7 Tricks to Keeping Safe Online

The internet can be a scary place. There have been billions of data breach victims over the years, and not just from low-budget, throw together websites like you’d expect. Major services like Facebook, Yahoo, and even the US military have all fallen victim to cyber crimes, affecting millions of accounts and citizens with each attack.

While the web may be turning dark, there is hope for our online safety yet. In fact, just by implementing a few simple strategies, you can reduce your online risk factor substantially. Some of it is just a matter of common sense, but there are also safety techniques you can try, safeguards you can implement, and practices you can learn more about to avoid hack attacks while using your mobile and home devices for online activities. Here are some tips from industry experts like McAfee and Norton to help keep your PCs, tablets, and smartphones safe from cybercrimes.

Online Security Tip #1: Make Use of Security Apps

How to stay safe online

As the saying goes, let’s fight fire with fire. If technology is giving you the problem, then why not use technology to find the solution? As technology gets more and more advanced, better and more secure security apps become available to the public. From Kaspersky to Bitdefender and Avast you can get apps that protect both your PCs and mobile devices. These apps offer excellent protection with features like call and SMS filters, intruder selfie snapshot, antivirus, camera and mic protection, app locks, and remote data wipe that keep your device and your data secure.

Make sure whichever security app you opt for (whether for mobile or desktop) has a firewall built into the package. A simple safeguard, a firewall is an easy way to keep your personal data in and prying eyes out. Good news is most if not all security apps offer firewall protection.

Online Security Tip #2: Protect Your Connection

One of the easiest ways in which cybercriminals attack is via unsecured network connections. In our ever-connected society, it’s hard for us to go even for a few minutes without our lifeline, the internet. That’s why people are only too happy to connect to free public WiFi networks. The problem with this is that hackers love to piggyback on these signals, effortlessly scooping up unaware users who have left themselves unprotected.

The way to keep yourself safe whenever connected to the internet is by using a virtual private network. This simple tool acts as a barrier between you and anyone eavesdropping on your internet activity. The best free VPN services will block anyone from picking up your information while you surf wherever you are. So, you can use one of these services when you’re on vacation, abroad on a business trip, or even when you’re out running errands.

Online Security Tip #3: Be an App Snob

It’s easy to be deceived by phony and malicious apps because they look just like any other app you’d purchase. What you don’t know is that bundled into this download is a virus that scans your device, logs your keystrokes, or infects your smartphone the instant it is installed. The solution? Be selective about which apps you download and what you give them permission to access. Is your calculator app asking to access your browser history? Sounds phishy, so it’s best to just avoid it altogether.

What’s even more discouraging is that 99.9% of mobile malware comes directly from third-party app stores. Since these stores aren’t regulated like the developer app stores (iTunes or the Play Store), anyone can submit an app. Hackers frequently load up third-party app stores with low-priced or free versions of popular apps, and people, assuming they’re getting a bargain, download these virus-laden apps. Bottom line, avoid using third-party app stores, or you might end up getting a lot more than you bargained for.

Online Security Tip #4: Go Easy on the Links

Watch those links you click on. Whether you’re on your smartphone, laptop, or home PC, don’t just go click happy. To begin with, check that any site you visit begins with an https, not just an http prefix. The ‘s’ stands for secure, so make sure the site is secure before you visit. Also, make sure you know the URL you’re being brought to, and only click on trusted links. If possible, enter the URL in manually instead of just clicking a link from within an email. For example, if you receive an email from your bank telling you to sign in right away using this link to correct an issue found in your account, don't click it! Get straight on the phone and talk to a service rep or visit your online account by typing in the bank URL by hand.

This is one of the easy ways hackers trick people into giving away their personal details. How? That email isn't really from your bank, and that link you just clicked on isn’t really bringing you to your bank’s login page. Instead, it is a front that looks like your bank’s login page. When you type in your information, you are effectively handing over your username and password to the hacker.

Online Security Tip #5: Update Often

This is another easy one to follow. Applications are upgraded when a new feature or content is added, but with each upgrade, developers tend to fix security issues as well. It’s kind of like fixing a crack in the roofing where water is leaking into the house. For this reason, it’s highly recommended to upgrade your apps (and especially your security apps) when new versions come out. You know, to avoid a massive flood.

Online Security Tip #6: Practice Password Power

Passwords are the key to unlocking all your accounts, and they hold a lot of power. With these keys, anyone can access your most personal data along with your bank accounts, social security number, and private records. With such a powerful weapon, it’s really surprising how lightly people take choosing a password. If you want to get serious about online safety, start taking this selection process more seriously. Follow some important password rules including:

Use a combination of numbers, random characters, and letters.

Pick long passwords (at least 15 characters long).

Avoid regular dictionary words.

Avoid using commonly known information about yourself like your dog’s name or your birthday.

Never, ever use an identical password for more than one account. If someone figures out your password, they'll have access to all of your accounts with that single password.

Don’t save your password in an obvious or accessible place. Instead, use a password manager to keep passwords organized.

Online Security Tip #7: Sharing Isn’t Always Caring

And most of all, think before you share. Because the internet is so open, we tend to be pretty free with our personal information. To keep yourself safe from serious threats like identity theft, think twice before sharing any of your information. This includes, of course, passwords and login information, but it also means more general data like your birthdate, address, or even favorite movie. Believe it or not, hackers can use all these little details to piece together a profile on you that will fool identity checks and give them access to your most important accounts.

Stay Safe Online Wherever You Are
The number of new malware threats grew by 54% last year alone, and cybercriminals are just getting more innovative as time goes on. Protect yourself by implementing these safety tips, adding extra layers of protection to your accounts and devices, and using common sense when interacting online to make sure you aren’t the next cybercrime victim on the news.
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