Staying Safe Online
Posted 14 Apr at 5:25 pm in Security
The Importance of Online Security
It should go without saying that in today’s day and age, online security is of the utmost importance. With an ever-increasing reliance on the internet for a variety of everyday activities from shopping to online banking, to connecting with our loved ones; most internet users will have a lot of personal information out on the web. As technology advances, so do hackers and cyberthreats – knowing some vest practice for online security could save you a lot of trouble.
5 Ways To Stay Safe Online
- Use strong passwords
- Enable two-factor authentication for all of your accounts
- Keep all software and operating systems up-to-date to decrease chances of a cyber-attack
- Utilize an anti-virus and firewall software to stay proactive against malware and unauthorized users.
- Utilize a VPN
1. Use strong passwords
Perhaps the easiest, and most effective, way of staying safe online is by creating strong passwords for each of your accounts. I say “each of” because you should do your best to ensure you create new passwords for most, if not all, of your online accounts. Perhaps this sounds like overkill but allow me to paint a picture:
You use the same password for your fantasy football league as you do you Citigroup online banking account. Your ESPN fantasy football account gets hacked, then they try your email and password combo with the 10 biggest banking institutions in the United States. Well, sure enough, when attempting to login Citi, they gain access and drain your account.
So, I digress; using a strong, unique, and memorable password is a must when trying to safely navigate the internet. While some sites may require it, others do not; a password minimum that requires a certain amount of characters, special characters, numbers, and a rather unique keyword, are all qualities of a solid password. Avoid using guess-able words such as your last name or something as simple as “password”.
This may seem like a tedious amount of work just to come up with an adequate password, it is not as hard as it seems. Some browsers, such as Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari, offer password storage services that will keep your password stored securely. These services will automatically fill in your password for you upon entering any which website. Alternatively, you can manually store your passwords on your phone, computer, or, if you’re up really want to be safe, with a pen and paper.
2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Another strong method of maintaining a high-level of security across all of your internet accounts is to enable two factor authentication to access your accounts. This method requires that, after inputting the correct password, you input a code to verify that it is really you accessing this account. One method of authentication will be to input a certain one-time code sent to your phone or email. Though two factor authentication requires another step to getting onto your account, it has proven to be a tried and true way to stay safe online.
There are a few different sorts of two factor authentication. Each serves a very similar purpose, in it’s own way.
As mentioned before, SMS two factor authentication is one of the most common forms of authorization. You will need to enter your password, then on the next page you will be prompted to enter that code to move forward onto the desired web page.
One Time Passwords (OTP)
A one time password is similar to that of the code that would be sent to your phone during an SMS 2FA process, but instead of receiving an SMS code, you must log onto the implemented service and acquire your code from there.
A small piece of hardware that will randomly generate a one-time password for you to input into the designated text-box on the login screen.
A pop-up, usually on a mobile device, that will give an alert along the lines of “There was an attempt to sign in at *Location*, do you recognize this login”. You are prompted to click yes or no which will allow or disallow the login.
A link sent to your email, after inputting the correct password, that will redirect you to your desired page.
A form of authentication that requires you to scan the given QR code to move forward with the login process.
Biometrics require that some key identifier be available to prove that it is you singing into whatever device or site you may be. For instance, most new iPhones have facial recognition features that will give or deny access to your phone based on whether it detects the users faces as your own.
3. Keep Software Up-to-Date
Something that is often looked past as a security parameter is keeping your software up-to-date. This stretches past just updating your every day applications. While you may not use all, or any, of your installed applications every day – updating as frequently as possible is imperative. Aside from performance enhancements, these updates will often patch bugs that could have been exploited had they been in front of the wrong person.
Other than possible breaches as a result of an outdated software or hardware device, updates also will usually lead to an improvement in performance and ease-of-use. While some updates will offer some level of an aesthetic difference, they are generally released with the intent of improving performance to some extent.
4. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Simply put, a VPN is a tool that serves the purpose of securely connecting you on the internet through and encrypted connection.
There are a few benefits of utilizing a VPN, all of which are contributors to staying safe online. It is common practice to use a VPN as a means of hiding your online activity (to an extent). A VPN will hide your IP address, making it difficult for websites, hackers, cybercriminals, and others to track your online activity.
As you’ll find with most tech related items or services, no two are created equally, check out some of the differences:
Remote Access VPN:
- Allows an employee or user to securely connect to a company network from a remote location
- Works like a key that unlocks a secret door to access the company’s network
- Useful for people who work from home or are on the go
- Connects two or more separate networks securely over the internet
- Works like a private bridge that links two separate locations together
- Useful for companies with multiple offices or locations
- Allows an individual to connect to a company’s network from their personal device
- Works like a secret tunnel that allows access to the company’s network
- Useful for employees who work remotely or need to access company resources from their personal devices.
5. Utilizing an Anti-Virus and Firewall
Anti-virus software is important for staying safe online, as it is able to detect and remove malicious software from a computer. Equally as important as anti-virus software is firewall software which monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic. These programs help protect your device and network from potential threats, such as malware and hacking attempts.
- Anti-virus software detects, prevents, and removes malicious software such as viruses, worms, and Trojans.
- Firewall software monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic to prevent unauthorized access to your device or network.
- By using anti-virus or firewall software, you can protect your device and personal information from potential threats.
Without proper protection, your computer system and personal information are vulnerable to cyber attacks. Cybercriminals can use malware and hacking techniques to steal your personal information, financial data, or other sensitive data. Utilize an anti-virus or firewall software to stay further protected and avoid the negative consequences of cybercrime.
The above listed points are only some of the ways you can stay safe and secure online; these are not your only options. As technology grows stronger, so so cybercriminals. There will likely never be a hacker-less internet, which means you must take proactive measures before you fall victim to an attack.
To learn more about cybersecurity and the threat of cyberattacks, check out some of our other blog posts here.