Navigating the online realm can be intimidating, no matter how long you have been using the Internet. It seems like every day we hear about another new variant of ransomware, another data breach affecting one of the companies we patronize, or another phishing scam trying to dupe us for one reason or another. Though it is true that the Internet should be treated with a level of respect for the dangers that lurk out there, it is something almost all of us cannot avoid using on a regular basis. The below five tips can help to give you peace of mind by allowing you to increase your ability to safely operate on the world wide web.
Use Strong, Unique Passwords
The fundamental building block of good personal or professional cybersecurity is the use of strong, unique passwords for every single login. A password is strong when it is complex and hard for another person to guess; thankfully, most websites require a certain degree of strength in passwords including a minimum number of characters, case sensitive considerations, at least one number, and a special character. While this means that no longer can we have someone with such a simple password as ‘123password’, it is important to consider the second piece of the password hygiene puzzle - unique. Be sure that your complex password for one site is not the same as or similar to your login for any other site. A major reason for this is data breaches; if you have an account with one company which suffers a data breach, it means that your login credentials are in some way made vulnerable and accessible to a malicious actor. Now if you had used that same login on a similar one for another website, then that hacker not only has access to the account with the breached company, but also to the other sites which you access with the same login information.
Stay in the know as to what threats are out there in order to avoid falling victim to them. This can be done by following cybersecurity professionals and companies on social media as well as paying attention to the news for various cyber threats such as phishing scams, ransomware attempts or attacks, necessary updates to help protect your devices, and much, much more.
Clean Up Your Accounts
Another step you can take to further strengthen your personal cybersecurity is to take a deep dive into your accounts and apps and clean them up. For social media sites, this means going through your friends and followers and deleting any dormant accounts as well as just taking off any folks who you no longer wish to share your life updates with. This simple step, taken on a semi-regular basis, can allow you to feel more confident and secure in your interactions while online.
Secure Your Apps
Be sure you are aware of what access the applications on your phone and other devices are privy to. If an app is asking for access to something that isn’t needed to operate said app, then be sure to turn off that access. For example, if a gaming app was asking for access to your camera when no element of the game required a camera to operate, it would not be wise of you to allow that access. You can also limit the times that a particular app has access to some of your information. Take the weather app, for example, it is helpful for that app to know your current location when you are in the app and trying to check out the weather forecast in your area, however, that app does not need your location on a constant basis - only when you are in the app. Most apps nowadays ask for your permission to access things like your location with the options of ‘never’, ’allow while using the app’, and ‘allow always’ - never opt for the ‘allow always’ option.
Consider Extra Security Measures
While ensuring the basics of cybersecurity are solid for you and your loved ones is very important, there are some additional steps you can take to bring your cybersecurity to the next level, making you even more secure while navigating the Internet. Tools such as a VPN, or verified private network, allow you to use the Internet safely regardless of where you are. When you use a VPN, your Internet traffic is encrypted, meaning that no one has the ability to spy on your activity and see what you are doing. You can also help yourself in your personal cybersecurity journey by using a password database; usually free or very affordable to use, a password database allows you to securely store all of your logins in one location behind the protection of one, complex password. This can be an attractive measure to take for many of us who are quite forgetful but still want to ensure we have access to our logins.
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