Good online security habits are no joke. Every day there are data breaches of major financial institutions and retailers. Every app you download and most of the sites you visit initiate a series of online tracking of your activity and your data. If you think you are protected, you probably are not. However, there are some pretty easy steps you can take to improve your privacy and security online.
Use Better Passwords
Old password habits are hard to break, but if you are someone still using your kid’s birthday or the year you graduated from high school as your password for everything, it’s time to make a serious change in that habit! Maintaining weak or repetitive passwords puts all your digital information out there as easy pickings for hackers. It’s not much different than leaving your wallet on a table at the mall and hoping no one will touch it. Using long, complicated passwords is nearly impossible to memorize, and keeping them written out in a notebook is not secure either, so what can you do to fix this risk? Use a password manager to help you store all your passwords in one place, and you only need to memorize the one (unique!) master password. There are a lot of password managers, many free services, to choose from. LastPass is a free, and easy to use option, with a handy phone app, so you can easily access all your sites easily from wherever you are.
- Use long (12 characters and more) passwords everywhere.
- Use a different password for each service you use.
- Use a password manager service to make using secure passwords easier.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating anytime we are talking about cybersecurity. Two-factor authentication is a must have. Two-Factor Authentication is an added layer of security over an account login, requiring two or more pieces of proof that the login is actually you. Proof such as a verification code, email address verification or a fingerprint is required with the password or PIN before the computer user is granted access. It takes just moments to complete, and this added layer of security will significantly increase the security on your accounts. You turn it on in your Account Settings area, and you should always do so for websites accessing any personal or financial information, along with your social media, gaming, streaming and email accounts.
- Turn on Two-Factor Authentication for your email and apps.
Keep a Clean Browser
While Autofill is a nice feature that saves us from memorizing domains and reduces typing time, letting your browser history, cache and cookies pile up is also opening up your computer to security risks as it allows websites to continue to track you. Clear your browser cache and cookies out at least once per week, at your Friday shutdown is a great way to remember this security step.
Likewise, check your Autofill Manager on your browser periodically to see what personal information, credit cards, and other login information you have stored. Delete any information that you no longer need, and preferably start using a Password Manager to store all this data so you don’t depend on Autofill Manager. Lastly, review all the extensions and addons you currently have in use, and delete any you no longer use (or don’t even know you have!).
- Clear your browser cache and cookies regularly on all devices.
- Review and edit your Autofill Manager.
- Do not install browser extensions unless you really need them. Carefully check the permissions you give them.
- Periodically review and edit your browser extensions and addons.
Check Your Privacy Settings
Your social media accounts, along with many other streaming and other membership accounts, maintain a lot of information about us, and much of it is visible to anyone who goes looking. Always check your privacy settings within each site, and think about what you want to share with total strangers.
- Change your social network account privacy settings. Here’s how to do it in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Review Permissions for Apps
Every time you download a new mobile app, it prompts you to give them permissions to access contacts or files in device storage, and to use your camera, microphone, location, and so on. Some really cannot work without these permissions, but many are simply accessing this information to use it to profile you for marketing (or worse). It’s pretty easy to control which apps are given what permissions to by going into the App within your device Settings and finding the Permissions menu.
- Review the permissions you give to mobile apps.
Never Click Unrequested Email Links
The more you use an email account online, the more spam and junk mail you will get. Today’s hackers are extremely savvy, and (because they can snoop so easily on your online activity) send out emails that look very legitimate – coming from your back, your healthcare provider, all sorts of “authentic” looking sources. Email hacking is a major source of cybersecurity crime, so don’t become one of the daily statistics. Never, never, NEVER click on a link that you are not sure is genuine.
- Protect your email with Two-Factor Authentication.
- NEVER click an unfamiliar link within an email.
Stay Up To Date
Most software applications work hard to keep us with the latest online security threats. The way that they pass new security measures onto users is through software updates, bug fixes, and security patches. Unfortunately, too many people ignore the prompts to update (or don’t have their settings on for automatic update prompts!). Always set your software to notify you about updates, perform updates automatically, and if you prefer manual control, check and apply any updates that are pending in your various software services so that you have the latest security updates and bug fixes.
- Turn on Automatic Updates in your software settings.
- Always download new updates, fixes and security patches from applications.
These are all basic steps that are simple to incorporate into your online habits, but also essential to good online security. If you believe you may have been hacked, or need help with any online security measures – please CONTACT US so we can help you secure your online activities!