How to better protect your online privacy

Posted at 8:59 AM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-23 08:59:03-04

(NBC News) Thursday's news that Yahoo suffered a hack of 500 million of its user accounts may have many people taking a new look at how to keep their own email accounts and personal information secure.

Your information could be vulnerable if your operating system or software aren't current.

You can tighten security by turning on automatic updates for computer software and mobile apps.

"Hackers are always finding new vulnerabilities to exploit. And then, developers are always playing whack-a-mole trying to fix things and shore up vulnerabilities. If you have new software, you get the benefit of that work," said Consumer Reports Editor Jerry Beilinson.

Make sure you have a screen lock on all devices, so if they're lost or stolen, someone can't access accounts.

And when it comes to those screen lock codes...

"Longer is better," Beilinson said.

Avoid obvious choices like phone number, birthday or social security number.

"You just want to be a random string of digits... True for all passwords random random random," said Beilinson.

A website like can let you know if your email account and the personal information attached to it have been involved in a hack.

"If your name pops up you were part of that data breach and you can go and certainly, the first thing you should do is change that password," said Beilinson.

One way to avoid a wave of marketing come-ons is using a self-destructing email address service, such as, when signing up for customer loyalty programs and the like.

There's also a simple way to ensure your webcam's not used to spy on you.

"Putting a post it or some kind of tape over the webcam is a good idea," Beilinson said.

And while there's no way to completely guarantee privacy...

"Every little bit helps sort of like locking your door at night," said Beilinson.

Simple steps to keep personal information from getting into the wrong hands

Turning off location tracking in apps can also keep information from being extracted from your phone.