It’s 2018. Is this the year you take online security seriously?
Online security has been a talking point since the creation of the internet. From passwords to online banking to tech-savvy criminals, taking online security seriously should be a priority for everyone.
- From the US election to healthcare, hackers are getting into every corner of our lives.
- In fact, someone recently stole $70 million worth of Bitcoin from NiceHash, a cryptocurrency-mining service.
- Hacking is such a threat that many companies hire hackers just to test their own systems and battle cybercrime.
- It used to be that users with Macs were less targeted than those with Windows. But, this was purely due to the number of devices. Now, with the popularity of the MacBook soaring, malware targets both rather equally.
Imagine if someone had access to your email account. Knowing just this one password could enable them to reset your passwords for all of your social media. Plus, they’d get instant access to all of your personal emails and conversations. In addition, they could even access your financial information and apps. Do you use the same password for everything? You’re all but doomed. In just minutes, a hacker could know far too much about you and cause irreparable damage to your life both online and in the real world. Cybercrime is a lucrative industry – it brought in over $450 billion last year. Taking online security seriously isn’t just for your friends with a high IT IQ. It’s for everyone that’s online.
Taking online security seriously
The world of online security can be daunting. Most people aren’t knowledgeable enough in the computer age to truly understand the scope of security and hacking.
The implications of a hacker are immense. If they get into your online banking, they can effectively move funds and virtually rob you. If they are particularly malicious, they could take over your social media sites and brand you as a not-so-Good Samaritan. But, there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself from a wide variety of online threats.
A long and strong password
Your password is your first line of defense against hackers. You need them for every website where you have an account. Of course, hackers are by no means stupid; they have a firm grasp on technology. That said, they start small. Typically, they won’t begin at your online banking site or even Google. Instead, they’ll hack into less security-minded websites such as a niche forum. From there, they can determine your email and password. For most of us, this is the same email and password we use for every other site. To be totally secure, here are some best practices for your passwords:
Length: The longer the password the better. Some sites require passwords be 8 to 14 characters. However, anything above ten is ideal. Or, if there is no limit, go even longer.
Characters: Vary the characters you use. Depending on the site, you can add in numbers and special characters in addition to letters. To make the password even more difficult, use a unique order. Not using a word is also helpful to prevent humans from cracking your password.
Capitalization: Likewise, a capital letter is a different character than a lowercase letter. So, add some in for good measure. These can be anywhere throughout your password.
Variety: Use a different password for every single site. In addition to having a great password, this will undoubtedly save you from even the smartest of hackers.
Managing your brilliant passwords
Obviously, remembering 20 different passwords for every site you regularly log into can take up a lot of space in your brain. In addition, writing them down (and subsequently stashing the Post-It note under your keyboard) couldn’t be more off the mark for staying secure. Even putting them in a document on a hard drive is risky.
Using a password manager is a great way to keep everything in order. These programs store all of your passwords in one place while also encrypting them.
– LastPass: This online password manager keeps everything neat and tidy for you to stay organized. Cloud-based, you can always access the information you need from just about anywhere. There’s a free version or you can go for all the bells and whistles with plans from $2 a month.
– KeePass: An open-source password manager, this software remains offline and accessible with one single master password. As a total (and welcomed!) bonus, it’s completely free.
While effective, these managers themselves require a password. Choose one that is extremely long and hits all the best practices above.
Passwords aren’t the only area where online users make mistakes. There are countless other situations where your information may be compromised. Here are some online faux pas to avoid:
- Not changing passwords often enough:
You should be regularly changing your password in order to keep everything as secure as possible. Just don’t forget to update your password manager, whether that’s your mind or a software program.
- Using auto-fill:
Yes, auto-filling your passwords and credit card numbers saves you a whopping 3 seconds. But, it means that anyone who shares your device can also access your accounts and information. You should also avoid saved passwords, especially on 3rd party devices in public locations.
- Never deleting cookies:
The best defense, aside from a great password, is a strong offense. In addition to producing a killer password, you can also enable two-factor authentication (2FA). This requires that after entering your password, you have another method of verifying yourself. This could be receiving a text message with a unique code to enter into a website after logging in.
In fact, at Gadget Flow, we all use the Google Authenticator each time we log in. You should certainly enable 2FA anywhere you can whether it’s apps or websites.
Going the extra mile
If you’re looking to be totally and completely secure, there are even more steps you can take. For example, you can install the HTTPS Everywhere extension to your browser. This automatically redirects you to the HTTPS version (read: more secure version) of every site possible.
Another avenue is to use a VPN, a virtual private network. Although they cost money, they are extremely affordable. A VPN:
- Encrypts your connection so all of your browsing and online activity is hidden, even from your ISP.
- Is an easy way to stay anonymous in our online society.
- Lets you override government and country censorship (hello UK Netflix!).
Hacking has been around since the dawn of the Internet and it’s not going anywhere. If anything, hackers are becoming smarter and smarter with the more technology we create. Implementing all of these steps is sure to help you take online security seriously. However, how secure can we be when we’re all sharing information on the internet?
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