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3rdWith the increasing availability of low-cost, 3G enabled smartphones – that provide people easy access to apps, social media, blogging websites and faster downloads – in Pakistan, internet privacy has never been a more pressing concern.

Remember, your digital keystrokes – including the confidential data you enter for online registrations and transactions – can easily become public, and expose you to spam and cyber crimes in the process.

Therefore, it is advisable to take the following precautions:

Provide the minimum required information when registering for online services. Review your privacy settings regularly and limit public exposure of your posts and images.

Turn off geo-tagging when uploading your photographs or when setting your status on social media; this not only makes your location public, it also creates a geographic timeline that can make you a victim of cyber and physical crime. Use free anti-tracking security software (such as Ghostery) to turn off web trackers.

Avoid using your personal phone numbers in official correspondence as e-mails may get forwarded to external servers, and picked up by online marketers through search engines. Furthermore, disable your unused e-mail, blog and social networking accounts to prevent any chances of them being hacked and used for illegal activities.

Use secure browsers such as WhiteHat Aviator (for Mac and Windows) or Tor (for Android-based devices) to ensure safe communication, ward-off surveillance and block cookies and stealth downloads. Do not auto save your passwords, leave your accounts logged in or share personal identification or financial information – such as your CNIC or credit card numbers – when using public computers or shared servers to prevent chances of identity theft.

Having an up-to-date anti-virus is no longer sufficient to protect you from cyber threats. Perform weekly scans for malware and use software such as Clean-Up to clear your browser and toolbar usage history. Opt for comprehensive digital protection by installing security suites such as NoScript.

– Nizar Diamond Ali

First published in the ADBUZZZZ Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 1, 2015.