10 Ways to Protect Your Identity and Data Online
If you haven't thought much about how to stay safe online, it's high time -- especially after the massive hack of the consumer credit reporting agency Equifax, which may have compromised 143 million people’s Social Security numbers and other personal data. Many experts say identity-theft services such as LifeLock, with their pricey monthly fees, aren't worth the money and do little to help prevent data theft in the first place. But many online safety steps are common-sense and free, or nearly so, whether they guard against opportunistic thieves hoping to make off with a credit-card number or sophisticated cybercriminals holding your files for ransom.
A website requiring sensitive data such as credit card numbers should use an encrypted connection, which scrambles information during transmission so it's useless to hackers. More websites than ever are using these encrypted connections -- Google says it's seen a 70 percent rise in server requests from encrypted connections in the past couple of years -- but not everyone's aboard. The easiest way to check for an encrypted connection: Look at a site's URL in your browser's address bar. If it begins with "https" instead of "http," that's good. A closed padlock is also a good sign.