While it may be true that the internet is a place of possibilities, it is also a hostile environment lurking with many dangers. By clicking on the wrong link, trusting the wrong person or using a weak password, you are virtually inviting hackers to access all your sensitive information.
Just think about it, your name, home address, and even payment gateway passwords or PIN numbers can all end up in the wrong hands, not to mention your private contacts and personal correspondence. Luckily, there is no reason to despair, at least not before you implement these five ways into your online safety protocol.
1. Email is a double-edged sword
Even though it is true that you can protect your email through a third-party program, keep in mind that you are also affected by the other end of the line. For example, if you send a credit card number via an email to a friend or relative and their email gets hacked into, your information will still be compromised. This is why you need to keep in mind just how unsafe this method of sharing information is and look for more secure channels. Other pieces of information you don’t want to share this way are your social security number, passwords for other platforms, and even some personal issues.
So if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to share a sensitive piece of information in this manner, it would be for the best to do so through a video call (through software like Skype and Viber). In this way, you know exactly who is there on the other end of the line. Apart from this Skype-to-Skype voice and video file transfers are encrypted, which means that you will be protected from a third party eavesdropping.
2. Come up with a good password
The next thing you could do to improve your online safety is to come up with a good password. The first thing you should avoid when thinking about a new password is using personal information like names of children, pets or birthdays of people close to you. The second thing you should avoid is using some of the most common passwords out there like ‘1234567’, ‘password’ or even ‘qwerty’. Overall, patterns are bad since they easily get broken. The best course of action would be to keep your password as random as possible, still not too random for you to have trouble memorizing it. Otherwise, you would have to write it down somewhere, which is both impractical and unsafe. The safest course of action would be to get a reliable password manager like KeePass or Clipperz.
3. Reliable networks and devices
More and more businesses take place on the cloud, which makes it easy for people to access their vital data from any spot in the world. Still, this is quite risky since typing in a password on a stranger’s laptop or phone can be extremely dangerous. The same goes for accessing your platform through a public network. Luckily, this can be made a bit safer by using specialized remote software like SecureLink’s Gatekeeper to access your work data. Of course, this digital tool doesn’t have to be used solely for work even though it’s the most common function of these tools.
Nonetheless, there is no way of knowing that keystrokes on the machine you are using are not logged on. This is why the only 100 percent safe method of staying safe is avoiding the use of untrusted machines altogether.
4. Stay anonymous if possible
Sure, there are some platforms that require you to be honest about your identity, but whenever possible, it would be best if you avoid using your full name. In this way, you can easily avoid getting identified by a third party and thus remain completely anonymous. Furthermore, if you did make a mistake of using something personal as a password, people won’t know where to look for clues. In this way, you can get the most out of a bad scenario.
You should also block third-party cookies (unless they are absolutely necessary) and use Tor (The Onion Router) for a higher degree of anonymity. The abovementioned Tor is a software specifically designed to allow you to use the web completely anonymously. Tor browser for Windows is fairly safe to install. All you need to do is download and install the browser and configure its connection to the Tor network. The installation and setup wizard is organized in a fairly simple step by step manner.
5. The threat of phishing
Finally, even the strongest password can be broken, but why would hackers even try to break it if they can trick you into giving it up on your own. It only takes a second of not paying attention to type your password into a wrong tab and practically give it up to a malicious third-party. Phishing is a global online phenomenon of using popup windows, which are the exact replica of the page you are trying to access. Luckily, a domain name is like a fingerprint, but you need to pay close attention to every letter, hyphen, and dash in order to stay safe. Most common targets are payment gateways, which also makes this trick costlier not to notice.
One of the ways to protect yourself is to distrust brand logos, headers and attachments coming from unknown emails until you confirm their identity. Furthermore, some addresses like ‘//www.yahoo.com’ may seem legit, but they are in fact not. An official Yahoo address always has a forward slash at the end so it looks like this ‘//www.yahoo.com/’. These are just some of the tricks you should keep an eye out for. While this particular example may be too subtle, the hackers you will be up against usually won’t be criminal masterminds. This means that their attempts can easily be spotted from a mile away, as long as you take enough time to check.
As you can see, there are more than a few ways to improve your online safety. While some of them require the use of specific software, the great majority only depends on your online behavior. This means that in order to protect yourself on the web, you will only have to change your online behavior patterns. Furthermore, you need to learn to suspect everyone of foul play. If you think google will never lead you to a bad site on its own, think again. The modern digital world is no short of a minefield and you need to thread it as carefully as possible.