Hackers and identity thieves are getting smarter and more creative every day. That is why it is important to protect yourself when you are online. Here are our top 10 internet security tips:
1. Use a complicated password
Using a simple password such as password or 1234 is just asking for trouble. Hackers are familiar with popular passwords and will try them until one unlocks your account and they will steal your information. Use the following guidelines when creating passwords:
- At the very least, use a combination of numbers and letters (besides “password1234“)
- To make it a bit more complex, use special characters, such as . and !
- Never use the same password for more than one account
- Try to avoid using references to obvious things, such as your name or account name.
- The best passwords are ones that use a random set of letters, numbers and special characters
2. Don’t give your password to anyone
If you receive an email from PayPal, Amazon, or any other company asking for sensitive information (password, address, social security number, etc.), it is probably a scam. The act of sending spam that asks for sensitive information is called phishing.
Companies usually have this information in a database and have no reason to ask you personally for the information. If you receive an email like this, check the email address (not the name on the account: see image below). If it comes from a domain other than the company’s main website (for example @paypalnews.com instead of @paypal.com), it is most likely a spammer trying to get access to your account. Delete the email and do not look back.
3. Use a password on your home or business wi-fi
An unprotected wi-fi connection is an invitation into a computer network. Protect yourself by setting a password on your router. Use our guidelines above to create a secure password. If your router came with a pre-determined password, change it immediately. Many people are familiar with the default passwords ISPs use and will attempt to log into your network with those passwords.
4. Use anti-virus software and a firewall
Invest in anti-virus software. Some will just scan your computer to check for malware. Others will do that and scan incoming data for malware. A firewall will doubly protect you from malware coming in. For people who have very sensitive information, such as small or medium-sized businesses, we recommend hiring an IT company to set up a custom solution. Call us at (386) 238-1692 to talk about what your options are.
5. Update your software regularly
Malware is constantly evolving so software companies have to update their software’s security to keep up with the latest threats. Updating your software as updates become available is crucial in keeping up with the latest threats.
6. Research any software before downloading it
Malware often disguises itself as helpful software or it might be an addon that comes with a “legitimate” software. Research any software before downloading it and make sure it is coming from a legitimate source. Be wary when installing addons.
7. Be safe with email attachments
Do not download anything unless it is from a trusted source or before it is scanned for viruses. This is a popular hacking method hackers use.
8. When making purchases online, make sure the website has an SSL certificate
An SSL certificate is a certificate that eCommerce websites purchase in order to encrypt and protect their customers’ private information. This is a major roadblock for hackers. There are two ways to check to see if a website has an SSL certificate.
- Look at the URL. If it starts with “https://” (note the “https” versus the usual “http”), it is secure
- Look for the lock icon. Usually it’s in the bottom of the screen or at the top near the URL. Be wary though; some websites will imitate the bottom bar and lock. To be sure it’s legitimate, click the lock. Information about the website’s security should pop-up.
9. Be cautious when using free, unprotected Wi-Fi and public computers
Spyware can potentially be installed on unprotected Wi-Fi networks and public computers. Spyware tracks your internet usage and records your account names and passwords as you log into your account.
If you do decide to log into accounts online using public computers, make sure you clear the history and the cache in the browser to protect your information from being found by the next person who uses the computer.
10. Enable two-step log in if it is available
Two-step log in is a cool feature that more and more websites are adopting. The biggest company that is using two step log in is Google. After inputting your password, you will receive a code on your mobile phone that you need to input on the website in order to access your account. Suddenly, simply having your password isn’t enough for hackers!
Hopefully our list of 10 security tips has helped you make smarter decisions on the web. If you have any questions or want to protect your computer against threats, contact us.