Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rapid increase in the rate of users online. With more and more people now working, learning, and going about their daily business from their devices at home, online security is something of which we all must stay aware.
Check out some of the security measures below that you can take on your own to secure your privacy on the web and on your personal devices. From simple tasks like updating your passwords to maintaining a general awareness about current scams that may be circulating online, keeping yourself protected while you work, play, and learn is easier than ever. No matter which Internet service provider you use, the list below can only make you more secure!
Ditch Your Easy-to-Crack Passwords
If you’re one of the folks out there still using 1234567 as a password, it’s especially important now to update these and make them more complex. Simple passwords are much easier to guess or to hack, and strong, unique passwords are far more likely to keep you and your information safe. In corporate settings, in particular, a single breach of a database can retrieve thousands of passwords – if the password you use for work is the same or similar to the ones you use for your bank account, social media profiles, or other sensitive platforms, you could easily be hacked.
If you’re worried about mixing up all your passwords, try using a password manager tool. There are many secure versions out there that will not only store your passwords and allow you to export them to a csv. file, but also help you create strong passwords for your accounts. Additionally, some online accounts offer users a multi-factor authentication that provides extra security by asking for other info, such as a code sent via text or passphrase, to ensure that it is indeed you attempting to log in.
Improve Your Network Security
When you’re at home doing work or school assignments, you’re probably using your home’s password-protected WiFi. However, there are many times when we’ve all been traveling on vacation or for work and gave in to that free public WiFi when you needed it in a pinch. The problem with open networks you’ll find is that they’re not password-protected, so they’re not secure. Plus, with so many others using the same network, it can be pretty easy for your information to be hacked.
If you plan to regularly use WiFI while you’re away from home, investing in a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, may be a great idea for you. By creating a secure connection when you go online, a VPN protects your identity, and therefore your privacy, when you are browsing online.
Install a Firewall
A firewall, often included with comprehensive packages for security software, is essentially an electronic wall that blocks unwanted and unauthorized access to any devices you may have connected to the internet. These devices can even include ones you may not expect like your smart thermostat or webcam. Since these types of internet-connected devices don’t usually come with security measures installed, a firewall will make sure that they don’t serve as a point of entry for hackers attempting to steal data or corrupt your network.
Take a Second Glance before Clicking
Often, people will go ahead and click on pop-ups or suspicious emails before fully analyzing them. Careless clicking, for this reason, is one of the main ways people can infect their devices with viruses or malware. If you ever receive a suspicious-looking email, call or contact the person who sent it first to confirm that it is legitimate.
Additionally, never give out personal information online, click on links for “free” offers that may pop up or appear on the side of your screen, and don’t let something that looks “too good to be true” allow you to fall for a probable scam.
Don’t Be an Oversharer
If you ever see an opportunity to share personal information online, err on the side of caution by steering clear. Lately, Facebook has been a hotbed for oversharing with posts that are made to look fun but intended to steal your info.
For example, the posts that ask you to write “your dog’s name, the name of the street you grew up on, your mother’s maiden name” and all sorts of other questions made to appear as a way to connect with others are actually a clever way for hackers to figure out answers to your security questions.
Protect Your Phone’s Security
Much like laptops and desktop computers, mobile phones are also susceptible to hacking and viruses. Installing security software will help keep your phone safe. In addition, it’s important to verify the legitimacy of apps before downloading and never click on text messages, social media DMs, or emails from senders you do not recognize.
Online shopping is a fun and convenient way to buy new things without having the face the crowds and lines of the mall. However, always make sure you’re practicing safe shopping by only visiting sites with https in front of the web address and a padlock icon in the URL field. If there’s no “s” after the http, this means the website is not secure, leaving your private information potentially up for grabs.
Looking for misspellings in the URL can also be a sign that someone has made a copycat of the real website you’re looking for in order to steal your information. Try using a safe search tool while browsing so your computer knows to not allow you to navigate to unsafe sites.
Keep Your Virus Software and Updates Current
Always install the latest security patches to your computer, as these will fix any possible holes in your software and make your device even more protected. Ensuring your virus software is up to date is also imperative – turning on automatic updates may be a good option so you don’t have to worry about always running scans manually.
Keep an Eye Out For Scams
Unfortunately, the world wide web is full of scams like ransomware that will attempt to trick you into paying money or giving out personal information. Staying aware by reading news and blogs sites about current scams will give you a leg-up if one ever crosses your digital path.
Don’t Let Your Guard Down Online
The internet can be a truly wonderful place, but only if you know how to use it while staying safe. If someone you don’t know attempts to message you or contact you, don’t assume that their intentions are good. Steer clear of these email addresses and social media accounts that could be malicious.
Keeping your virus software up-to-date is a great preventative measure to stay safe online, but refusing to talk online with strangers, avoiding giving into to potential scams that are set up to prey on your compassion, and even blocking access to dangerous sites on your devices are serious steps you can take now to improve your unlimited internet experience.