After getting into security with my company ILDS a while back I quickly realised how bad things are in terms of keeping control of privacy and one's digital identity. Hence I now spend some of my time helping individuals and organisations becoming aware of the extend they are a target of the privacy thief's out there and how they can break free from the siege they're under.
You surely heard that "there is no free lunch" before. In other words, if the service you are using is free, you are the product!
You say this game is lost and things way too complicated so you don't do anything?
Well, I am of the firm believe that sticking your head in the sand is not an option!
As always, things are not black and white. You can go all paranoid, apply all the security measures one can think of, wear a tin foil hat, start to worry about Chemtrails and in essence, make life miserable!
Or, and that would be my advice, you can be smart about things. A setting here and there to keep the big sniffing engines out, use Open Source products where there are equivalents. In general, don't go crazy about not giving away your privacy, but become conscious about when and what you do!
Below is a list of simple things anyone can do:
Q: How can I prevent Google to profile me based on what I search for?
A: Use DuckDuckGo. Yes, this does not sound like a serious service but it is a highly capable search engine which won't profile you.
Q: How can I prevent Google or Microsoft profile me based on how I use the Internet?
A: Use Firefox instead of Chrome, Edge or Internet Explorer!
Q: How can I prevent websites and associated advertising companies profile me?
A: There are many ways and tools to tackle this. A first step is to set the "Do not track" setting your browser will provide. Maybe use an adblocker. A step further is to use browser addons such as "SefDestructingCockies".
Q: I wonder how advertisements follow me from site to site?
A: Amongst other things, your browser is our fingerprint and likely unique amongst the millions of users out there. Check out services like Panopticlick or this German University to see how unique you really are.
Q: How can I prevent my email provider to scan through my email?
A: Step 1, don't host your email with one of the big vendors you use for other services as well. Make it harder for them to compile an all encompassing profile of you.
Step 2, start signing and encrypting your email. This is harder as the ones you communicate with need to join in. Nevertheless, encryption is the only way to keep prying eyes away from your communication.
Q: How can I prevent Windows from capturing where I am and what I do?
A: Probably a big change for many,use Linux! I use KDE Neon but any other flavor will do as well, you got choice! If you're lost by the amount of choice and don't know where to start, pick this one: Linux Mint
Q: I am drowning in passwords
A: Use a password manager, I am using LastPass, any other product will do, still better than using none and staying with simple or duplicate passwords!
Q: Should I worry about Ransomware?
A: Absolutely! No matter how important you think your data is for others, this is about how important your data (e.g. personal photos) is to you! Make sure you do backups! Air-gapped backups, And no, "using the cloud" with file replication services like Dropbox will not protect you from ransomware!
Q: Do I need a Virus scanner?
A: Depends, probably no, if you are running Linux. If you are running Windows you will need one in my opinion. In my opinion you don't need to invest in 3rd party AV products, which more and more turn into bloat-ware and became a security risk themselves, but rather stick to Windows Defender which comes for free with Windows!
Q: I read a lot about encryption, should I encrypt my PC?
A: If you are worried about what's going to happen to your data in case your machine gets lost, and I think anyone should, then absolutely, encrypt your hard drive! Encryption comes for free with the higher level Windows editions and is completely seamless during regular activities!
Q: I am lost with all of this!