More and more of life’s tasks are done online these days. While it can make things easier, it does have the side effect of putting information out there to be found. Data breaches and data scams are occurring more and more, and there’s no sign that will change any time soon. With all this happening, what we need is to be proactive and protect ourselves while online.
We may not have the resources that big corporations have to fight cybercrime, but we do have options. Sometimes all it takes is common sense to keep protected, but having the education to back that up is the best. Offline protection is important as well; destroying old devices is what you need for physical data storage, but online protection is a bit more involved.
Today, we’ll look at six ways you can increase your data protection online.
Practical Cyber Security Tips
Update Your Operating System
No one likes having to update their OS. How annoying it is to turn off the computer, only to be faced with a massive update. While this may be the case, keeping things updated is a necessity.
The updates come out for a number of reasons, one of which is they contain updates for any security issues that have been discovered. By falling behind on updates, you are leaving your system vulnerable to possible attacks. There is a reason updates are set to happen automatically: it keeps you from falling behind on those all-important security updates.
Make sure they’re enabled and, if they’re not, make it a priority to update your system at least once a month.
Use Secure WI-Fi, Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Most people will have their wi-fi password protected, which is good. Hopefully, your password isn’t obvious, and you put some thought and care into it.
Don’t name your wi-fi something that people can identify as being yours. An even better idea than simply naming it something that isn’t traced back to you is setting up your routers to not broadcast the network name. This is known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID).
Public wi-fi is one of those wonderful things that we have now. It can be pretty hard to find a place that doesn’t offer it anymore. As helpful as it is, it isn’t risk-free, and many people don’t realize this. Public wi-fi is far more vulnerable than private secured wi-fi, and with the amount of data going back and worth, it’s a buffet for cybercriminals.
Avoid doing anything private on public wi-fi, don’t do your banking, make big purchases, etc. Save those types of things for when you know you’re on a secure network.
Delete Emails From Unknown Senders
It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, and they still use it because people still fall for it. You get an email from your “bank” that requires you to immediately respond with some important details. And now you just willingly handed your details to the scammers.
Don’t even open emails from senders you don’t recognize, or that seem suspicious in any way, just delete them. Be extremely suspicious of any emails with attached files – these will leave something nasty behind on your machine.
Set Up Two-Factor Authentication
An additional layer of security beyond your normal password, two-factor authentication is being used more and more. How it typically works is simple: when attempting to login to an account, after the password, you will be prompted to provide a unique PIN or answer some security questions.
The answer to the question is whatever you set it up to be when you created your account, whereas the PIN is generated for you when logging in and is only valid for a few moments. PINs are typically texted to a phone number you provide, provided by an app you can download, or generated through a small device you carry around. The PIN is entered, and then you can log in, but if the PIN isn’t used within the time limit, it is invalidated and login is prevented. This makes it much harder for cybercriminals to gain illicit access to your account.
Vary Your Login Credentials
It’s easy for us to settle into the habit of using one or two passwords for multiple accounts. This is really not a good thing. If your password gets cracked all your accounts are vulnerable.
Your best bet is to use different usernames and passwords for every account you have. Can that be hard to keep track of? Yes, of course, but it’s worth doing to maintain your security, as the pains of identity theft are infinitely harder.
Avoid Downloading Files From Random Places
There are plenty of sites out there that want you to download files from them, not all of which have honest intentions. Just like with files attached to suspect emails, downloads from strange sites can have nasty repercussions for you.
Sometimes they trick you by having a link that looks like it will go to another page, but really is a download for a file. Before clicking, hover over the link for a moment and check the bottom of your browser to see the full hyperlink text. Anything ending in a file type is going to be a download.
If it looks weird to you and you aren’t sure about it, just don’t click.
Food For Thought
These have just been a few tips to keep your data safe online, there are far more things you should be doing as well. It’s important to remain vigilant for your own safety, take some extra time with these things.
At the end of the day, you – and your information – will be happy you did.