Most of us tend to be rather careless when it comes to online security. Until something unpleasant happens. Be smart and don’t fall into the trap of complacency. Follow these everyday online cybersecurity tips so they can become good habits.
Almost everyone has heard the password and online security spiel thousand times by now. And yet, the human element has still consistently been the biggest risk to online security. Which means, either people don’t listen, or they tend to forget.
It’s normal for people to become complacent when nothing happens. Because they think it won’t happen to them, so they forget to stay attentive. That’s why it is so vital to start forming good internet security habits and stick to them.
20 Online Security Practices To Start Taking Up Now
From social engineering to DDoS attacks, cybercriminals have plenty of inventive ways to target people. Forming good security habits help make it harder to get exploited. Follow these 20 security tips to stay safe against the most common types of cyberattacks.
1. It Can Happen at Anytime
The first step towards becoming serious about cybersecurity is realizing that everyone is a target. Hackers mostly target people indiscriminately – they employ automated techniques to reach a lot of people and hope they get lucky. Some call it the “spray and pray” technique.
The point is that everyone’s a target, even if they think they’re too unimportant to be one. Identity theft is a big motivator if there’s nothing else to steal.
2. Manage Social Media Sharing
It’s fun to share every personal detail and event with the world through social media, but it can have severe consequences. Social media networks are increasingly popular targets for attackers because they’re a wealth of information laid bare.
Criminals love getting access to personal data because this gives them information on where people live, what they do, and what they like. This makes it possible to steal from them, manipulate them, or gain access to their secure accounts through phishing attempts.
It’s not necessary to share everything on social media, especially current locations. Also, make sure to check up on privacy and security settings for the social media networks that are being used. Turn on any settings that keep strangers from seeing personal information.
3. Try to Stay Away From HTTP Sites
A lot of people still don’t know that HTTP sites are unsecured and make it easy for hackers to find them. Most sites these days (at least the good ones) use HTTPS as this is a more secure form of browsing.
HTTPS is a combination of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and Secure Socket Layer (SSL)/Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. This means that any data traveling through that connection is encrypted. Motivated hackers might still get through, but they will have a harder time of it.
This is especially important to remember when visiting sites that require login information. If a site doesn’t start with [https://], then don’t enter any information into it.
4. Use Secure Messaging Apps
Just because a messaging app is popular, it doesn’t mean it’s safe to use. Try to stick to messengers that use end-to-end encryption as this is the safest option. This type of encryption means the messages are encrypted by the sender’s device and then decrypted by the recipient.
Messengers that use “encryption in transit” send the texts to a company first, where they are stored on servers. Those servers could be hacked or the company can sell that data.
5. Stay Up to Date
Always keep up to date with software and hardware updates for all apps and devices. These come out for a reason, and they usually contain security patches. Developers create patches for known malware and security flaws in their software.
6. Find and Use a Good VPN
The great thing about a VPN is that it works silently in the background without much effort, making it one of the easiest ways to get a secure connection and keep it that way.
A virtual private network acts as a go-between whenever someone connects to the internet. All of the traffic is first encrypted, then sent through the VPN where it’s decrypted before connecting to the website.
It’s a good idea to get a VPN to keep outsiders from seeing any data that’s being sent over the network, including banking details, emails, travel plans, and online purchasing information.
7. Delete Suspicious Emails
Do not open any attachments or click on any links from an unknown sender. Also, delete unwarranted or suspicious emails, even if it’s from a friend. Hackers often send phishing attacks to a victim’s contact list.
8. Don’t Login on Other Devices
A person might keep their own devices and network secure, but not everyone does. Do not log into accounts with sensitive information on other people’s devices. Their device could already have been compromised. Or it could become compromised in the future with all that personal data ready for the grabbing.
9. Avoid Public WiFi When Possible
The convenience of public WiFi has spread all over the world. It’s become popular to the point where people can travel without ever connecting to their mobile network. The only problem is that when something like that becomes so popular, the wrong sort of people take notice too.
Public WiFi has become a major target for hackers because it’s easy to breach and gives them access to a lot of people. Especially business people with troves of sensitive company data and documents. So it’s best to avoid public WiFi when possible, or at least use a VPN when connecting to one.
10. Beware of the Telltale Phishing Signs
Phishing attempts are becoming more targeted, but the core identifying markers of these attempts are mostly still the same. Whenever receiving any sort of online communication or text message, look out for:
– Bad grammar/spelling
– The message starting with “Dear Customer” or another type of impersonal greeting
– A sense of urgency which states that action has to be taken right now
– Unwarranted downloads or attachments
– URLs that don’t look the same as the ones a bank or other company normally sends.
