When Tim Berners-Lee was designing the technology that would herald the Information Age, he searched for a name that would complement the intricate “network” of linked pages and sites. He eventually settled on the term “web”, which is how the World Wide Web got its name.

However, the words “web” and “net” both have negative connotations. A web is what a spider weaves to trap unsuspecting flies, while a net is used for catching fish. If you know anything about Snowden’s leaks, you would realize how apposite the name is.

It’s All One Giant Trap

That’s right! The World Wide Web is one giant trap that lures in more than two billion flies every year. It is a place where everything you do leaves a digital trail. And that trail leaves you open to monitoring and surveillance.

So what must you do to feel at ease while willingly wandering around this web? Here are a few things you can use more cautiously to keep your personal data safe from online snoopers:

5. Private Search Engine

Search engines log your browsing history, geo-location and preferences, and then build your personalized profile. Your profile is then sold either to third parties that want to sell you their products or to law enforcement agencies. Make it a point to use a search engine that does not log your history and keeps your browsing activities private.

4. Cloud services

Today, we use clouds to store all sorts of personal data from photos and videos to office memos and Excel sheets. However, using cloud services based in the U.S., UK and France and a number of other countries can leave your personal data open to snooping. That’s because these countries are known to be tolerant to snooping by law enforcement agencies. Hence, make it a point to check which country your cloud service is based in, and don’t forget to read its terms and conditions before you start saving data on it.

3. Encrypted Email Services

When it comes to emails, simply follow one rule: DO NOT use free emails services! Free emails are abundant, and that in itself is quite suspicious to begin with. However, you want to know what should be more suspicious? A U.S.-based free email service. Yes! Any email service based in the U.S. or UK is a “no go” since they’re more vulnerable to government surveillance and snooping in the name of national security. So instead of going for a free email service, try out a paid one.

2. Torrent VPNs

For many movie junkies, the best type of entertainment is “free”. It’s no wonder then why torrenting has become so popular over the years. However, with increasing DMCA scrutiny over torrenting activities, it would really pay to remain anonymous when downloading your favorite movies and TV shows. One of the simplest, most effective ways to do so is with a Torrent VPN. A Torrent VPN shields your IP address and anonymizes your online activity so you can go about your daily online activities without the fear of DMCA scrutiny.

1. Password Managers

Lastly and most importantly, make sure you do not save passwords in your browser or on your desktop or hard drive. Instead, use a paid password-management app to save all your login credentials for your favorite sites. While you’re at it, make sure you work on password complexity by using a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and numerals. This will make them virtually impossible to crack.

As a rule of thumb, try to convince yourself that you can no longer trust any commercial company that handles electronic communication for free. And, with the recent surge in cybercrimes and government surveillance, it would certainly pay off to be extra vigilant when using the internet.

We hope you found these online security tips useful. Do let us know or leave us a comment to let us know what you think is the most important online security tip of 2017. Until next time, ciao!

Author Bio:

Anas Baig is a Cyber Security Journalist & Tech Reporter. He has been featured on major media outlets including TheGuardian, Lifehacker Australia, CIO, ITProPortal, Infosec Magazine, Tripwire and many others. He writes about online security and privacy, IoT, AI, and Big Data. If you’d like to get in touch, please send an email to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @anasbaigdm.