Most of us spend the biggest part of our days online. We chat with friends, watch videos, work, look up something — all this happens thanks to the internet. And apps that give us access to the online world have already become the most important programs on our computers and smartphones.

It’s relatively easy to stay safe when we just use some messaging app to chat or Instagram and Facebook. The rules are simple — don’t overshare with the public, don’t accept files from unknown people, use multi-factor authentication. But when we’re surfing the internet through our browsers, we’re exposed to numerous threats that are waiting for their victims out there. That’s why it’s important that you protect yourself. And here is how to do that.

Starting with your devices

Let’s begin with the basics and work on making your devices more secure. No matter how hard you work on protecting yourself online, you won’t be safe if your gadget is compromised. So that’s the right place to start your cybersecurity journey.

Reinstall the operating system or use a factory reset

If you aren’t sure whether your device is already compromised or not, it will be useful to perform a factory reset for portable gadgets and reinstall the operating system for your computer. This will allow you to begin building your protection without a chance that anything stored on your device compromises it. And if you are using a second-hand gadget, you must perform this action to make sure there isn’t anything malicious left after the previous owner.

Update all apps

If you have turned off the auto-update feature, you should go through all apps and update them manually. This is true for both computers and portable gadgets. Each program has some vulnerabilities, and it’s only a matter of time when they become known to hackers who won’t wait long to exploit weak points. Once developers find out about a vulnerability, they fix it and release a new patch. Yet even though each update fixes these vulnerabilities, others will inevitably appear. That’s why you should update all programs every time the new patch is released. Ideally, updates should be installed automatically. And if you dislike automatic updates, you should check for them at least weekly and install them manually.

Be careful about new programs

You shouldn’t carelessly download and install apps on your devices because you can never know if this program is compromised. Go for well-known or paid apps that are safe and avoid programs that lack reviews or have bad ones.

Since we usually use App Store or Google Play to find new apps for our portable devices, we tend to believe that each program out there is safe. But despite the effort Google and Apple put into removing malicious and suspicious apps from stores, there still are lots of programs that will harm your gadget. So just stick to well-known developers and applications and always read reviews before downloading a new program.

The same goes for plugins for browsers or other programs. A plugin also can be a tool hackers use to steal some data or harm a user in another way. Install only the plugins you trust.

Use reliable passwords

This is a widely-known basic rule of online safety, yet so many users ignore it. Always create complex passwords both for your online accounts and devices. Don’t let your gadget remain without a password — and make it always ask for one when there is an attempt to install a new program.

Don’t give your devices to anyone

Unless you absolutely trust this person and you’re sure they understand the rules of online safety.

Use a VPN app

A VPN will hide the IP address of your device and, therefore, the data you store on it and share. Use iNinja VPN every time you’re connected to a public WiFi network — those are rarely safe — or when you need additional protection. Being one of the best free VPN apps out there, iNinja will safeguard your computer and portable devices as versions for all operating systems are available.

Working with your browser

Now let’s talk about the tool that we use daily — a browser.

Choose the safe browser

Unfortunately, most popular browsers aren’t safe as they collect too much information about the user and their activity. Consider such options as Firefox. Brave, TOR, or at least the DuckDuckGo browser extension. By the way, the “keep your programs updated” rule refers to your browser, too.

Go through the settings

Each browser has some privacy settings — study them and make sure you set up the program in the safest way possible.

Always check if the site is safe

A safe website would use HTTPS — technology that allows a secure connection. It encrypts the data and makes sure malefactors can’t intercept it. Usually, a browser would indicate whether a site is using HTTPS or not by showing a secured or a broken lock respectively. Additionally, Google itself will warn you if you enter a suspicious website. Stick to HTTPS-based websites, especially if you share personal information with them such as your bank card details.

Reconsider your search engine use

While Google has its benefits and does quite a bit to protect users from harmful websites, this search engine also gathers a lot of personal data and uses it later for ads and whatnot. Consider switching to DuckDuckGo or Startpage that are way more conscious and private. You can change your default search engine in the settings of your browser.

Don’t just accept cookies

It’s useful to be selective about cookies. These are the bits of information about you and your device that help pages load faster so that you can have a better browsing experience. While cookies are made for good, advertisers and malefactors can use them for their own goals. Use tailored plugins that filter out trackers and third-party cookies or just think before agreeing to the website’s request to store cookies. Will you get back to this site? If not — don’t accept cookies.

A bit about the incognito mode

Many users consider the incognito mode some kind of safe zone online thinking that no one can know what they’re doing when they’re “incognito”. Yet, the incognito mode doesn’t do more than just hiding your activity from other members in your household — it doesn’t keep the browsing history and deletes cookies once you close the tab. If you want to truly hide your activity, use iNinja VPN — with just a couple of clicks you will be safe.

Use an ad-blocking tool

Ads can be malicious, too, as they could lead to harmful websites. That’s a nice addition to those banners being annoying, isn’t it? So it’s better to block ads altogether and enjoy a cleaner browsing experience.

Bookmarks are useful

They might seem like a tool from the past. Yet, by simply bookmarking necessary and frequently visited websites you can protect yourself from phishing. As a nice bonus, it will take you a single click to get on the required page.

Final thoughts

It’s relatively easy to stay safe online. Just follow the simple rules we’ve outlined in this article and reinforce your devices with the iNinja VPN app for Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS. Then you can be sure you’re protected.