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Stay Safe Online

Stay Safe Online

06/12/2017
Yes your Computer and Mobile phone can be easily hacked
Cameron McKean Cameron McKean

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 todays digital world, online safety should be of paramount concern for all individuals and organizations because the threats posed by cyber criminals cant 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 onechange 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 servicemost 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 beand sometimes isused for criminal purposes. The highest security settings on an Internet account may not be enough to prevent a leak of sensitive datafor 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 carefulpost 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 dont 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

  • Protect 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 downloadopening an e-mail attachment from someone you dont 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.

  • Beware 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, dont post pictures of theater, concert, or sporting event tickets on social mediafraudsters can create a fake ticket using the barcode obtained from the photo.

  • Smartphone 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.

  • Be 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 websitesincluding 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.

  • Dont 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 employment.

  • If you find a USB drive and you dont know where it came from throw it away and dont 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 dont use the same passwords on everything and dont store all your personal data and information easily to find and in the same location. (EG: Dont 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. 


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  • Cameron McKean



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