Staying safe online seems to get harder and harder, and whilst there are a lot of applications out there that can prevent most intrusions from getting through to you, not everything can be blocked out. After all, you’re connected to a network, and that means you’re connected to thousands of other people and their devices – something might just use all of these readily available web threads to find you.
Are You As Safe Online As You Think?
You can leave all kinds of footprints across the web. You can input all kinds of data onto your social media, and anyone could pick up those details, even when those profiles are private and only you can see them. You can enter a postcode to your local delivery service, to make sure they can bring the pizza you’ve ordered to you, but who knows who else might see it.
However, if you’re someone who has grown up with technology, or you’re someone who’s been on the internet for quite a few years now, then you will spot a hack attempt or a phishing scam in your Inbox from a mile away. And that’s good; you want to be as savvy as possible in staying safe in a digital society, the same way you would when stepping outside your own front door.
But to stay as safe as you can, you might need to learn a few more things. So let’s think about methods that take your internet protection a step further, and how you can use them in your day-to-day internet life.
Change Your Password
If you’re ever worried about the security of any of your online accounts, then it’s a good rule to change your password. You want something different, and hopefully a little stronger, and then you want to remember it for next time. But other than situations like these, how often should you change your password? How many different combinations do you need to remember?
Well, in history, we’ve been told to change our passwords every 30 days or so, maybe even every 60 days. And whilst on the one hand that seems like a smart idea, in practice, it’s a pretty terrible one. The more you change a password, the more likely you are to fall into bad habits to try to remember it – you use familiar names and dates to bulk them out, you make them all the same length; you use the same symbols etc. And that makes any password you come up with a lot less secure than it should be; they all follow the same pattern, and that makes them easy to crack.
So when you should you think about changing your password? Well, there’s quite a few occasions: when there’s been a security leak from a website and you’re worried about your account, when you’ve noticed suspicious activity on your account and you know you authorised none of it, and when you’ve used your account on a public computer (say at an internet cafe) and you believe you may have forgotten to log out.
Make Sure Your Firewall is Turned On
A firewall is a good line of defence between you and anyone who wants access to your computer, and you always need to make sure it’s turned on. Usually, computers will have them set to automatic activation, but if you have an internet security package installed on a computer that already has a firewall built on, they can cancel each other out. Many people think these two firewalls will increase protection for their PC, but in reality, you will need to use one or the other.
If you’ve got a Windows PC, then a firewall should come inbuilt in the system. Make sure this one is turned off when you install something like Norton or McAfee, to make sure the firewalls they put up will do the job – the ones in these programs will let you know when they’re turned off, but Windows probably won’t.
But if you’re using a Linux system, as you probably are, then you will not need to worry too much about whether or not you’ve got a firewall on – these systems by nature do not tend to need this kind of protection, but there’s always an option to enable one if you’re not sure. Overall, it’s a good idea to keep in mind, no matter what kind of PC you’re using – the ones at the library or the friend’s laptop you resort to from time to time might crop up a firewall issue whilst you’re using it.
Try Using a VPN
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) means you can clean up the traces you leave online, as it’s a program that allows you to encrypt any data you use to access the internet and all of its websites. When you’ve got a VPN running in the background, you’ve got a wall between you and anyone who’s looking to sneak into your system, and it’s a wall they can’t break down. And if you’re someone who uses public WiFi regularly, then you will want to grab yourself a VPN as soon as possible!
A virtual network is created when you use a VPN, and that means any of your transactions and connections online are contained in a little bubble no one else can see. And once you log off of that virtual network, no one can access it again, meaning hackers or any other potential intrusions can’t pick up a trace either. And hey, a VPN channel can be easy to set up, what with all the new technology on the block that allows you to download, install, and then click on a few buttons here and there when you want to connect.
Spellcheck is a wonderful tool. It keeps us on the straight and narrow in being professional in our communications, and it makes submitting a dissertation for a college program a lot less stressful. But in using the online world, you will have to be up to date on your own spelling and grammar lessons.
When you visit a website, a few typos here and there might seem harmless on the surface, but they could be a sign that the page in front of you is nowhere near legitimate. And that means you should leave as soon as you came – but many people ignore these mistakes and continue on, clicking tabs and opening up the links the website offers you.
And whilst a few typos here and there might just be the work of an amateur web designer, it’s not something you want to chance. There’s a reason companies with bad websites lose so much business, after all.
So, Ready to Get Safer Online?
We all are, but a lot of us don’t realise how unsafe we’ve been so far. We have our social media profiles set to public, letting anyone see where we went to school or where we work now – and that’s just a small example of how much a potential hacker or scammer could get to know about us. So make sure you’ve got ideas like these in mind, the next time you hit the web.
Image Credits: Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash