We are in the digital age where most people rely on the internet for education, work, and entertainment. Online companies collect and store our data and use it to deliver ads, apps, and experiences based on individual interests.
While this supports these companies’ business models, it leaves our personal lives vulnerable to scrutiny and digital attacks. Worse still, database and account hacking have been on the rise in the past couple of years.
Instead of avoiding the internet, here are some rules that keep us safe on the internet.
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Why should you care about your online habits?
Although leaving a trail of your browser history and sharing personal information might seem harmless, it’s dangerous. Leaving an elaborate digital footprint can:
- Leave you open to social engineering and phishing attacks
- Compromise your privacy
- Cause employment problems in future
- Open you up to stalking
- Lead to identity theft
You need to be smart with what sites you visit and the information you share with apps and sites.
1. Develop safe browsing habits
It’s strange how we take numerous safeguards to ensure our homes are safe but forget our digital lives. Some online habits that leave you vulnerable to attacks include:
- Allowing ‘Remember password’ on browsers.
- Not reading the terms and conditions of a site
- Failure to back up data
- Reusing passwords
- Not updating software and apps
- Skipping two-factor authentication setup
- Clicking unfamiliar links
- Visiting non-secure sites
Practice safe browsing habits making sure not to ignore recommended security and avoid fishy links and sites.
2. Avoid sharing personal information
Would you write your name, address, password, banking details on paper and share them with strangers? Of course not. So why share this information online? Anything posted online usually exists even after deleting it.
Also, hackers can use the personal details shared to determine answers to security questions or your password. Even when using a small SEO company for small businesses, to boost your business online, there’s a limit to how much information you should share.
3. Activate privacy settings
Hackers can potentially learn a lot about your online activities, including the sites you visit and how long you visit. Luckily, Social media platforms mobile and desktop browsers provide the option of securing your privacy through privacy settings.
Turning on privacy settings reduces your chances of being a target by hiding pictures and personal information from internet users.
4. Be wary of public Wi-Fi
What qualities of free public Wi-Fi that appeal to you also appeal to hackers, including no authentication needed. These qualities give hackers unrestricted access to an unsecured device on the network.
On free Wi-Fi, hackers can position themselves between you and the connection point. So instead of connecting directly to the hotspot, your information will go through the hacker. This setup gives the hacker access to all information you send, including credit card information, security details, and important emails. With this information, they can impersonate your digital life.
Aside from this, hackers use free and unsecured Wi-Fi to distribute malware. With file-sharing on, the hacker can plant malware in your PC.
It’s in your best interest to avoid using free public Wi-Fi. But in case you have to use it, you should:
- Use an SSL connection
- Connect through a VPN (find out what is VPN and how to use it)
- Turn file sharing off
- Turn the Wi-Fi off when you’re not using it
5. Be careful with what you download
An old trick for hackers is to get you to download malware that they’ll use to steal your information. This malware is disguised as legit software and apps, including popular games and weather apps.
Never download an app or software that looks suspicious or is from a non-secure site.
6. Create strong passwords
Passwords are weak spots in internet security, but they’re unavoidable. While it’s okay to create a password that you’ll remember, people use easy ones. It’s not uncommon to find someone using ‘123456’ or ‘password’ as their password. Unfortunately, such passwords are way too easy for hackers to guess.
Creating a strong password makes it harder for hackers to guess. However, most strong and difficult to guess passwords are difficult to remember. You can use password managers to keep track of multiple passwords.
Strong, complex, and unique passwords are over 15 characters long and are a mix of numbers, letters, and special characters.
7. Only pay through secured sites
When making online purchases, you’ll have to provide bank and credit card information. This information is exactly what hackers are eager to have. You should only share this information when you have a secure internet connection, and the site is secure and encrypted.
You can identify a secure sure by confirming the address starts with ‘HTTPS.’ The ‘s’ at the end represents ‘secure.’ Sits with only ‘HTTP’ aren’t secure and may leave you open to identity theft. Moreover, secure sites often have a padlock next to the side of the address bar.
A user can check SSL certificate by clicking on a padlock. Many website owners install low priced SSL certificate that provides strong security as well data integrity. It depends upon the website with which SSL, you should go? For example, if you are having subdomains then, a wildcard from reputed CAs will help a lot like RapidSSL wildcard certificate. In case of a single domain, you can go with any single domain SSL certificate.
8. Keep your apps updated
Internet security technology has come a long way. Despite this growth, the security software and apps cannot protect your devices from all threats. Sure, it’ll detect and get rid of malware, but they need constant updating to keep up with evolving malware threats.
Always update the OS and apps you use to stay up to date with security protocol technologies.
9. Use a secure internet service provider
Make sure that you use only the services of well known and reputed service providers in your area (preferably Tier 1 service providers). For instance, if you are in the United States, you can choose to go with a provider like AT&T, Spectrum, CenturyLink or Mediacom.
10. Be careful with who you meet online
Not everyone you meet online is genuine or who they claim they are. Most times, the persona they front isn’t real. Hackers tend to hide behind fake social media accounts and personas, which they use to get friendly with unsuspecting internet users.
Always be sensible and cautious with your social interactions, just like you are with in-person interactions. If someone is driving the same point and is constantly trying to get personal information, this is a red flag. Please stay away from them and block them.
Now that you know the rules that keep us safe, you don’t have to boycott the internet or live in fear of hackers. Remember to share these tips with your family and loved ones, especially kids.
About the author: Vitalii Nedzelenko is the marketing manager of Good Zone Service & Repairs. He is passionate about technologies, gadgets and digital marketing.