By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
It’s never been more important to implement online security best practices; with data breaches now commonplace and hackers becoming more sophisticated, we face endless security traps that can spell disaster each and every day.
Sure, some online security secrets take a while to master, but there are so many easy things you can do today to beef up your personal security. Here are just a few:
Step 1: Keep your software up to date
Yes, updating software can be a pain. It can leave you twiddling your thumbs for half an hour while you wait for it to finish installing, but don’t let this put you off.
These updates often offer crucial online security patches that act as repairs for any potential vulnerabilities, preventing hackers from taking advantage of said holes. As hackers become more sophisticated and find unique ways of accessing people’s personal information, it’s important to ensure that every piece of software on your computer, phone, even your IoT devices at home, is fully up to date.
Step 2. Use a password manager
We all think our passwords are super secure: for example, you took your pet’s name, changed a few letters to numbers, and sprinkled in a handful of miscellaneous symbols. But these passwords are not secure; in fact, a hacker can use techniques like credential stuffing to crack your password in seconds — especially if you’re reusing it over and over again.
By using a password manager, it generates totally random, unique passwords for each account. It remembers them for you so you don’t have to. All you need to remember is the master password. This means that, even if a hacker found your password in the aftermath of a data breach, they can’t use that combo to access your other accounts.
Step 3. Watch what you share on social media
One could argue that the whole point of being active on social media is to update others about what’s happening in your life. However, if you’re too forthcoming, you could end up giving hackers or phishers the information they need to craft a convincing con.
Think about the info we post on social media — your birthdate, kids’ names, maiden name, how many pets you have, where your favorite vacation spot is, your email, phone number, and so on. By scanning your social media, you could form a pretty detailed profile on a person—all of which can be used to steal your identity and compromise your online security.
So, make all of your social accounts private. Don’t share your email, phone number, or date of birth. And
Step 4: Be careful when shopping online
Nowadays, we don’t think twice about purchasing things online. Moreover, we’re also willing to buy products from brands we’ve never heard of — all because of a few good photographs on Instagram.
When inputting your credit card information before completing a purchase, make sure you see either a locked padlock or a key symbol in your browser (indicating the site is HTTPS vs HTTP), as that shows that the website is encrypted and secure. Also double check the URL itself (hackers love to set up fake websites: c0ach.com vs. coach.com, for instance). And wherever possible, use third-party payment services like PayPal to complete the transaction.
Step 5: Don’t click random links in emails
Most of us probably pride ourselves on our ability to sniff out suspicious emails and offers that sound too good to be true, and yet people still fall for it. Over 200 million phishing emails are sent out by hackers every day, emails that look almost identical to the real thing — bar a few grammatical giveaways or an inaccurate domain address (email@example.com vs. firstname.lastname@example.org, for example).
Never click on a random link in an email, even if the email comes from a trusted source, like a friend. Hover over the link and see where it takes you. Falling for a phishing scam takes just a couple of seconds, but it’s an online security mistake that can financially ruin you.
Bonus online security tip: Use Hotspot Shield when connected to free public WiFi
Connecting to public WiFi, like you’d find at a coffee shop or airport, is like a free buffet for hackers. When you connect to the network, your internet activity is exposed to anyone on that same WiFi network. To protect yourself, use Hotspot Shield to encrypt your connection. This makes you anonymous, invisible, and secure against hackers. Download Hotspot Shield’s free app today.