How to Guides

A Talk about Safe Surf: How to Protect Your Online Security

What is the first thing we do once we have discovered that we have been hacked? Panic; we feel violated, and a bit chagrined. After all, many of us would like to think that we are well armed against such things as a cyber-attack or threat. Or, we believe we are just not important enough for someone to launch such an affront to our security. Guess again. Anyone is at risk for an attack. No one is immune. To a hacker, the average Joe is just another email address to exploit. But there are things you can do to protect your online security.

Safe words: Using strong passwords

Many of us think we are pretty clever with our passwords. But it doesn’t take much for a hacker to guess your kid’s birthday, especially when you post it to your Facebook or Twitter. Use a strong password; preferably one that is at least eight characters or more, and contains at least one capital letter and one number. A strong password is a good way to ensure that your information stays safe. Changing that password frequently and storing it in a place other than on your computer ensures your online identity and security.

Layers of protection

Many websites that require a password also have a backup layer of protecting your online experience. A few random security questions that only you (hopefully) know the answers to, is that second layer of protection after a strong password. Change these answers and questions regularly, storing them somewhere other than on your computer. Another way to ensure that your login is safe is through setting a personal image. If you don’t recognize the image that you set for your password, then you just may have been hacked.

Exposed: Email Protection

Email is no doubt one of the easiest ways a hacker gains access to your world and through you wreak havoc on everyone on your contacts list. Use a backup email password protection if possible. Many email accounts give you the option of having your password texted to you, or emailed to another account in the event your password won’t work (either because you forgot it or someone maliciously changed it for you). If you get an email from someone who is familiar to you but it doesn’t sound like it came from them, or it sounds too vague to be them, chances are it’s not. When in doubt- delete. It’s better to have someone send you an email twice than it is to chance having your entire hard drive wiped out.

Not so ‘soft’ software

By far the best way to protect your online security is through a VPN service or SmartDNS. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your online data and hides your IP address, making you ‘virtually’ invisible online. Many VPN service providers offer free VPN and free proxy service as well as full coverage VPN packages. These are well worth a look into especially if you do quite a bit of work online. Another method of protecting your online security is with Internet Security software such as Anti-virus or a complete package that has virus and malware protection and firewall.

No Phishing

Knowing who you’re dealing with online is just plain common sense. Barrister Jones from Zaire doesn’t know you, and you didn’t win the British Lottery. Think about those emails and why they are in your inbox. Curiosity kills more than just cats. Block those insidious emails by sending them to your spam or junk folder. This action alone blocks the domain of the sender, keeping them at bay. And as far as social media is concerned be careful of posts. If you have a doubt about any posts from friends on social media, ask them. Don’t post personal or sensitive information on IM (instant messaging).

Being safe online takes an ounce of diligence and a pound of common sense. Investing in a good Antivirus/Security software, and VPN or Smart DNS are substantial steps to take in securing your online presence. A few simple steps can go a long way to securing your online world.

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