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Online security

How to be secure online

online security

We all hear on the news about website hacks and data breaches, phishing and scams. Unfortunately, with our work and lives being increasingly online, it means that the chance of these online security issues happening will also increase.

However, there are quite a few things that you can do though to protect yourself from the cyber criminals.

Here are a few tips to follow for other online security

1. Change your passwords

Chances are good that, by now, you’ve watched the requirements for your passwords go from reasonable to very secure to double-secret ridiculous. The thing about passwords is, while brute-force attacks are still sometimes used to crack them, bad guys usually just copy them from some data they stole elsewhere.

To increase your security, first find out which of your passwords has been compromised. Change any account passwords that use them and then continue changing them on a regular basis. A password vault app can help you with this or security programs like Norton 360 can manage your passwords for you.

2. Stay off public networks

We’re fortunate that we can access the internet from nearly anywhere these days, but if you’re handling sensitive data, you may not want to jump on any old network. Internet connections available at your local coffee shop or airport are public — and that means criminals can access them and intercept your communications.

If you must use a public network, make sure you have a high-quality firewall installed and minimize your time online. Avoid making sensitive communications such as banking transactions.

3. Use a secure file-sharing client

As our ability to create content expands and we send larger and more complex files over the internet, the risk of those files being intercepted or corrupted increases. A new line of file sharing applications is hitting the market that offer better security than some of the old-school apps.

4. Use a VPN

Speaking of VPNs, you can actually do all of your browsing through a VPN and obfuscate your online activity to anyone who’s trying to watch it. Some internet providers have even partnered up with VPN companies to promote a VPN service.

While there are advanced hacking techniques that could still expose your data when you are using a VPN, cybercrime is much like actual theft in the sense that most crimes are crimes of opportunity. Adding a layer of protection makes your data that much less attractive to would-be thieves.

Apps like Express VPN can provide a quality VPN option. Security solutons like Norton 360 also now come with a VPN option.

 5. Use Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication can be a pain, but it absolutely makes your accounts more secure. Two-factor authentication means you need to pass another layer of authentication, not just a username and password, to get into your accounts. If the data or personal information in an account is sensitive or valuable, and the account offers two-factor authentication, you should enable it. Gmail, Instagram and Dropbox are a few examples of online services that offer two-factor authentication.

Two-factor authentication verifies your identity using at least two different forms of authentication: something you are, something you have, or something you know. Something you know is the password, naturally. Something you are could mean authentication using a fingerprint, or facial recognition. Something you have could be your mobile phone. You might be asked to enter a code sent via text, or tap a confirmation button on a mobile app. Another popular Two-factor Authentication option is the Google Authenticator app – some websites require that you use this app to login with a code that shows on your Google Authenticator app.

6. Log out or lock your computer

Many people don’t realize that when you leave your computer running unattended, hackers can break in and take advantage of your access. Your operating system password may seem like a silly thing, it can be the difference between allowing a breach and securing your data.

Hackers might attempt to access your machine remotely, but it’s important to know that attacks do happen in the workplace when someone gains physical access to a machine. Make sure you lock your computer or log out when you’re not working.

7. You’re being tracked

On any given website, there might be up to 20 different organizations using scripting tools to follow your browsing habits. Searching for or clicking on advertisements is a sure way to be tracked. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t click on these, these companies generally track you for marketing data. You have the choice to opt out of most of these.

A lot of companies now alert you to the fact that they are using cookies on their websites – cookies track you.

The easiest way to get rid of the tracking cookies is to empty your browser history (cache) often. This will remove the tracking cookies from your device.

If you want to see who’s tracking you first, refer to your browsers help and privacy settings.

8. Avoid sites that aren’t https/ secure

That “https” you see in the URL for sites you visit stands for “hypertext transfer protocol with secure socket layer.” Sites that don’t have the “s” on the end are — you guessed it — not secure. You should take note of this, because data sent to these sites is very vulnerable.

Browsers like Google Chrome will tell you if a website is insecure these days but it’s always worth checking yourself. Don’t leave it to the browsers.

A secure website is also necessary for website ranking these days.

9. Be smart about your browsing

This is the oldest rule in the book, but it’s also a critical one. You know where you’ve been on the internet — if you take risks by visiting sites that might be hotbeds of criminal activity, be prepared to see consequences for them.

This doesn’t just apply to browsing, but also to engaging in things like file sharing (p2p) networks and even online video chats. Any time large quantities of data change hands, you can bet there’s good reason to be cautious.

10. Install a (better) security solution

Don’t just rely on Microsoft or Apple built in security.  A good all round firewall and internet security solution like Norton 360  can provide all round protection for most of the points above,  for your computers and mobile devices, including browsing.

For more help and advice for your online presence, contact Coast Creative.

11. Use Passcodes Even When They Are Optional

Apply a passcode lock wherever available, even if it’s optional. Think of all the personal data and connections on your smartphone. Going without a passcode lock is unthinkable.

 12. Use Different Email Addresses for Different Kinds of Accounts

People who are both highly organized and methodical about their security often use different email addresses for different purposes, to keep the online identities associated with them separate. If a phishing email claiming to be from your bank comes to the account you use only for social media, you know it’s fake.

13. Turn Off the ‘Save Password’ Feature in Browsers

Speaking of what your browser may know about you, most browsers include a built-in password management solution.

Think about this. When you install a third-party password manager, it typically offers to import your password from the browser’s storage. If the password manager can do that, you can be sure some malicious software can do the same. In addition, keeping your passwords in a single, central password manager lets you use them across all browsers and devices.

14. Don’t Fall Prey to Click Bait or Phishing Scams

Part of securing your online life is being smart about what you click.  It can also comprise links in email, messaging apps, and on social media. Phishing links masquerade as secure websites, hoping to trick you into giving them your credentials. Drive-by download pages can cause malware to automatically download and infect your device.

Don’t click links in emails or text messages, unless they come from a source you trust. Even then, be cautious; your trusted source might have been compromised, or the message might be a fake. The same goes for links on social media sites, even in posts that seem to be from your friends. If a post seems unlike the style of your social media buddy, it could be a hack.

15. Check your to see if your data has been hacked

There are online tools to check if your email of phone number has been breached from any websites that you are subscribed to. See more here.