It may seem like a daunting task to protect yourself online nowadays, especially considering how many threats lurk at every corner. But really, a quick look at these next few pointers and you’re already way ahead of the curve when it comes to online security.
Managing Your Passwords
Did you know that 4 out of 5 hacking incidents and data breaches happen because people use weak passwords, or re-use the same one across multiple services? It’s no surprise people do that when you consider how many accounts we need to remember; but what are you supposed to do about it?
To ensure hackers can’t just guess your credentials, try one of these password managers on for size. They’re the best way to create and store multiple strong, randomized passwords. These are kept in an encrypted form on your system, meaning nobody without the “master password” can access them.
Just to be safe, it’s recommended to change your master and account passwords regularly. Keep a physical copy of your master password somewhere safe in case you forget it – you don’t want to lose access to all your passes!
Now, returning to the topic of encryption – what does it even mean? Well, any encrypted data is obfuscated using complex protocols and can only be accessed using a special key (somewhat similar to a passcode). Modern encryption methods especially can’t be cracked using conventional methods (if at all), so your passwords are safe and sound. You’ll find that encryption is ever-present when it comes to online security, so it’s good to know the basics beforehand.
Let’s say that someone managed to get a hold of one of your passwords somehow. They still won’t be able to access your account if you set up two-factor authentication with an authentication app (Google Authenticator, Valve’s Steam Guard, etc.), or simple SMS security codes.
Obviously, there are more hi-tech authentication techniques out there if you regularly handle sensitive information. Fingerprint scanners and facial recognition software haven’t been exclusive to sci-fi (or government bodies) for a really long while now.
It’s the name of an amazing security-oriented browser extension (that you should definitely use), but also a great piece of advice. HTTPS is the secured (S) version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that allows you to “download” and display websites in your browser.
Websites that use HTTPS are encrypted with the SSL/TLS protocol, allowing you to securely browse and transmit sensitive data (such as login info). It’s highly recommended that you only use such websites, even if you don’t plan on using sensitive data, as there are multiple security issues related to HTTP-only pages. You can recognize HTTPS websites in a couple of ways:
- Check the page link in your browser’s address bar; it should start with “https://”. Many browsers tend to hide that part of the link, so you may need to click/ tap on the address bar to see it.
- There will be a (usually green) padlock icon near the address bar, letting you know you’re on a secured website.
Of course, just because a page uses HTTPS doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe. Phishing scams can lure you into a fake HTTPS website impersonating a legitimate service (such as PayPal or banking website). Always check that you’re in the right place before you enter any personal details.
A Great VPN for Peace of Mind
Yet another case where encryption is used to secure your data. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) encrypt anything you send or receive over the Internet, making it unreadable to those who would want to snoop in. Whether it’s your ISP trying to sell your browsing habits, a government agency spying on your private life or just your average hacker targeting you for some quick cash – a VPN prevents all intruders.
VPN software can be installed on most devices – computers, smartphones, tablets; the works. Even some routers offer VPN support, letting you secure every personal device that connects through it.
Well over a billion people use a VPN in their day to day life. Maybe they don’t feel like having their browsing history being used to serve them creepily specific adverts. Or they just like being able to access geo-blocked content without restrictions. Yes, VPNs are capable of that as well.
Once you connect to a VPN server, your real IP address is hidden and replaced with the server’s. This has the benefit of hiding your real location (a plus to privacy), as well as trick websites into thinking you’re accessing them from a different, supported country. If you were ever annoyed you can’t watch your favorite TV show in your region, now you have the solution.
NordVPN is the gold-standard of VPNs in that respect. Not only does it unblock most streaming services without a hitch, but it also has a privacy-friendly no logs policy. This means they don’t store records of your browsing activity, nor connection logs. They’re also based in Panama, which is a haven with no government surveillance or Internet censorship. All in all, a great option for those concerned with online privacy and security.
Anti-Malware, Firewalls, Due Diligence
One thing a VPN can’t replace is the protection of good old-fashioned anti-malware. Malicious software ranges from simple viruses that slow down your computer, to ransomware that shuts down government systems and even entire cities.
They aren’t going away at this point, so the best you can do is to install some decent anti-malware and practice due diligence when asked to click or open anything online. As mentioned before, phishing scams are the easiest way hackers can get a hold of your personal info. You don’t necessarily have to enter any details into a fake website – simply clicking an infected file could compromise your system.
Finally, consider setting up a strong firewall on your devices. It’ll scan your network traffic and block out any unsafe connections. All of these contribute to a well-rounded “security suite” that leaves little room for mishaps.