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How do you protect your identity online?

protect online identity
Oversharing on social media is just one of the dangers to be aware of
This article is sponsored by F-Secure. Sponsored articles are written by The Big Tech Question editors and approved by the company before publication.

Protecting your identity isn’t about taking a set of protective measures once a year: it’s about establishing secure habits that become a way of life. There’s no perfect solution that can make you 100% secure, but there are practical ways to reduce your chances of being attacked. Here are six simple steps we recommend.

Step 1: Sort out your passwords

Good password security means using a different password for every account you set up, which is obviously impossible without help. That’s why we strongly recommend you use a password manager that works on any device. There are free services, but F-Secure KEY includes extra features such as breach alerts when a popular service is hacked.

Step 2: Switch on two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication means that data thieves can’t just steal your username and password and log into your account. It adds an extra layer of security, such as a message being sent to your phone, that means only you can authorise access.

The method depends on the service, but here are links to popular ones you might use:

Step 3: Create a paranoid habit

protect online identity
Sensitive information in the post? Don’t recycle it, shred it

People are out to get you and they’re searching for easy targets! To make sure you don’t become one, be paranoid. That means, rather than popping them in the recycling box, shred any documents that have your name and personal details on them. It means being suspicious when someone phones up saying they’re from your bank. It means not clicking on links that come through from “friends” on email without being totally sure they’re legitimate.

Step 4: Use a VPN when you’re in a public place

protect online identity
By all means use the cafĂ©’s free Wi-Fi, but make sure you stay safe with a VPN

We’ve already explained the many benefits of using a virtual private network (VPN), and we can distil the wisdom into one line: if you’re doing anything sensitive online, such as paying for goods or filling out a form, ALWAYS use a trusted VPN such as F-Secure FREEDOME VPN. This means only you and the VPN service you’re using will see what you type. It’s like a secure tunnel between your PC and theirs. Note that word “trusted” too. Be suspicious of free VPNs you don’t recognise.

Step 5: Protect your devices – and your family’s

By now, everyone should know they need to install antivirus software on their Windows PC and Mac. But there are a couple of things people forget: first, it’s not only your machine you need to worry about. Think about your whole family – are they protected? Children in particular have a habit of downloading files they shouldn’t, and disabling software. You need a way to stay in control, and that’s one of the big advantages of F-Secure SAFE: it makes it easy to manage your family’s devices and set family rules.

protect lost phones
Children have a nasty habit of losing their phones…

Which brings us to the second key point. It isn’t only laptops and PCs you need to worry about. Android phones are a particular concern, with children again being the most vulnerable: they can be tempted to switch off security settings in return for playing a game that isn’t on the official Play Store, and have a nasty habit of losing their phones. Again, F-Secure SAFE is a good choice here as it includes easy tracking tools.

Step 6: Develop a privacy habit

Most of us have a habit of oversharing. Our social media followers, and often anyone online, can glean everything from our home address to our birthdays to our kids’ names to our full work history. Almost everything you need to build an online identity.

So, before you share that birthday pic online, check who can see it. Check what information is embedded in the photo – can people see the location? Most of all, apply common sense. A few seconds’ thought could end up saving you months of pain!

NOW READ THIS How do you set time limits on your kids’ computers and phones?

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email

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  • I think a VPN and a password managers are good places to start. I have ExpressVPN and LastPass and both work very well.