You need to know how to increase your online security right now. Actually, you needed to know how to do it years ago. If you’re not yet up to speed on some of the more basic security risks, and how to manage those risks, here are 10 ways that anyone can improve their online security.
Online security always starts with passwords
I know, you’ve heard before that passwords are important. They are. This is not likely to change anytime soon. Here are the tactics which you should use:
- Use a password management tool. My advice is that you choose one which will help you sync across platforms and devices.
- Create a very strong master password for this tool. It should be a four phrase which mixes upper and lowercase, numbers, and symbols.
- Use the password management tool to create new passwords for all of your accounts.
- For your most secure passwords, the ones which absolutely no one can get for your online banking, you are going to have to store in your head.
You can go on an ignoring strong password at your own peril. They are absolutely essential for your successful defence of your private online information.
Here’s the basics of LastPass, most password managers function in a similar manner:
Tools to stop spyware
The problem with spyware is that it can completely negate your strong passwords. It can spy on your computer, track your activities and passwords through your keystrokes, and steal your information and money that way.
Here are the signs of spyware on your computer:
- Pop-up windows open randomly.
- There is a new toolbar in your browser which you did not install.
- Your browser takes you to a new homepage.
- You get unexpected error messages.
The only way to stop this with 100% certainty is by using anti-spyware tools. These will block and detect the spyware before it actually installs on your computer. Popular options include:
All of these tools do the same basic thing. Without them, you open yourself up to issues where you are being tracked and you don’t even know it.
Free Wi-Fi sometimes is not free
Another way that hackers can spy on you is by doing something known as a man in the middle attack. This is when they will create a Wi-Fi hotspot, usually in a very public setting, and allow people to connect to it. They will then spy on all of the activity going across what is their network, and be able to steal things in plain sight.
What you need to stop this sort of spying is your own encryption. The way that you will get this encryption is by using trusted VPN tools. Here’s how they will work:
- Make sure that all of your apps are closed, and that you are logged out of everything.
- Connect to any Wi-Fi network in public.
- Connect to the VPN server.
- With your connection now encrypted thanks to the VPN provider, you can sign into anything, or go to any webpage, without worry.
VPNs also offer you the chance to breakthrough geo-blocked content which is being restricted due to your country. It also allows you to hide from your ISP when you are at home and you just plain don’t want anyone to know what you are doing. You deserve privacy in your own home.
Using a secure browser
Your browser is the main tool that you use to go on the Internet. It being insecure is the most important because the Internet is where you encounter 99% of malware. An insecure browser will have back doors where attackers can retrieve private data from your system such as usernames, the websites you visit, and even passwords in some cases.
Some of the most secure browsers include:
You can also count on your VPN to add to a layer of encryption while you are online. At the very least, be sure that any time you are releasing financial details that the website begins with HTTPS. This is a secure and encrypted protocol.
In my opinion, no browser is secure until it blocks advertising. This closes an attack vector for hackers which get in through these advertisements. It sucks for the marketers, but you have to protect yourself. Try Ghostery or Adblock Plus.
Being cautious with links
The spreading of malware through malicious websites via social media is pretty much at epidemic levels. Before you click on any link you should take a few steps to make sure that it is safe:
- Check the URL to make sure that it goes to the proper place. Don’t be fooled by CNN.com being changed to CNN.co.
- If the link has been shortened you can use a link expanding a service such as CheckShortURL.
- If a link appears to be suspicious, simply do not click on it. So many of your problems are going to be caused by you clicking on a link when you probably should not, and when you probably know that you should not. If the information is that interesting, do a Google search and see if you can find a more trustworthy site with that information.
Hackers are finding all sorts of ways to trick people into clicking on links. It’s up to you to use a little bit of common sense, and a little bit of forethought, in order to protect yourself.
Always update your operating system and apps
I know it’s a pain to always approve new updates, especially when they restart your app or browser, but they are essential. Most of the time, they are specifically for security reasons and discovered vulnerabilities. If you get hacked to after neglecting to install one it is your fault, no one else’s.
The most important things to always updated are:
- Operating systems
- Spyware and malware tools
- Mobile applications
- Messaging apps
You can no longer view updates as optional. You have to do them or you will be vulnerable, and you will sacrifice your online security.
Using guest accounts on your computer
On most operating systems you are able to set up accounts which are not administrator accounts. When you log into a guest account instead of the administrator account you strip privileges from yourself as an administrator. The good thing about that is that you also strip those privileges from any malware which infects your system while you are logged in through the guest account.
You can think of this as a failsafe. If everything else fails, at least they won’t be able to get into your administrator details. If you do this, be sure to remember your administrator credentials so that you can make changes while in the guest account.
Windows: Leaving User Account Control (UAC) on
Many people disable UAC in an effort to make using their computer easier; It saves them one entire click. As is usually the case, when things are more convenient for you they are also more convenient for hackers.
You can change the level of protection using the slider, but turning it off is a mistake. The entire purpose of this system is to monitor changes to your computer and ask for your permission to administer these changes along with a password on some occasions. Turning it off means that hackers can make changes to your system without needing any permission to enact them.
Logging out of accounts
Forgetting to log out of your accounts can be a huge mistake. Maybe not signing out of your Twitter or Facebook isn’t such a big deal, but not actually pushing the logout button on your bank, or online shopping, can you be a big error.
I forgot to log out of Twitter on a computer at TCC and now a stranger is tweeting from my account.
— kyle (@ohmongo) October 31, 2017
If you fail to do this, and someone else comes up to your computer, they will have access to your accounts. If it happens on Facebook, it’s embarrassing. If it happens in your bank, it can be crippling. This goes double for when you are using a public computer.
Don’t be so social on social media
There are so many ways that people compromise their online and personal security every single day through social media. Every piece of information that you reveal about yourself can be useful to a hacker, and other criminals. This includes things like:
- Publicly posting your birthday.
- Geo-tagging your Twitter and Instagram posts that you post live.
- When you leave on vacation.
- Your daily routines and where they take you.
- Your mother’s maiden name, your pet’s name, the street you grew up on and other security questions you may have answered in the past.
These are all useful pieces of information that can be used by a hacker, or other criminals. I understand that you want your friends to see the latest thing that you bought, where you got it, where you display it in your home, but it is not a good idea to do this.