How to keep your information secure and private online
It seems that not a day goes by without a report of a successful hacking attempt or a new ransomware or identity theft story. For every new security feature that companies and firms roll out, hackers are not far behind in coming up with a way to beat it. Keeping your sensitive information private and maintaining your security online hasn't gotten harder, but it has become imperative that you keep up with the latest security features. Just like anything else, if someone wants your identity, money, or personal information they can get it if they try hard enough.
The difference, therefore, is making it as difficult as possible for a bad guy to get access to your information. If there are enough deterrents then ideally the hacker will move on to softer target- someone who doesn't have as much security measures in place as you do. The problem with online security is that as you increase it, convenience goes down. Creating a strong password to protect your social media or bank account means you've got to change it from the simplistic 123456 (the most common password in 2016) into something not quite as easy to guess- or remember. Here are some things you can do to increase your online security.
1. Don't use passwords
This may sound odd and like I'm directly contradicting myself but hear me out. Having strong login credentials is the first line in defense in protecting yourself online. It's one of those things that may not seem all that important: until something happens to you. But don't worry, you don't have to create some crazy and impossible to remember password to maintain your security. One easy way to create a strong memorable password is to use a passphrase instead.
Use a phrase that you say often, a quote from a movie or song, or something your parents told you as a kid. For example; KeepitClassySanDiego!78 is a pretty strong password that will be accepted by most websites. If that seems too long then just use the first letter from each word- KicSD!78. And there you go! A strong, easy to remember password.
Another tip is not to reuse the password for multiple sites. This makes you more vulnerable. If say a hacker gains access to your Facebook account you don't want them to be able to then use the same password to get into your bank account. To protect against this you can add website identifiers to the same password to make them each unique. Let's take the password KicSD!78 that we just created, for your Facebook login you can add FB or FK at the end of it to make it KicSD!78FK. Then, for your bank account you can add a unique identifier onto the same password.
2. Take your time
This one is a no-brainer but still rarely done: read the terms of service/end user agreement, and take the time to set up your privacy preferences in all of your mobile apps and websites. There is nothing saying that you have to turn your privacy to the strictest settings on Facebook, but in most cases it is a good idea to do so. Also, reading the terms of service or end user agreement will inform you on how your private information is being shared with third parties. You just might be surprised at what you find in the fine print.
3. Do the two-step
Use two step or two factor authentication. Two step and two factor authentication is becoming increasingly popular as more and more websites add it into their security arsenal. Two factor authentication asks you a security question or for a piece of information that only the owner of the account has after entering the correct password when logging into a website.
Two step authentication is arguably more secure and sends a unique password- usually 4 or 6 numbers- to your cell phone in a text message when you log into their website. This means that not only do you have to have the correct password, but also access to your mobile device when logging in. Like I mentioned before, as security goes up convenience goes down, but the piece of mind it offers is priceless.
4. Go private
Get a VPN. A good VPN, or virtual private network, will give you the utmost privacy and security when surfing online. Connecting to a VPN gives you a private tunnel for your information, preventing third parties from seeing where you are going and what you're doing. This is especially useful when on public WiFi networks as they are infamously insecure and a hotbed for hackers. Additionally, some internet service providers (ISP) throttle, or slow down, your connection when they see certain types of data being transferred on your connection. A VPN can also be incredibly useful when bypassing firewalls at work or school, provided you use the right protocol.
5. Be paranoid
Be suspicious of emails. Curiosity killed the cat, but it can also steal your identity. Even today, phishing scams and fraud conducted by email are a serious threat. Just ask John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman in the 2016 presidential race, whose Gmail account was hacked after clicking on a suspicious link sent in an email. No matter how enticing the email looks, if it's not from someone you know it's best not to even open it.
Additionally, bad guys like to send out mass emails pretending to be a bank, African prince, or social media site. These emails will ask you to perform some task by clicking a link they provide in the email. After you click the link a legitimate looking replica of the website will appear. The idea is that you will enter your login credentials into this mock website, thereby giving your information to the hackers. It's important to know that virtually no bank or social media website will initiate contact with you in this way and it is always advisable to enter the URL yourself.
If you receive any of these types of emails it is important to report them so that the proper steps can be taken to warn others and stop the scam.
All in all
A little bit of inconvenience can go a long way when talking about cybersecurity. Start to incorporate some of these tips into your browsing habits and get more piece of mind about your privacy and security. There are several other things you can do as well, take some time and do some more research online to find out how you can protect yourself.