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Online Privacy and Security Toolkit

A guide to developing good privacy and security practices online. Adapted from UW-Bothell, Nicole Gustavsen and Myra Waddell.

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Basics of Privacy and Security Online

We all use the Internet. To one degree or another, we live our lives online. And just like we would in our offline lives, we need to take steps online to protect ourselves and maintain our privacy.

If you do nothing else to secure yourself online, at the very least follow these guidelines:

  • Create a unique, long password for each account. Never use information in your password that could be easily discovered about you, such as a childhood pet, mother's maiden name, etc. Change your password at least a few times a year, and preferably once every month or two for accounts with sensitive information.
  • Think carefully before disclosing your location. Make sure the social media accounts you're using don't have location or geotracking automatically enabled.
  • Enable 2-factor authentication whenever you have the option.
  • As much as you can, try to read any Terms of Service documents that you are asked to agree to. If you're having trouble understanding it (as most of us without legal training do), check Terms of Service; Didn't Read (link on right-hand side of page) and do a little searching around 
  • Never do anything sensitive (log into a bank account, type your SSN, search for explicit content) on an open Wi-Fi network. Assume that if the network is not yours, and/or is unencrypted, that everything you're doing can and will be viewed by anyone with basic hacking skills. Learn how to stay safe(r) on public Wi-Fi here.
  • Install all software updates immediately on your devices. Often the updates are designed to protect against specific security flaws.
  • Put a sticker or piece of tape over the webcam on your laptop or computer when you're not using it. Computer webcams are easily hacked.
  • If you're not paying for a service with money, you're likely paying by providing the company with your data, often in ways you'd never have agreed to if you knew about it. Keep this in mind whenever you sign up for a free service.

Guides to Help You Safeguard Your Information

In The Event Of Catastrophe: Identity Theft, Hacking, and other Horrors

Terms of Service

Protect Your Devices

Protect Your Computer or Laptop