In this day and age, it seems like everything takes place online. From your shopping expenditures to most of your communications, the internet has truly become a part of every part of our daily lives. And while there are several benefits to the ease and immediacy of the digital age, there are also several security breaches that can arise when living a life online. Check out these few key "Dos and Don'ts" to ensure your time on the internet is safe and secure.
The free WiFi in Starbuck or McDonalds can seem like a dream come true when you're desperately trying to catch the last few juicy minutes of the newest episode of This Is Us. But the seemingly simple act of jumping onto the guest WiFi can give hackers the tools they need to eavesdrop on your activity. That being said, watching Netflix while on free WiFi should be fine. Logging into your bank account, on the other hand, should probably be avoided until you're back on a more secure system.
If you're like the majority of America, you probably use the same three or four passwords for every account. However, according to Forbes, computers can easily crack passwords that are less than 50 characters long. This means that if someone hacks into one of your accounts, they have the ability to jump into each account that shares the same password. Use a password manager that will not only create strong and unique passwords, but also will remember them on your secure computer for an easy login.
While you're probably not sharing pictures of your driver's license or address on Facebook, you may still be sharing sensitive details without realizing it. Having location services enabled can notify thieves of your address or the fact that you are traveling. Check your settings to ensure that location services are not in use 24/7. Additionally, make sure you're only accepting friend or message requests from people you personally know. Finally, the safest way to share on social media is through a private or "Friends Only" account. Check your social media settings to see how many people can currently be viewing your posts.
There's probably a strong chance that you're no longer using your middle school Hotmail email address. However, if it's still alive and well, all your files and photos can still be accessed and compromised by hackers attempting to breach your information. Take some time and shut down the accounts you no longer use. Closing out those old MySpace and Neopets accounts can keep your history safe.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, phishing is a technique used by scammers to trick people into sharing personal information. These emails or text messages will usually appear to come from a reputable source (i.e. IT department, CEO, etc) and will ask you to click on a link and take immediate action.
These are usually extremely hard to recognize as they will take the form of communications you usually receive. However, there are a few things you can keep an eye out for to ensure you don't fall prey to identity fraud or ransomware. These emails will probably: ask you to click on a link for payment, attach a PDF of a fake invoice, offer a coupon or reward, claim there are problems with your account, and ask you to confirm personal details.
According to TIME, setting up two-factor authentication across your most-used accounts can help prevent scammers. This multifaceted authentication will ask for an additional step after you have entered your password. This will usually involve a unique code that is texted or emailed to the contact information they have on hand. Although some feel this method is too time-consuming, it is a key way to ensure security.
Always think twice about sharing your social security number - even just the last four digits. According to the previously mentioned Forbes article, many companies ask for your social security number because it allows them to tie your information together with multiple different sources. However, you are only required to share your social security number with the Federal Government. The car rental company or fancy hotel has no claim to that information, so feel free to turn down their request.
Keep these key "Dos and Don'ts" in mind throughout your time on the internet. Utilizing these few security techniques can ensure your experiences online are fast, reliable, and (most importantly) secure.