Worldwide, more and more people are doing what they can to protect themselves and their data. Considering we live in a world that is so connected, with everything from work to our social lives and entertainment happening online, protection is a must.
Staying safe online isn’t as difficult as you think either; it just requires some forward-thinking and knowing what you should and shouldn’t be doing online.
The first thing you should be doing to protect yourself is installing an antivirus. We will cover the other steps you can take, but an antivirus is the best place to start and should be the minimum level of security you have.
Antivirus software gives you excellent protection against almost every cyber-attack you could face. You must ensure that you keep your subscription up-to-date and also allow it to update whenever it needs to, don’t get into the habit of constantly clicking “update later.”
Another habit almost all of us are guilty of is using the same password, or variations of the same password, for all of our accounts and devices. No matter how difficult you think it is to crack, someone who wants to figure it out can find the tools to do so.
Not only should you be using different passwords for all of your important accounts, but you should also be updating and changing them regularly. You should also not store these passwords as a note or message on your phone or laptop. Doing something as simple as writing them all on a piece of paper and putting it in your sock drawer may sound old-school, but it’s still effective. This also applies to your home WiFi password; change it regularly.
Much like having different passwords, you should also have separate email addresses for your important accounts. Consider the fact that if a data thief just gets their hands on your email address, they have half the information they need to get into your accounts.
While you don’t need a different email address for every account, having a separate one for your online banking that you only use for banking is a great idea.
On the surface, public internet hotspots sound great. You can work at your favorite coffee shop and have unlimited data for the price of a coffee usually. However, data thieves use these public hotspots as ways to hack into vulnerable devices.
While this doesn’t apply to all public networks, your hotspot at the office is almost always going to be more secure than the one at the local restaurant. If you do need to be online while out and about, use a dongle that is password protected.
This one is relatively obvious but is still worth mentioning. It is so easy for hackers and data thieves to create a legitimate-looking website that is purely designed to get you to put in some personal information or banking information.
Sometimes these scam sites are obvious, but other times they are more subtle. If any website asks you for information that extends past your name or email address, it is almost always a scam. Exit the site immediately.
Avoiding strange emails is just as crucial as ignoring unknown websites. We all know those typical, cliche scam emails, but many thieves are becoming more subtle. They have started using the same logos, email structure, etc., as legitimate companies to trick people.
These emails are usually looking to get your bank details, but the rule of thumb is that no real banker, bank, or financial institution will ask for your private information through email. Therefore, if the email asks you to respond to them, delete them immediately.
Another thing to avoid is attachments. Do not open any attachments that come with strange emails; hackers use this as a way to infect your device with a trojan or virus and gain access to your information.
Remember to update your devices when there is an update available. This applies to smartphones, tablets, and computers. They often include security updates and bug fixes since these companies are constantly running tests to check the security of their devices and apps.
Speaking of apps, you should be updating them when needed for the same reason. Vulnerabilities are discovered, and fixes are added, but you can’t use those fixes if the app isn’t updated.
We often lose track of which websites we’ve been on, what we have and haven’t logged into, and what web pages we forget to close. Clearing your cache and history deletes this information so it can’t be seen by anyone else.
Even if someone is just working on your laptop, you don’t want your online banking page available to be clicked on. Regularly clearing your cache, cookies, and history removes pages you don’t want to see and deletes pages that open accidentally.
Encryption has been around for years, but more and more people are taking their privacy more seriously now. In simple terms, encrypting your data means breaking up the information so nobody can read it except the key holder.
The keyholder is the person who does the encrypting. Encryption is straightforward to do, as there are many programs out there that allow you to do it. It is suggested that the encrypted data is stored on a thumb drive, with the key to unlocking it stored on a separate drive.