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Tools: The internet threats you’re not afraid of are probably the worst ones

Try This! — Tools for Journalism is a newsletter to bring you news, updates and tutorials about the best digital tools for journalists and other online communicators.
It comes from Ren LaForme, Poynter’s digital tools reporter.

Keeping up with online security is so much more difficult than it is in the physical world. 

There are only so many ways someone can steal your wallet or break into your home, but it seems like there’s always some new hack, bug or tracker taking aim at your internet safety.

If you’re most nervous about the internet boogeymen trying to steal your personal information, money or entire identity, a site called Firefox Monitor is a good place to start. It’ll tell you all the websites that may have compromised your login information and passwords and allows you to sign up to be alerted to new breaches (Have I Been Pwned — h/t Samantha Sunne and her Tools for Reporters newsletter — is a great alternative). 

In the short term, it’s a good idea to log into any site that’s listed on Firefox Monitor to change your password and turn on two-factor authentication if you haven’t already done so. Then do the same for any site where you may have also used the breached username/password combination. In the long term, consider leaning on a password management tool like LastPass or 1Password to keep you safer. 

But there are less immediately harmful threats that might be more nefarious in the long run. The New York Times reports that some websites and mobile apps can gather enough innocuous details about you to cobble together a digital fingerprint that can be used to track you across the internet. The worst part is that it’s all completely hidden. 

“(I)n contrast to cookies, which people can see and delete, you generally cannot tell it is happening and cannot opt out of it,” Brian X. Chen writes. 

How do you protect yourself from an invisible threat with invisible motives? Use Safari on Macs and iOS devices, Firefox on everything else; limit your use of free apps that seem too good to be true; and try tools like Disconnect to limit the information that any app can collect from you.

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