Burton Kelso, Tech Expert
How To Improve Your Internet Safety and Privacy
June is National Internet Safety Month which is an annual initiative by federal and state governments specifically dedicated to educating people on internet safety and promoting safe online practices and behavior. When you use the internet, you need to focus on creating habits that will help you protect your online privacy and security. Good habits protect your online privacy and strengthen your security, while the bad ones put you at risk to have your information and devices compromised by cybercriminals. If you need to know what positive habits to create when you're online, check out these quick and easy tips that will help you develop practices that will keep you safe from all of the threats on the internet.
Stop Using Passwords. You suck at creating passwords. When you create them, you focus on creating ones that help you remember them. This leads to the practice of using objects that are close to you .... such as the stuff you share on social media like your kid's names, where you grew up, the high school you attended and the list goes on. Instead, create passphrases. Passphrases are two unrelated words that form a strong password. A passphrase looks like donteatbrownsnow561! or thepurpleturkeypecks926. Using passphrases are easy to remember and harder for criminals to crack.
Stick to Using Secure Browsers. There are web browsers and then there are web browsers. Most of you probably are using Safari, Edge, or Chrome, but did you know these browsers collect your personal information and surfing habits to target ads to you? Don't believe me, read the terms of service (yes, I know you're not going to do that). Why is that a problem? Well, sometimes the big tech companies use 3rd party vendors to handle all of your data which can then fall into the hands of criminals. Instead, consider using secure web browsers like Brave, Opera, Firefox, and DuckDuckGo. These browsers are created by companies who don't want anything to do with your data and want to help keep your Internet experience safe and secure.
Visit Only Secure HTTPS Websites. There are millions of websites out there created by professionals and amateurs and you need to make sure when you visit one, you won't get your devices infected by drive-by hacking. Drive-by hacking can infect your devices with malware and ransomware so always make websites have the HTTPS when you visit them. This is especially important when you're visiting websites that you're planning to shop at.
Use a VPN When Browsing. A VPN stands for a virtual private network and it's a piece of hardware or software that keeps your information safe from the prying eyes of criminals by creating a protective tunnel around your data as you surf the web. If you work from home or work on the road using wifi at hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops, you need one to ensure that criminals aren't tracking the information coming from your devices. If you're looking for good VPN software, consider using TunnelBear (www.tunnelbear.com) , NordVPN (www.nordvpn.com) or the web browser Opera (www.opera.com).
Secure Your Accounts With a Password Manager. Do you remember the passwords for all of your online accounts? Of course, you don't. If you're like me, you have too many accounts and each one has a different password which is why you need a password manager. Password managers are great because they help you keep track of all of those different passwords for your online accounts and they will alert you if one of your passwords is leaked on the dark web of if you're using a common password. You can use password managers such as LastPast (www.lastpass.com), 1Password (1password.com) or just use the password manager which is built into your favorite browser on your computer, smartphone, or tablet.
Regularly Update Your Browser. If your browser is out of date, it can leave you and your devices vulnerable to drive-by hacking. This happens when you visit a malicious website and it infects your devices with malware or ransomware. Most modern browsers will update themselves, but it's always a good idea to double-check by going into the settings of Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Brave, and DuckDuckGo to verify you're using the latest version of your web browser.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication for Online Accounts. Two-Step or Two Factor authentication needs to be configured on all of your online accounts. This process helps stop criminals from accessing your online accounts. Here's how it works. If a criminal logs in to one of your online accounts or if you log into your account from a new location, you will get an alert via email or text message letting you know there is a new sign-in for your account. If it's you, you can verify your identity and you will gain access. If it's from a criminal, they won't be able to finish logging into your account because they won't be able to provide the other part of the authentication for the login. To enable this process, you need to go to the password and security settings for all of your online accounts to turn this on. Note: If a crook is able to figure out your password to get past the first form of authentication for your account, you need to change your password immeidately.
Check the Privacy Settings of Your Social Media Networks. Social media accounts are being attacked by online crooks because it gives them access to your accounts and your connections which allows them to send out phishing messages. Criminals can make a duplicate of your social media account to attempt to trick your friends into falling victim to scammy messages designed to make them give up important information. It's tempting to your friends because they think the message is coming from you. What's even worse, criminals can completely take over your social media accounts by locking you out of your personal and business accounts. If they take over your account, they can steal money from any credit cards you have attached to your accounts as well as ruin your online reputation. To stay safe, always use secure passphrases to protect your accounts as well as make sure your friend's list is hidden and make your social media account private. This can be done by visiting the settings and privacy for each of your social media accounts.
Protect Your Online Privacy With Preventative Security Measures. If you haven't done it, you need to visit haveibeenpwned today (www.haveibeenpwnd.com) to verify that your email and phone number aren't being shared on the dark web. Data breaches occur on a regular basis and many companies don't report that they have been breached. When you're aware of your personal data of yours is floating on the dark web, you can do a great job of protecting yourself from criminals.
I hope you can use these tips to help you stay safe when you're working and playing on the Internet as well as prevent your device data from being stolen by hackers. If you need further assistance, please reach out to me with any questions you might have. I am always happy to help!
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