mr Dumas.
This could happen if you download apps from unofficial sources that could be malware in disguise.
"Even if you use a VPN, an attacker who has compromised your device can still access your credentials by using a keylogger to take down everything you type," he said.