I often get asked by my friends and family how to stay safe online so I have decided to put something together for them. There is always friction between convenience and security - as a rule of thumb, the more secure something is the less convenient it is. There are obvious exceptions though.
Here are some tips that will help you be more secure online:
- Use a strong and separate password for your email. (Tips on a strong password - just use 3 random words). Email accounts are often gateways to many other online accounts - you can typically reset many accounts using your email address hence protect it accordingly.
- Install latest software and app updates. Latest software typically has the latest security updates and hence reduces the chances of having vulnerabilities. It also has the added advantage of having the latest features.
- If 2-factor is available enable it. 2FA is a vital security measure that significantly enhances the protection of your digital accounts and data. It helps prevent unauthorised access, it helps defend against password theft and phishing as the attacker won’t have the second factor in use.
- What is Two-factor authentication (2FA), also known as two-step verification, this is a security process that requires two separate forms of identification or authentication before granting access. It is designed to enhance security by adding an extra layer of protection beyond the traditional username and password combination. The two factors typically fall into one of three categories:
- Something You Know: This is typically your password or a personal identification number (PIN).
- Something You Have: This can be a physical device, such as a smartphone, security token, or smart card, which generates one-time codes or serves as a key to access your account.
- Something You Are: This category includes biometric data, such as your fingerprint, retina scan, or facial recognition.
- Use password managers means you can have unique passwords for each service and you don’t have to remember them all. Don’t reuse the same or similar passwords across multiple websites and applications. When you do, if a hacker compromises one of your accounts, all of your other accounts using that same password could be vulnerable.
- Backup your data. If you loose your laptop you don’t want to lose all your data.
- Use privacy controls on your device to control who has access to what data.
- Most operating systems come with an antivirus capability, ensure its switched on unless you are running a third-party product.
- Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages. Doing so may install malware on your device.
- Report unsolicited emails as spam or junk and delete them rather than clicking the unsubscribe button. Clicking unsubscribe informs scammers that your email is actively used, which puts you at further risk of being targeted. These buttons additionally may lead to malicious content.
- Be cautious about sharing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) over the phone, in email or via text message, especially if you did not initiate the contact.
- Limit how much information you share on social media and lock down the privacy settings on your accounts. The information you share online could be exploited by fraudsters.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi hotspots—like the ones at coffee shops, airports, hotels, etc. Instead, stick to the mobile network and create a personal Wi-Fi hotspot with your phone. If you do use public Wi-Fi, be sure to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so that others can’t intercept your communications.
- Don’t use publicly available charging cords or USB ports with your devices. These can be used to deliver malware onto your device or steal your data. Always be sure to plug your cord directly into the power source.
- Secure your home Wi-Fi by changing the router’s default password and username. Create a separate Wi-Fi network for your guests and make sure it’s not connected to your home’s “smart” devices.
The following list is not exhaustive but are handy ways to enhance your security and privacy online.