Online security is becoming a bigger issue than ever, with 2016 seemingly one of the worst years ever when it comes to staying secure and private online – and 2017 doesn’t promise to be any better, as restrictive surveillance laws are being passed around the world and authoritarian regimes are censoring the Internet. When it comes to using public WiFi, and especially managing financial transactions, it’s known that it’s not safe to use one’s credit card or to disclose any other personal information. For example, it has been shown that a Visa credit card can be hacked online in six seconds.

Using cryptocurrency helps users stay anonymous to some extent, but what are the other ways to remain completely invisible online?

NordVPN, a virtual private network service provider, identifies five key services that could significantly enhance your online anonymity and security:

* Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a decentralised currency that does not belong to any country – just its user. And when it comes to security, it’s hard to beat it. Bitcoin online transactions are conducted without disclosing any personal financial information. When it comes to privacy, it’s certainly reassuring that no one can trace who is the owner of a certain bitcoin account. However, not all merchants accept bitcoin. In those cases when using a credit/debit card is the only option – extra security steps should be taken. Using strong passwords and updating them often, ensuring the websites are trusted (double check for https), being wary of any suspicious redirects and using trusted encryption services (like a VPN service) to protect one’s Internet traffic are bare minimum.

* Encrypted email. While bitcoin is great for financial transactions online, it’s advisable to stay private while conducting any other activities – such as emailing. Emails might also contain some private and sensitive information, which could be easily intercepted by hackers or any unwanted snoopers. The solution is to use one of the encrypted email services.

* Encrypted messaging. Everybody uses their mobile devices for instant messaging – but how safe are regular communication apps? For example, WhatsApp has received some harsh criticism for tracing user chats even after their deletion. Use an encrypted messaging and voice calling app like Signal that provides end-to-end encryption by default to secure all communications.

* PGP (Pretty Good Privacy). If a user is looking for an advanced option to secure their communication and personal files, it might be wise to turn to PGP, which is actually one of the most popular encryption software programs used worldwide. OpenPGP is used to encrypt data and create digital signatures and could be used to encrypt your personal files or to exchange encrypted communication. It protects all communication with a digital signature and is available for all operating platforms.

* VPN (virtual private network). Anyone who is taking their online security and privacy seriously, will use a VPN. A VPN encrypts all user’s Internet data into a secure tunnel and creates a secure connection between one’s device and a VPN server. All the information traveling between the user’s Internet-enabled device and the secure server remains invisible to any third party. Those who want a guaranteed protection, will be disappointed that not all VPNs accept bitcoin as method of payment – but there are a few that do. Privacy issues have taken another shape completely over the past year, 31% of Internet users used a VPN in 2016, and VPNs will be increasingly popular in 2017 as online security issues grow to monumental proportions.

In addition to these super tough security measures, anonymity-minded Internet users should be more vigilant, use extra caution when sharing information or opening messages from unknown recipients, while making sure that their device’s firewall is turned on and a reliable anti-virus program is installed and kept up to date.

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