Welcome to 2015! Let’s start the year off right! Many people are aware of the hacking scandal at Sony. Even large corporations can become vulnerable. But while hacking might become more commonplace, why make it easy for someone to make your life miserable? Google published some online safety tips this week so I thought I would share these with you adding some notes where appropriate. Some of these are common sense but as I have learned over the years, common sense is not so common… Here are 5 tips on keeping your online experience a good one.
Passwords are the first line of defense against cyber criminals. It’s crucial to pick strong passwords that are different for each of your important accounts and it is good practice to update your passwords regularly.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have taken on a client who has a password that is the word ‘password’ or something like ‘1234567’. These are the most common passwords (even today) and you are most likely going to get hacked! It’s really not that hard to get creative. Choose passwords that contain numbers, letters, capitals and special characters. Also remember NOT to use the same password for every account! One trick is to think of a phrase that only you know, and take the first letter of each word to compose your password adding capitals and maybe a special character at the end. Remember to write your passwords down and keep them in a safe place.
2. Computers in Public Places
When using public computers like in a cybercafe or library, remember that you may still be signed into any services you’ve been using even after you close the browser. So when using a public computer, be sure to sign out by clicking on your account photo or email address in the top right corner and selecting ‘Sign Out’.
I take it one step further. If i have to use a public computer (which doesn’t happen often), when I have logged out and am ready to leave, I ensure that I delete the browsing history on that computer. Take a few moments to learn how to do this on multiple browsers. This is one extra step but it will help cover your tracks. Also, avoid accessing things like online banking when using these public computers or free wi-fi in public venues.
3. Locking Devices
You wouldn’t go out for the day and leave your front door wide open, right? The same principle applies to the devices you use. You should always lock your screen when you finish using your computer, laptop or phone. For added security, you should also set your device to automatically lock when it goes to sleep. This is especially important for phones or tablets, which are more likely to get misplaced and discovered by people you don’t want to access your information, and home computers that are in shared spaces.
I recently heard of an app that is available for your phone called Theft Alerts. It is a simple idea that could be useful: If Lookout detects suspicious behavior on your smartphone, it will automatically use the device’s front-facing camera to snap a picture of the supposed perpetrator and email it to you, along with his or her location. How cool is that?
4. Keep your Browser and Operating System up to Date
Most operating systems and software will notify you when it’s time to upgrade – don’t ignore these messages and update as soon as you can. Old versions of software can sometimes have security problems that criminals can use to more easily get to your data. Google’s Chrome browser automatically updates to the latest version every time you start it up, so you can get the most up-to-date security protection without any extra work.
If you’ve noticed that your system is running slower, you might be infected with Malware. There are products out there to help you remove them. Check out this website with a list of AV Vendors. The most important thing is to keep your antivirus software updated and ensure you put your system through a complete scan at least once a week.
5. Downloading Software
Some programs bundle malware as part of their installation process. Before you start a download, there are a few simple steps you can take to help reduce your risk of downloading malware along with the software you want.
‘Free’ software sites are often the worst culprit especially font sites. Another is that famous popup that says they will scan your computer for viruses for FREE. Don’t believe them! If your computer does not have scanning software to pre-scan your download, check the reputation of the company whose software you want to download. Do an online search and review them. When in doubt, simply don’t do it!
Last but not least, using your Facebook or Twitter account login credentials has become quite popular for several applications out there. Please be careful when using these passwords for multiple accounts and change your passwords often using the suggestions above.
While hacking might still happen, hopefully these tips will help you stay safe on the net. I welcome your feedback! You can connect with me by phone or email, leave a comment right here on the site, or click the contact tab at the bottom of the screen if you are reading this post on the website.
Until next time,