A person on a laptop researching online security using Consumer Reports' Security Planner

There’s no shortage of advice for consumers on how to handle digital security and privacy, but sorting through it all can be confusing.

Numerous stories on home security cameras being hacked, identity theft ruining people’s credit, and companies tracking everyone's location can make you wonder if it’s even possible to stay safer online. And the flood of tips can make it tricky to figure out what advice applies to you and how to prioritize it.

Today, Consumer Reports is launching a free guide called CR Security Planner that can help. 

The guide was originally developed and maintained by the Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary research group based at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy at the University of Toronto. The first version was released in December 2017, with the support of independent security experts and organizations, including Consumer Reports and the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

More on Privacy and Security

Consumer Reports has now updated the guide and expanded it based on feedback from users, to provide more targeted information on concerns such as identity theft and ransomware, plus tips on devices such as smart speakers, baby monitors, and smart TVs.

"With Security Planner, our aim from the beginning was to create an accessible, expertly reviewed, and regularly updated guide to help users take immediate steps to improve their digital hygiene,” says Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab. “With Security Planner in the hands of Consumer Reports, we can rest assured that it reaches the widest possible audience and is shepherded by an independent organization with expertise and integrity."

Screen grab of the Consumer Reports Security Planner
The CR Security Planner provides a personalized list of recommendations to help people improve their digital security and privacy.

Go to CR Security Planner and answer a few simple questions about the types of devices you own and your biggest security concerns. Then, you’ll receive an individualized action plan.

For example, if you want to learn about protecting your online accounts, you will receive tips on how to review your security settings on email and social media accounts, and details on how to choose a password manager and enable multifactor authentication.

If you have a home security camera or a gaming console, you’ll get targeted tips on how to set those up to be more secure and private.

If you’re concerned about governments accessing your data, you’ll get information on how tech companies respond when they receive requests for user information. We also have some guidance and links to more in-depth resources for people facing dangerous situations such as online stalking and harassment.

“Our goal with CR Security Planner is to maintain the best resource for personalized privacy and security advice," says Ben Moskowitz, director of the Digital Lab at Consumer Reports. "Instead of telling you everything you could do to secure your data and devices, we'll help you figure out the most important steps to take. It's fast, and it's free."

The action plan lets you check off items as you’ve completed them. If there are too many items to complete all at once, or you just feel like coming back to the project later, you can print out your plan or copy the URL to refer to. Tech enthusiasts can read through a list of all 48 tips.

You don’t need to be a Consumer Reports member to use CR Security Planner, nor do you need to input any data that identifies you. CR Security Planner builds on Consumer Reports’ core mission of working with consumers to create fairness, safety, and transparency in the marketplace.