The internet of things is upon us. Virtually all our smart devices connect to the internet. You smartphone is most probably ever online. Your personal computer and tab is useless without a reliable internet connection. Your TV, audio system and perhaps your front door lock connects to your smartphone via the internet. Everything is on your fingertips. Life is good…
Or is it?
MyDoom, the most ‘expensive’ virus ever made caused almost $38.5 billion worth of financial damage. This 2004 e-mail worm is arguably the fastest spreading and most user exploitative virus of our age. All a victim had to do is open junk mail and open the attachment without scanning it. The attachment contained a payload that would bare your computer and any related data to a hacker’s control.
Fast forward to 2015, you find yourself faced with greater internet security threats than MyDoom. First, you are more connected. Second, the internet has become faster and more powerful. This makes us ever more vulnerable – if we don’t exercise caution when using the internet.
Here are a few tips that will either keep you a step ahead or make you a harder hacker target.
1. Get a Good Password
Forget about using your birthday, preschool or first pet name as a password. If you have watched any hacker movie or series, you would’ve realized that these are the easiest passwords to crack. A good password uses Uppercase, lowercase, numbers and characters. You could either create a clever patterned blend you can remember or use an automated password generator (Norton’s password generator is especially useful. It generates and saves passwords) to do the hard work for you.
A good strong memorable password could be ~34G00dpa$$Word~ This is complex for brute force cracking and still good enough for your memory. You can always use a password strength checker before commissioning your password.
Since you CAN NEVER use the same password across different websites, you would need tens of passwords to survive. Consider getting a password manager. In this way, you will only have to remember the password manager’s password and just retrieve the tens of complex passwords whenever you want.
You could try Dashlane for a start. It is robust and good enough for average users. It’s free!
2. Split your emails
A single email address might be effective. You will have all your information under one roof. Security experts don’t believe this. To them, this is tantamount to carrying all your eggs in a basket. Think of what would happen if someone hacks into your one and only email compared to the repercussions of someone hacking your ‘junk’ email address.
Compartmentalizing your email address and their use will help you divide and conquer online interactions. Keep one address for social life, another for serious work business, one for shopping online, one of online games, for instance online casino games and another for all those weird online activities you don’t so much trust. This specialization ensures that one aspect of you remains secure when another takes a fall.
3. Be wary of public networks
Think twice before logging into free Wi-Fi if you are focused on staying safe on the internet. Hackers are as interested in free Wi-Fi as you are. It gives them footprint-free access to computers connected to the network. Man in the middle attacks (the hacker routes traffic through his/her computer before sending it to the access point) are common.
In addition to this, the hacker could access your file system – if you have enabled file sharing over the network. Your operating system will always ask you to classify any network you log into. Always choose the public network options if you must use public networks. Running an up to date antivirus will also help you avoid such attacks.
4. Be careful when shopping online
Online shops are convenient. They give you the pleasure of stocking your fridge, office, kitchen and living room without leaving your couch. The major bottleneck of online shopping is you have to provide your credit card details or authorize another form of payment. Never deal with online shops that don’t use SSL (HTTPS). In addition to this, always count on the reputation of the seller before sealing the deal.
You don’t want to pay someone who won’t deliver, or someone who doesn’t take your privacy and safety seriously.
5. Be careful when playing online games
There are many online games. From subtle simulations that will just help you pass time to online casino games that can earn you a fortune if you play well enough. With the possibility of making money online comes a swarm of hackers and swindlers ready to make a quick kill.
Always stick to reputable online gaming websites. If you must disclose your credit card details, only do so under secured connections. A better alternative would be using e-payment platforms like Skrill and PayPal to create a buffer between your financial reality and online gaming platforms.
6. Get an antivirus
Antiviruses not only scan your computer and root out malware. They also feature firewalls that protect you against online attacks. While most antiviruses are for sale, you could find a useful free version of MacFee or Avast that will keep you relatively safe. Nonetheless, investing in a commercial license will give you more power and more protection. This is especially advisable if you have an important online presence, if you handle online transactions and have any reason to believe that hackers can remotely access vital information.
7. Always Enter your own urls
Hackers have quite an arsenal when it comes to taking their victims down. One of their most lovable avenue is phising. Phising is the art of presenting you with a webpage, or website that resembles the real thing. Any information entered into such website goes to the attacker who might either convey it to the right recipient after harvesting it or simply drop connection.
Never follow links in your email even if they seem genuine. You can trust password change or registration confirmation links. Never trust links that lead you to your bank’s page, e-shop or any other sensitive website. Moreover, you should avoid using search engines to find your bank or important profile websites. If you want your bank webpage, it were safer if you enter www.yourbankurl.com that searching for your bank on the search bar.
8. Always monitor your kid’s online presence
Kids will always want to access the internet. Since they know so little and are more gullible, hackers can easily access their personal details or access to their machines as they surf the web. You should consider giving them different tips on what to and what not to when surfing the internet. If possible, block access to common malware prone website and always check their browser history once they log off. In this way, you will know what they access and have the power to steer them off internet murk.