Stay Safe Online
In my many years in the IT Industry advising to Clients this topic is discussed with me the most. Even working with Large Corporations, Police and Governments many people fail to understand that the internet is simply not safe.
In today’s digital world, online safety should be of paramount concern for all individuals and organizations because the threats posed by cyber criminals can’t be ignored. And to counteract these threats, there are steps you can take to minimize the risks associated with doing any kind of business online, surfing the Internet, and/or sharing information on social media sites.
The first step to greater Internet safety is a basic yet vital one—change online passwords several times a year. Use different passwords for each online account, and make them unique but not easily guessed. While it can be hard to remember the passwords using a password tool to remember and enter the password for you like LastPass ( https://www.lastpass.com/ ) has proven to be a simple solution.
Additional levels of cyber security, like two-factor authentication (TFA), can provide even greater protection for your information (Common now with Google Accounts and Social Media). TFA is a technology that increases security by incorporating requirements beyond a password, like a particular physical trait, a dynamic PIN, or the location or time of a login attempt. Many e-mail service providers and social media platforms offer TFA as a free service—most require a strong password and supply a PIN that changes periodically. Users can receive these PINs easily via mobile applications or text messages.
In terms of social media, remember that once personal or organizational information has been posted to a social networking site, that information can no longer be considered private and can be—and sometimes is—used for criminal purposes. The highest security settings on an Internet account may not be enough to prevent a leak of sensitive data—for example, cyber criminals often can obtain personal passwords regardless of their complexity. In doing so, they can gain access to banking credentials and credit card numbers, get hold of social security information, download malware to a computer, or hijack a device to perpetrate further crimes. So be careful—post as little personal information as possible, use two-factor authentication.
Another level of online security involves protecting your mobile devices from cyber intruders in public places. Not all WiFi hotspots at coffee shops, airports, or hotels have strong security protections. Persons in close proximity may be able to access that open network and collect your login information and the content of your online browsing. Its often much safer not to use WIFI hotspots you don’t know and simply use Mobile Internet such as 3G from your mobile. Securing your phone or tablet is as simple as avoiding sensitive sites that require a login, so try to avoid signing into bank accounts, e-mail, or social media accounts while on a public WiFi hotspot. But if you have to, use a reliable personal virtual private network (VPN) service provider. A VPN enables data encryption and adds a layer of security to communications, making it more difficult for cyber criminals to spy on you. I suggest this easy and free option https://www.betternet.co/
An out-of-band backup is another useful cyber security technique. This involves backing up your data to a virtual, cloud environment or storing hard copies of digital data at a physical location elsewhere. Using this method is ideal in combating ransomware, a type of malware which restricts access to files or threatens their destruction unless a ransom is paid to the cyber-based.
You should NOT save your data only on your Laptop or PC. In todays world this is a single point of failure and if your Laptop is Lost, Stolen or compromised then all the data is either lost or will fall into the hands of criminals. A password on your laptop is NOT enough. Even a modern Windows 10 Laptop with a strong user password can be unlocked in less than 2 minutes. After the person gets in they now have access to everything including all your saved passwords and files.
Store your files in Cloud Services such as Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive so they are safe. Even the free accounts give you everything most users need to be able to backup important files. I inform my clients to save everything in the cloud drive such as Google Drive and forget about person folders on the PC completely.
Though myriad methods and tools exist to protect the public and organizations from the risks of cyber crime, your best defense is understanding and implementing strong security practices and maintaining them regularly. Doing so can raise a perpetual firewall against cyber criminals and keep your sensitive data safe.
More Internet Safety Tips
your computer. Keep
your firewall turned on, and make sure your antivirus and antispyware
software is up to date and your operating system is current. And be very
careful what you download—opening an e-mail attachment from someone you don’t
know or even forwarded attachments from people you do know could
potentially infect your computer with malicious code. I strongly suggest
AVG and Malwarebytes that are available free for personal use.
of social media scams. One of those scams involves posts on social media
sites appearing to offer vouchers or gift cards that require you to fill
out a survey, but that survey is designed to steal your personal
information. Also, don’t post pictures of theater, concert, or sporting
event tickets on social media—fraudsters can create a fake ticket using the
barcode obtained from the photo.
App Scams. Before downloading an app from an unknown source, look for
third-party reviews. Some apps, often disguised as games and offered for
free, may be designed to steal personal information from your device.
on the lookout for online shopping scams. Scammers often defraud consumers
by offering too-good-to-be-true deals via phishing e-mails or
advertisements on untrusted websites—including offers for brand name merchandise at
extremely low discounts or promises of gift cards as incentives to
purchase products. You may end up paying for an item, giving away personal
information and credit card details in the process, and receive nothing in
return except a compromised identity.
fall for work-from-home scams. You may see websites or postings offering
work you can do from the comfort of your own home, but many of these
opportunities have unscrupulous motivations behind them. Always carefully
research the job posting and the individual or company offering you
- If you find a USB drive and you don’t know where it came from throw it away and don’t even think of plugging it in. Marketers were giving out free USB drives with a well known soda company logo on them in a public mall. When users took the drives home and plugged them in had their machines infected with ransomware and lost all files and photos on the machine.
The greatest security concerns for any business or home come from the users and rarely from the machines themselves.
Computers, Smartphones and other Internet connected devices can all be hacked and no such device has yet proven to be 100% hack proof. As such don’t use the same passwords on everything and don’t store all your personal data and information easily to find and in the same location. (EG: Don’t make a file with all your passwords in it and call the file Passwords!)
The fact I nothing is 100% Safe and as soon as you understand that you will be much safer.
- Cameron McKean