With the sheer number of cyber-threats roaming around the online realm, it’s sort of weird to think about how many people are still surfing, browsing, and hashtagging. Despite the looming possibility of a hack, attack, or infection, people are more than willing to remain online.
But we totally get that. Why in the world would anyone want to give up Googling, Tweeting, and YouTubing? We wouldn’t.
However, there is a way to do all of that and still remain safe in the process – or, at least, safe-ish. Here’s what we recommend.
Be cautious on public Wi-Fi.
Connecting to Wi-Fi on-the-go is an automatic process for a lot of people out there. You do it as you’re standing in line at the coffee shop, as you’re picking up groceries for dinner, or as you’re waiting for the dentist to see you. It’s normal, and typically, no one thinks twice about it. However, there is such a thing as a fake Wi-Fi hotspot, and these connections are controlled maliciously. If you connect to this illegitimate Wi-Fi, you stand the risk of being hacked or infected with some form of malware. Because of this, you should do your best to avoid accessing personal data when you’re connected to public Wi-Fi. Keep purchases, payments, and private communication out of the mix.
Avoid malicious advertisements.
Over the last year or so, we experienced a rise in Malvertising (a type of malicious online advertising). This specific cyber-threat can potentially infect your device whether you click on the ad or not (typically, this depends on if your browser and programs are up-to-date). However, if you do click on the ad, you can be infected with a ruthless form of malware known as Ransomware – which will encrypt your data and force you to pay for the decryption code. But whether you get a simple virus or have all your data stolen from you, either situation is a bad situation. So if you ever spot an online ad, heavily consider the possibility that it may not be legitimate – especially if the ad is too good to be true.
Update your passwords.
We all know we’re supposed to create really amazing, super-strong, totally long and incredible passwords. How many times has someone told you this before? It’s a reoccurring theme on the do’s and don’ts of online security. However, one “do” that people tend to overlook is switching out and updating these passwords on a consistent basis. This “do” you should definitely “do.” A password should be updated every few months or so – sort of like your toothbrush. Practicing good password hygiene will keep your accounts fresh and hackers on their toes.
Use 2-factor authentication.
While a good, strong password is a great place to start, there are things you can do to make your good, strong password even better – like implementing 2-factor authentication. When you implement 2-factor authentication, you will be required to authenticate your credentials with two separate factors. This could be your password and a code sent to your phone. It could be your password and a security question. Or it could be a pin code and your fingerprint. Usually, people like to describe this as “something you know” and “something you have”, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. Either way, this second factor doubles the security of your online account.
Log out of your accounts.
A laptop left in the front seat of a car. A phone forgotten in a grocery cart. A tablet sitting on the end of a desk. Devices disappear; they get lost, and they’re easily stolen. That’s just how the cookie crumbles. But this doesn’t mean you should give up hope when it comes to data breaches and hackings as the result of a stolen device. When preparing your devices for a potentially stolen future, you can do a variety of things – like using a passcode and downloading anti-theft apps. But one really simple thing you can do is log out of your online accounts. Do this one thing, and if a device of yours is ever stolen or lost, it won’t be so easy for people to hack into your online accounts.
Change your mindset.
Hackings, data breaches, viruses, and malware happen all the time to people from all backgrounds and income levels. But for some reason, people still tend to get stuck in this “would-never-happen-to-me” mentality. They believe they are immune to cyber-threats because they aren’t important enough or because they don’t make enough money or because their job isn’t that great or because whatever excuse you want to throw in there. However, there will probably come a day when you are tossed into the middle of some type of online security nightmare, and if you aren’t careful, this could easily happen over and over again. This means, you need to change your mentality. If you do this, you’ll find yourself more prepared to handle a security issue and more capable of avoiding issues altogether.