Today, cyber crime is on the rise, with large companies, as well as individuals, being the targets of these attacks. Millions of credit card breaches have been reported from companies like Adobe and Target. While you may not be able to completely protect yourself from being a target in these attacks, there are a few little things you can do to decrease the risk of being a victim. To put things into perspective, take a look at what happened to Mat Honan, a senior writer at Wired and former senior reporter for Gizmodo.com. He had his life altered when hackers took over his entire online life, including hacking into his Twitter account and leaving obscene, racist comments for the public to read. All of this happened because he left one little corner of his digital life vulnerable.
While you may not be as big of a target as the senior writer of a prominent tech magazine, hackers are more likely to target people who have the least amount of online protection.
Below are a few easy-to-implement steps that will make using the Internet a whole lot safer:
1. Signing out of your online accounts when you’re done. Sounds simple, right? Yet so many people forget to do so, especially in the comfort of their own home.
2. Changing your Facebook settings to “Friends Only”. Make sure your privacy isn’t set to public, and that you know exactly who you’re sharing your content with!
3. Never post anything that you wouldn’t happily shout in public, because while your Facebook may seem secure, the accounts of your friends may not be locked down. Hackers look at gaining what could be considered small and insignificant information, and they use this information to gain access to more personal information.
4. Clearing your browser history and cookies on a regular basis. You can set your browser to do this automatically just by going to the privacy settings in your browser and click “never remember history”.
5. Password protecting your devices. You wouldn’t leave your house unlocked, so why leave your devices open for hacking?
6. Securing the line. If you are a frequent user of public Wi-Fi, you might want to avoid connecting to your email, online banking, or other sensitive accounts. If that’s unavoidable, you can pay for access to a virtual private network to increase your privacy.
7. Using two-factor authentication. Using this on your Gmail account, Facebook, and any other service that offers it will definitely increase your online security. Two-factor authentication requires you to enter a numeric code that comes from a smartphone app (such as Google Authenticator app available for iOS and Android devices).
8. Using a password manager. This makes it easy to have a unique password for every site, and ensures that if one service gets hacked, the other services won’t be vulnerable.
9. Make yourself difficult to find on social media. Consider using a different email address for each site you join. This will make it harder for strangers to find you on social media, and if you start to receive spam at that email address, you’ll know exactly where the spammer found you.
A smartphone often contains the same login information as your computer, so it is important to make sure you secure it with a key and don’t use a date, because most hackers will start with 19 and then try to guess your age, year you were married, or age of your children to guess the final two digits. Also, it is important to ensure that your laptop has an extremely secure password.
Additionally, if you’re a Mac user, expert author Andy Anderson will show you how to create a very secure folder for holding personal information in our OS X Lion training video on data security and disk images. This lesson is also available if you’re running OS X Mavericks.
Make sure you take action and follow these steps to stay protected online! If you have any other tips that could help readers stay safe online, leave them in the comments below!