It is said that most cybersecurity attacks can be avoided by following common sense and a handful of best practices. And that’s what this article is all about, to highlight 10 habits everyone should adopt in order to keep their data protected and stay safe online. Let’s get started…
1. Use complicated passwords
Again and again, we see that common sense is seldom common practice and that’s why all of us know many people who use insecure passwords. These would include the likes of “password123”, “child_name123”, “1234567890”, “first_name_birthday” and so on.
Generally speaking, a strong password uses a mixture of lower and upper case letters and special characters. Something like “VpNRep0rt$” will make it impossible for anyone or anything (a piece of software) to guess your password.
The problem with such complicated passwords is that they are impossible to remember. Therefore, you should use a password manager that will allow you to manage all your passwords from a single location. Good options include LastPass, 1Password and Nord Pass.
2. Change select passwords every quarter
While complicated passwords are impossible to guess, you should still strive to change it from time to time. Heck, there are some services that require its users to take this step – prompting them from time to time to select a different password.
You can be smarter than that by doing it yourself for both services that require this step and for those that don’t. You’ll want to focus your attention on key services such as social media, email, as well as all personal finance accounts (i.e. online banking).
And again, always go for strong passwords.
3. Avoid clicking links from sources you don’t know
One of the most common cyberattacks is phishing, which involves a person sending emails and text messages, pretending to be a person they’re not. These sort of scams often involve links that, once clicked, can lead to malware being downloaded onto your device.
So if you don’t know the sender of a message, don’t click on any link. Instead, you can delete that message and forget about it.
4. Keep your software up to date
Beyond getting access to the latest features, software updates also bring along important security updates. And it is these updates that could keep you protected on the Internet.
So make sure that all your apps are up to date, and this applies to both your computer and your mobile devices. Also, you may want to check whether there is a new version of firmware for your router and make sure it gets an update, as well.
5. Use multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication relies on the secondary proof of identification for logging in to certain accounts. Most banks require users to enable multi-factor authentication but you can also turn it on for other services, as well.
We suggest users to have it enabled on their email and social media accounts, as well as anywhere else where they share their personal information. On our end, we use multi-factor authentication across the board. It was a pain at first to set it up, but we think it’s well worth the effort.
6. Use a VPN
That’s what this entire site is all about – to promote the use of VPNs. They will make sure all your communication on the Internet is encrypted, making it impossible for anyone to snoop into your web traffic.
Also, a VPN will change your IP address, thus masking your real location – so that the likes of Google and Facebook can’t easily track you down. And the same goes for various government agencies that seemingly can’t get enough of our data.
7. Use anti-virus
An anti-virus is a must, especially for Windows PCs. With hackers getting increasingly sophisticated, it is crucial to have the best antivirus money could buy. And have it updated at all times. If there is an option for auto-update — and there usually is — make sure it’s turned on so you can get the latest virus definitions the moment they are released.
Modern cybersecurity solutions combine antivirus with other protection apps such as the firewall, an ad blocker and perhaps even a VPN. It is those bundled offerings that we suggest — cause they not only keep you properly protected, but also get you a better deal.
8. Perform regular backups
Important information should not be stored on a single device, cause something could always go wrong. For instance, your hard drive could break or someone could steal your computer.
Therefore, it is best to have the key documents and other files stored in multiple places. And that’s where cool backup software could help you out, making sure that in the event of an accident – you still get access to data you need.
You could backup on some cloud-based service or use an external hard drive. We would argue that the best backup combines the two solutions, but those would be your files – so it’s up to you to choose the best way for yourself.
9. Be careful with your sensitive information
You should take extra care of your personal information — which includes things like account numbers, your social security number, address, and so on. Chances are these data are present on your computer as you may need them in some instances, like when filing taxes online. Once you’re done with that, or some other, task – make sure you either delete this information from your computer or make sure it is properly protected. And yes, this would include passwords.
10. Regularly check your credit card statements
It can be a hassle to go through all your credit card statements, but it is arguably the easiest way to catch fraud. We are hoping that you won’t notice anything weird here, but you never know.
Another thing you could check is your credit report, which can be done for free once a year. With credit card statements – you don’t have those limits and you can login to your online banking account whenever you want. Make sure to use that option just to be sure everything’s ok.
Again, we know this is a daunting task – but is much easier than dealing with a scam afterward.
To sum it up, it doesn’t take a genius to protect himself/herself on the Internet – but it does require a little effort. And this effort, we think, is well worth it. Besides, after a month or two, the steps outlined above will become your habit and you won’t even notice that you’re doing anything special.