Online security is of utmost importance today because there are hackers everywhere who are always looking for someone’s computer or smartphone to break into. It could be that innocent-looking person in the coffee shop who appears to be sitting back and enjoying their latte while running a data sniffer and stealing unsuspecting people’s information, or it could be someone in a faraway country using advanced tools to get your information. In either case, you can’t afford to be lazy with your security. There are steps you can take as well as software you can use that can help you beef up your online security.
1. Never Access Sensitive Data Over An Unsecured Network
When you visit coffee shops, libraries or airports you’re probably happy with the convenience of free Wi-Fi when you need to get things done online. However, most of these networks are unsecured which means anyone can get on them and run hacking tools to see where you’re browsing and what passwords you’re typing. Some of these hacking tools can be run by people who are simply amateur hackers and know very little about computer terminology. “The best idea is never to use an unsecured network to begin with, but if you do have to use one, do not access websites such as bank accounts, places where you enter credit cards, and you’re probably better off not accessing email or social media either,” said MeriTalk.
2. Make Sure You Change Your Password Frequently
This is usually the most forgotten safety tip, but changing your password often reduces the risk of your online accounts being hacked. There isn’t necessarily a written rule that says how often you should do this, but many experts recommend at least once a month or even more frequently. Some even change their passwords once a week, but keep in mind the more frequently you change your password, the more likely you are to need physical notes to write passwords down on, and you should store them somewhere safe.
3. Make Sure Your Password Isn’t Something Affiliated With Your Name
It often bears repeating that when you pick a password for your online accounts, you never use your name or birthdate or the names of people in your family. In fact you really should not use initials or numbers related to you or someone you know because when attempting to crack passwords, hackers will usually start there. Some good ways to make good passwords according to the New York Times, are to pick objects or things you’re familiar with and come up with easy to remember names for them. But you should also practice substituting letters with punctuation or symbols to make them harder to crack. You could also write a real long string of letters for a password or use a password manager, but these methods carry the risk of losing documents that you’ve written passwords down on, or even getting hacked as password managers are not 100% secure.
4. You Should Use 2-Step Authentication For Logging On
Many email providers such as Yahoo and Gmail are now using what’s called 2-step authentication to log in. Many financial sites like PayPal are also using this now. According to CNN, what happens is when you enter your username and password at the website, they will then send you a one-time code that will usually be sent to your cellphone in a text message. Once you’ve entered that code on the authentication page, it can no longer be used and when you log out and log in again, you’ll be given a new code.
5. You Should Also Consider Using A VPN
This method may sound a little too complex for the average user, but virtual private network (VPN) is something you should look into using. Without getting too much into all the technicalities of how they work, VPNs are usually either software or login services you can use to encrypt your whole connection, and that would include software on your device such as Skype or iTunes. Some VPNs offer free services and other charge small fees to use, but they can come in very handy for protecting your identity when you’re connected to an unsecured network.