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7 steps you can take this weekend to protect your data and boost your privacy
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++It’s not our devices that are our most valuable assets — it’s the data we create and store on them.

Laptops can be repurchased and operating systems can always be reinstalled, but the user-created data — the photos we take, the stories we write, the records we keep — that’s the stuff that can never be replaced.

Thankfully, personal data protection isn’t rocket science. In this blog post, we’ll show you seven simple things you can do to reduce the risk of data theft and protect your online privacy.

Note: The following advice is up to date and relevant for the sophisticated threats circulating in 2020. The products mentioned below are not paid advertisements or officially endorsed by Emsisoft. They’re just good, reliable products that are personally used or highly rated by our own malware analysts.

Step 1: Update your software

* Time required: It depends on the speed of your Internet connection and the last time you updated.
* Cost: Free.

Many threats rely on exploiting known security flaws. To prevent this from happening, software developers regularly release updates to fix these vulnerabilities and keep their applications more secure.

As a user, it’s important that you always update your operating system, antivirus software and other applications when prompted and enable automatic updates wherever possible.

To see if your version of Windows is up to date, press Windows key + I > Update & Security > Check for updates.

To see if your version of macOS is up to date, click on the Apple icon at the top-left area of your screen, select About This Mac, then select Software Updates.

Step 2: Invest in good antivirus software

* Time required: 10 minutes.
* Cost: $2.50/month.

Hundreds of thousands of new malware strains are released into the world every single day.

Windows Defender provides a rudimentary layer of security against these threats, but for more reliable data protection you might want to consider investing in a proven antivirus solution.

There are a number of good candidates to choose from and a lot of things to consider when weighing up your options. Depending on your needs, factors such as detection rates, usability, impact on system performance, price, customer support and the company’s approach to data privacy may form the basis of your decision.

If you’re in the market for a privacy-conscious antivirus solution that won’t slow down your system, download a free 30-day trial of Emsisoft Anti-Malware and see if we’ll be a good fit.

Step 3: Take control of your passwords

* Time required: 2 hours.
* Cost: Freeware and freemium options available, ~$3/month for a premium password manager.

A weak password is an easy access point for cybercriminals. Strengthening all your passwords can take some time, but it’s absolutely worth the effort.

If you suspect that you’ve used weak passwords in the past or think that you might have used the same password for multiple accounts, you’ll need to go back and change them. If you can’t remember all of the services you’ve signed up for over the years, there are a few ways to track down the various accounts linked to your email address:

* Email inbox: Search your email inbox for sign-up confirmation messages. Search for common subject lines that services send you when you sign-up for a new account, such as “subject: verify” or “subject: welcome”.ç

* Browser: When you fill out form fields on the web, your browser gives you the option to save your input to make your life easier the next time you need to enter that information. This also applies to your usernames and passwords, and can be useful for tracking down online accounts you may have forgotten about. In your browser settings, you can view all of the login credentials your browser has saved.

* Chrome: Settings > Autofill > Passwords
* Firefox: Settings > Privacy & Security > Logins and Passwords > Saved Logins
* Edge: Settings > View advanced settings > Manage passwords

We do not recommend using automated tools such as EmailExport and Deseat, as these services require permission to read your inbox in order to function.

We also do not recommend using in-browser password managers. While they can be useful for tracking down old accounts, they can be easily viewed with some very basic workarounds, so be sure to delete or disable them as soon as you’ve obtained the information you need.

Once you’ve found an online account, you’ll need to create a new password for it. Each password you make should be:

* Long: We recommend making your passwords at least 16 characters long.
* Unique: Each password should be unique and only used for one account.
* Random: Use a password generator to generate random strings of characters. Do not use personally meaningful names or dates.

Remembering hundreds of long, unique, random passwords is going to be tough, so make your life easier by using a password manager. KeePass is a reputable, free, open-source password manager, but if you want something a bit easier on the eyes, you could consider Dashlane, Bitwarden or RoboForm.
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