Protecting Your Personality: 10 Tips for Staying Safe Online
According to Google, average person spends two month surfing the Web, while not sleeping. If you just type in somebody’s name in a search engine, you will be able to see all kinds of data about the person. Facebook, Twitter, SlideShare, Pinterest, forum posts, etc. – almost everything is freely available for public. Knowing that makes me feel insecure, simply because I am not sure for what purpose this information can be used for. If you spend much time on the web, the full protection is a must. We have prepared ten simple tips on how to make web surfing safer.
1. Do not visit suspicious links
On my work email, sometimes I receive a letter from my bank with a proposal to update the password, or that somebody sent me a message on the social network I have never been registered on. It may appear legitimate Facebook website but you also might notice a small typo in a domain name – facebook.cm, for instance. If you follow this link, then in the worst case, you can get a serious virus, and at best – simply forfeit your account on the site.
2. Trust your anti-spam e-mail filters
As a rule, they filter almost all the letters, cheating lure you to a particular hacker site. And even if you still got a letter with a message about winning a million pounds, do not throw at the wall with joy, shouting “I’m rich!”: These messages are hundreds of thousands of users around the world every day. ‘The only free cheese is in a mousetrap’. Small tip – if you really think that this is a real genuine email got into a Junk folder – open it in your without downloading the pictures and clicking on the links. Images are used to track if you have actually opened the item, so we don’t give spammers information that you are interested in these kinds of messages.
3. Install a comprehensive security system
Nowadays, simple file antivirus is not enough at all. It was yesterday 🙂 Right now, going for a “complete protection” so to say will fit your Internet surfing best. Basic features includes anti-virus, firewall, anti-spam filter. Different products on the market offer various tweaks like Sandbox or Parental Control. Personally I have been using Kaspersky Internet Security for over 5 years and it fits perfectly my needs. Other options to consider are ESET NOD 32 Smart Security, Symantec Norton 360. These solutions are commercial software (around €40-€60 per year), but you can also find free tools. In my humble opinion, paying for your personal protection is worth it. Money will spend on it is not nothing to the loss of important information, which can happen because of the virus or email worm.
4. Switch from Internet Explorer
Many people (including me) use PC with Window pre installed as operating system. While it offers nice working environment, Internet browser it comes with is a very weak point. The lion’s share of worms and malicious scripts are designed for Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer is losing its popularity (16,2 % in August, according to http://www.w3schools.com) but only because it is built into Windows. My tip would be to switch to Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. They offer good protection as well as lots of downloadable extensions, improving its functionality.
5. Use different passwords for different accounts
Using strong passwords (unique and combined) for all accounts and devices, adds up to protecting your personality online. Setting up your mobile phone number as a password is worthless for at least two reasons:
- Other people may be aware of this data
- 12-digit numerical password can be cracked by brute force attack in 35 seconds
BUT! If you substitute only one digit with an alphabetical letter, it would take 1 year. See the difference?
The highest importance are the passwords used for social networking sites and email. If your social network penetrates hacker, he can make a fraud against your friends. If he has access to your email, he can recover passwords for all other accounts using the password reminder.
If you are having hard times remembering all of them (I bet you will), you can use an online password storage tool, like LastPass or PassPack. I prefer the last one since it has some neat features like triple level account protection, no installation necessary and 1-Click-Login. Another benefit –it is free!
6. Do not use suspicious online stores
If you have found a jacket or a tablet of your dreams and already took your credit card out of a pocket, hold on for a minute. If this is a little-known shop, it’s best to check it out before you leave there any financial information Do you trust this website with processing your payment details? Under the guise of the online store may be lurking cyber criminals stealing your credit card information.
Before making an online purchase, make sure the store is reliable. How can you check it? First thing I look at is if the connection is secured. You can see that by looking in the browser’s address bar. Usually there is a prefix https:// , meaning that connection is encrypted. Secondly, you can easily locate a physical address of a web store. Reason behind it is a real business will not hide where they are located (and I am not talking about P.O. Box company) . Another point which ensures a security of your payment is if it is actually processed through a third party, called aggregator. Those companies, like PayPal, are specialized in payment processing and offer both security and convenience when shopping online.
7. Keep your computer clean
Computer offers vast array of software to dozens of tasks. In our high tech era, there are software giants, like Google or Microsoft, and small companies. Even if the tool you are installing brings no harm, addons it installs into a system can affects your privacy. Here I am talking about ad-ware programs, which can show you pop up advertising or change the settings of your internet browser. All these slow down your PC. Right now, I can think of a toolbars for the browser, like Babylon. In order to avoid it, check what you are installing. Almost every installation script offers an option, called Advanced of Custom settings. There you will be able to see what is ACTUALLY in being installed on your machine. My tip here would be to tick away the boxes and proceed with installation.
8. Perform updates regularly
Hacking techniques are constantly evolving, as well as methods of protection. Your computer, whether PC or Mac, comes with an update center, which provides with updates to the core system files. Do not turn off this feature! What people made, other people can break. Hackers can use exploits to get a remote control of your system and can execute a virus without you even knowing that. Just keep updates on; computer will do the rest for you. In general, it is better not to risk it.
9. Be wary of downloadable files on the Internet
“And the marksman may miss” – there is no guarantee that by downloading the program, even on a known and well-respected site, you do not trigger another Trojan virus (program, collecting your passwords and personal data). New viruses come out faster than the protection of them, and anti-virus software sites may as well “miss” next cunning virus.
Especially it is not safe to download files from peer to peer (P2P) networks, or inserting you USB flash drive in other computers. Tip one – be sure to scan all new files to your Antivirus or integrated security system, and you suspect that the system cannot cope – submit a suspicious file to the developers of “Kaspersky Lab” or ESET online there to examine it in full and get yourself you a confident answer.
10. Social sharing and privacy
Install and check the security settings and privacy when using social networks. Do not allow yourself getting lost in the variety of options. I have noticed that Facebook sometimes adjust the settings without notifying. Don’t let completely losing control of access to information to you. In other words, in the case of negligence can be granted access to confidential information around the world. Share your photos, videos and statuses with people you really want to do so. Don’t let Project X happen in your city or village (check you the link “Project X Haren“)
All in all, these tips will make your life online more secure. What tools do you use to protect your personal identity online? Share with us in the comments below.
P.S. Here is a small video which showcases the fact that your entire life can be found online.