These days, online threats seem to come from every corner. Whether it’s major corporate data breaches, ransomware agents which lock up our computers, or man-in-the-middle attacks which harvest our data as we surf the web in public, the online world can be a dangerous place. Despite these multiplying threats, most of us don’t take online security seriously enough. Instead of planning for the worst case scenario, we cross our fingers and hope that ‘it won’t happen to us’. And as any security expert will confirm, that attitude almost guarantees that it will. So how can you stay safe online? This article will lay out digital security 101 – providing a checklist of ways to keep your data safe, whatever you do online.
1. Ensure you have a high-quality VPN installed
Let’s lead off with the most important addition to anyone’s security toolkit: a high-quality Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN does two things which help to keep web users safe and anonymous. Firstly, it uses foolproof encryption and protocols to create “tunnels” through which your data travels. With a VPN, any data you send over the web will be wrapped up in multiple layers of protective covering. There’s no way to crack the encryption used by the best VPNs, making anything you send much more secure. Secondly, VPNs allow you to anonymize your identity. They do this by routing your traffic through servers located across the world and assigning users completely new IP addresses. IP addresses are like your online address. They provide information about your device and location and are invaluable for hackers and government snoopers alike. But with a VPN installed, you’re actual identity will be shielded. However, before you leap to download the cheapest VPN you can find, a word of caution. Not all VPNs are equal, and many are downright dangerous, offering virtually no protection. Instead, opt for a tried and trusted provider. You might also consider checking out a Secureline VPN review for a VPN you can rely on, or go for leading alternatives like NordVPN and Private Internet Access.
2. Get used to using a password manager
Our second recommendation is almost as important. How strong are the passwords you use to connect with email or social media accounts? Do you use similar or identical passwords to sign up to online retailers? If so, you’re not alone. And you’re putting yourself at risk every time you shop online. Instead of using similar passwords every time, it makes much more sense to start using password managers. These tools generate secure passwords that are virtually impossible to guess. And they store them safely as well, protecting them behind layers of encryption. In a world where data leaks are extremely common, it’s vital to use strong passwords and to change them regularly. With a manager app like LastPass, this is pretty simple – and it could save you thousands of dollars.
3. Educate yourself about leading cyber threats
Staying safe online isn’t all about downloading apps like VPNs and password managers. You also need to educate yourself about the kind of threats circulating online, and how to counteract them. Don’t trust the experts (well, not entirely). Take responsibility and you’ll be in a much better place to deal with issues if they arise. For example, an hour or so spent learning how to spot fake websites or phishing emails could pay off dramatically in the future. Have you ever opened attachments in dubious emails, only to receive an antivirus alert? If so, you’ll know how skillful phishers can be. But with a little research and self-discipline, you can make yourself a much harder target to hit. If it helps, draw up a checklist of things to do when logging on in the morning. This could include double checking all email headers for suspicious details, remembering to load your VPN, and running malware checkups. In time, you’ll get used to the routine, but for a while having a list in front of you can help.
4. Don’t forget to keep your antivirus up to date
Speaking of malware and virus checkups, it’s essential to update your apps to ensure that they cover all current threats. The range of threats confronting web users constantly changes, with new ransomware agents and Trojans appearing week by week. Antivirus companies like McAfee or Avast add threats to their databases as they appear but often leave it up to users to update their own apps. It’s easy to postpone updates until a more convenient point in time, but that’s not wise. When you get the chance, make sure you click the update button, and that applies both to specialist tools like Malwarebytes and general virus checkers.
Online security isn’t complex, but it’s not automatic either
As you can probably tell by now, staying safe online and ensuring your anonymity remains intact isn’t an impossible dream. By mixing up antivirus software, password managers and VPNs you can create security configurations which neutralize most dangers. Moreover, you can make yourself even more secure by learning about the threats we face. This does take effort, but it’s time and energy well spent. The consequences of poor security practices can be incredibly damaging, so take the time to enhance your setup. You won’t regret it.