The next time you’re about to go online — whether at work or home — stop, think and then connect. Remember that you are both the target of cybercriminals and the strongest line of defense against cyber threats to your employer, your loved ones, friends, and yourself. The following are ten best practices to help you stay safe online.
Back Up Your Important Data
It is always important to have more than one copy of your most important data. Make sure to back it up frequently and keep a safe offline copy to ensure that ransomware or even a technical problem doesn’t get in the way. Having a backup is the best way to recover from ransomware.
Limit Sensitive Personal Info on Social Media
Whether you’re about to create a new social media account or you already have existing ones, make sure that you only enter the basic information required to get the account activated, and don’t provide excessive information that could put you at risk.
For each account you create, check the minimum required information and think twice about entering data that’s classified as Personal Identifiable Information (PII).
Enable Privacy and Security Settings
Many social networks are open to the public by default, privacy is typically basic or turned off, and security is optional. Make sure to review what privacy and security options are available for each account and enable them. Make sure the security is sufficient for the type of data or services you plan to use for your account. Use two-factor authentication.
Use a Password Manager
If you have many accounts and passwords, opting to use a password manager makes securing and managing your accounts easier. A password manager helps track the age of each password, lets you know what additional security controls have been applied, and helps generate complex passwords for all your accounts so you won’t have to type or remember them. You only need to remember one strong password, which reduces your cyber fatigue and makes your life easier — and more secure.
A password manager will help you, but do remember that there are still a few best practices when creating account passwords. You can use passphrases, which are a combination of words that you know and a few special characters (for example, ?%&@!). A long, strong passphrase combined with 2FA is tough to crack. Make sure to change passphrases at least every nine months to one year.
Limit Social Logins
Many online services have a social login, also known as Single Sign On. This means that you can sign up for new accounts by using your Google+, Facebook, and so on. This offering solves the issue of remembering multiple passwords, but it poses a greater security that many people don’t realize.
When using Single Sign On, most apps request read/write access or access to your basic information that most people are okay with, but some apps request full access, which means access to almost everything including emails, calendar, location information, friends, family, and so on.
When possible, use unique accounts rather than social logins because if those accounts get compromised or stolen, it means that cybercriminals can cascade to all your accounts just by using the one stolen social login.
Know Your Digital Footprint
If you’ve never searched for yourself in any search engine, it’s time you discovered what your digital footprint looks like. A digital footprint is the data that exists in cyberspace as a result of actions and communications that you or others perform online.
Search yourself online. This action quickly identifies potential fraudulent accounts and then you can take action by automating digital identity alerts to alert you to your personal information found online.
Beware of Public Wi-Fi
When security is important, use your cellular network instead of public Wi-Fi. If you must use public Wi-Fi, ask the vendor for the correct name of the Wi-Fi access point and whether it’s secure. Hackers will use Wi-Fi access points with common names like “Airport” or “Cafe” so your device will auto connect without your knowledge.
Other tips include the following:
- Don’t select to remember the Wi-Fi network.
- Use the latest Web browsers because they have improved security for fake websites.
- Use a VPN (virtual private network) service.
- Always assume someone is monitoring your data over public Wi-Fi.
Limit Followers and Access to Social Media
When using social media, be aware of the risks of liking, following pages, or allowing different applications to access your profile because when access is provided, many people don’t have good cyber hygiene on cleaning them up when no longer required. Information is shared and unless your followers get revoked, they’ll continue to have access to your profile data.
Run Antivirus Scans and Install Software Updates
You can discover if you’re a victim of a cyberattack by installing or updating your antivirus software, running a full scan, patching your system with the latest security updates, or changing your password and security. This is why your IT security team at work constantly tells you to change passwords, let antivirus scans complete, or reboot your systems periodically. These processes and techniques help prevent and detect security incidents and apply to your own personal devices (including smart TV or home security cameras) and any Internet user accounts as well.
Think before You Click
We are a society of clickers; we like to click on pictures, addresses, hyperlinks, and more. Always be cautious of receiving any message with a hyperlink and ask yourself whether it was expected. Do you know the person who’s sending it? Ask people whether they actually sent you something before clicking on potential malware.
Written by Joseph Carson
Read more posts by Joseph Carson