Staying Safe Online

Staying Safe Online

12th February 2018

With the internet becoming a more dangerous place, are you taking the necessary steps make sure your personal information is secure? With the increase in devices used to connected to the internet, like smartphones, tablets, to internet-connected appliances, the risk is higher than before.

If you are unsure on how to stay safe online then below are some useful tips that will help along the way to hugely reduce the exposure to these threats.

(1) Complex Passwords
Creating a strong, unique password for all your online accounts is critical as it is the best way to keep your personal and financial information secure. When creating a password its a good rule to include at least one capital letter, one number, and one special key (special keys being +*&$£). A good idea is to use passphrases rather than passwords.

Make some simple changes to the phrase to help make it more acceptable to a complex password policy, as well as to avoid dictionary attacks. All your passwords need to use the same changes, that way you won't forget them. An example of such changes can be:
Replace the spaces with underscores.
Replace the last letter with a digit that denotes the number of words in the phrase.
Capitalize the second letter of each word.
 
(2) Boost Network Security
When your browsing online at home its safe to say you are connected to a password protected router that is encrypting your data. When you are connected wired this is the most secure connection you can get, on the other hand its vitally important that your routers WiFi is secured by a password with WPA2 + AES encryption for the best results.
 
We are most vulnerable when we are on the road, as you may be tempted to use free, public WiFi, this can have significant consequences as public WiFi is unsecured, making it very easy for a hacker to access your device and information. Not to worry there there is a security procedure you should consider investing in, that is a VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPNs are software that creates a secure connection on the internet, encrypting all your data so anyone snooping can't see any your data transactions. You can safely connect from anywhere. There are some great free VPNs out there like TunnelBear. The only problem with free VPNs are that they reduce your network bandwidth significantly so if speed is what your after while connected then paid VPN is your better option.
 
(3) Use a Firewall
 A firewall is an electronic barrier that adds another layer of security, by blocking all unauthorized outbound or inbound traffic from your computer. This is important as these devices usually are not equipped with security measures leaving you open to attacks from hackers, by giving them a vulnerable point of entry to your network. Most home routers have a basic firewall function and at the very least you can block connections coming from the WAN (connection to the internet) but allow connections to the internet from the LAN/WLAN (connection to your home devices via cables / wireless connection).
 
(4) Protect Your Mobile Life
 With the advancements in technology over the last 15 years in mobile phones, they are no longer used for the sole purpose of making phone calls. With our constant demand to be able to access our accounts on the go its become increasingly important to ensure our mobile devices are safe. With the increase in app usage, this increases the risk. Be sure to download apps from your providers official app store after reading user reviews. Be sure to enable your security software on your phone just as you would your laptop.
 
(5) Click Smart
With the rise in online threats mostly coming from phishing or social engineering, do not invite any unwanted danger by carelessly clicking. These threats trick you into revealing personal information for fraudulent purposes. These threats usually come in the form of Spam emails, phony free offers, click bait, and online quizzes all designed for you to give up personal information. Beware of web popups claiming that your machine is infected by a virus and advising you that you should call their tech support line for help. These are often a tech support scam with premium phone lines. They have also been known to talk end user into giving them access to machines using valid remote support tools. Once they are on your machine they have been known to place malware on the machine or in some of the worst cases log into bank accounts and transfer money.
 
(6) Secure Shopping and Surfing
With the increased use of online shopping, and the use of banking apps, comes the risk of hackers getting hold of your banking details. Always make sure that when visiting shopping sites, or your banks web page that the sites address starts with HTTPS and not just HTTP, and has the little gold padlock item in the URL address bar. This ensures your data is secure and encrypted to stop it being intercepted by anyone else.
 
(7) Updates
Keeping all your software up-to date plays a vital role in staying safe online, Software Manufacturers will release security updates once they are made aware of vulnerabilities in their software. Ensure all the latest security patches are installed, and automatic updates are turned on so you don't forget. Run security scans regularly.
 
(8) Latest Scams
With the continual evolution of online threats knowing what to look for is always good practice. With the most recent rise in Ransom-ware its vital you stay informed. Ransom-ware is when a hacker threatens to lock you out of all of your personal files unless you pay them a ransom fee. Stay on top of these and other threats by staying informed.

Microsoft provide some great tips on keeping your computer secure at home