Also, don’t respond to friend requests or messages from strangers on social media, and definitely don’t click on any links they send.
11. Create Regular Backups
Most people don’t think to back up the data, photos, or files on their personal computers and mobile phones. That’s something that businesses are supposed to do, right? Wrong.
Electronic devices are hot property that could get stolen at any time, and all of the data they contain go with them. Theft aside, there are cyberthreats too – like ransomware. Individual people don’t get targeted by ransomware as much as companies do, but it does happen. Avoid having to pay a costly fee to get files and data unlocked by doing regular backups.
12. Go Through Accounts From Time to Time
Things might seem well and dandy because everything’s running smoothly, but hackers are smart. They hide their malware and snooping software in hard to find places and do everything they can to avoid detection.
Make a point to periodically go through your main accounts and check for suspicious behavior. It could be anything. From an email subscription that the account holder didn’t sign up for, to small changes in security settings.
13. Be Careful With Online Shopping
Online businesses are a major target for cyber attacks. They hold a lot of sensitive data like credit card details and personally identifying information.
All of that data could land in the wrong hands if they don’t have reliable security systems in place. Plus, if they aren’t using a secure connection, then hackers could intercept any exchanges and steal a customer’s money and details too.
Unfortunately, there’s no real way to know if an online shop is doing all they can to protect customers’ data. That said, never shop on a site that doesn’t have an SSL certificate (the https:// extension). An SSL certificate means that they are encrypting transactions on their website so hackers cannot intercept them.
From the buyer’s side, they should also always make sure never to save their card details on an account. It might be annoying to have to type in those details every time you make a purchase, but it’s safer.
14. Become Best Friends With 2FA
Two-factor authentication is a great additional layer of security that anyone can (and should!) add to their accounts. Not all accounts have this feature, but people should make use of those that do offer them.
An account that has 2FA enabled will send an additional security prompt to another account or device. That security pin or answer has to be entered into the login attempt within a small window of time. Otherwise, the login fails, and the person cannot get into the account. Passwords can get compromised, and two-factor authentication can keep cybercriminals at bay even if that happens.
15. Delete Old and Unused Apps
The problem with apps is that they are potential entry points for malicious invaders to gain access to a smartphone. Even if an app is completely legit, it could be lacking in the security department, allowing attackers to take advantage of a security flaw.
Delete any apps that you don’t use anymore or no longer receive updates from the developer. When software stops receiving updates, it might mean that the developer has abandoned the project. Which could open up new security holes that they haven’t yet identified.
16. Think Twice Before Clicking on an Ad
That flashy advertisement could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Cybercriminals hide their sketchy websites behind alluring advertisements and pounce on anyone who clicks on them. Only click on an ad if it’s really necessary and stay vigilant.
If the ad opens up to a website that doesn’t look like what was being advertised, then close it quickly. Pay close attention to the URL while the website loads, as well.
17. Password Management is Key
Passwords are often the only thing standing between users’ accounts and hackers getting access to their information. It’s therefore vital that these passwords are protected at all costs. Following good password hygiene is important, and getting a password manager is a good option too.
This will help a lot with remembering hard passwords. It will also keep people from reusing a password for multiple accounts, which is a very bad idea.
18. To Plug or Not to Plug? Think Carefully
Plugging in any unfamiliar external devices is always a risk. There’s no real way to know what the drive has been plugged into and whether that device was compromised. If it’s a friend’s or colleague’s drive, run the computer in safe mode first before plugging it in and scan it for any viruses.
19. Check Up on Bank Statements
One of the easiest ways to determine if an important account has been hacked is to check bank statements regularly. Any strange or unauthorized purchases, no matter how small, are an indication that an account (or accounts) have been compromised. The harder part comes in when it’s time to identify which one is the culprit, but the statements sometimes provide a clue.
20. Try Email Encryption
Anyone who sends emails of a particularly sensitive nature should invest in email encryption software. Especially freelancers or remote workers who deal with business over email. Though this can be a good option for anyone, who doesn’t want their emails hijacked by cybercriminals.
Emails can be used to identify a person and gain information about their accounts. That information can then be used in targeted phishing attacks that are hard to discern from the real thing.
Some of these tips might be common, but repetition can’t hurt. In fact, when it comes to forming good habits, repetition is great. So keep these valuable tips in mind every day, and soon online security will feel like second nature.
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