By Dennis McKonkie
In this digital age, the amount of personal information stored online increases almost daily. As a result, there are more opportunities for data breaches and hacking attempts to steal your digital data. Since it is near impossible to advise that you keep all data offline, here are some easy ways to keep your information as secure as possible.
Use Strong Passwords
When you have numerous online accounts, you may want to take the easy way out and use the same password everywhere you need to login. Do not do this. Use different passwords everywhere, so if one is cracked, the rest of your online accounts can’t be accessed also. There are three main characteristics that are essential to creating strong passwords: using all available characters, randomness, and length. Creating long passwords with upper and lower-case letters in a totally random order is the best way to create an uncrackable password.
Only Enter Personal Data on Secure Sites
When you are visiting a website, especially an e-commerce site where you may have to enter credit card information, ensure that the website connection is encrypted. This is easy to do, and all you need to look for is the little “lock” symbol to the left of the URL you are entering, and the letters “HTTPS” before the URL. To get a bit geeky, HTTPS is a secure version of HTTP, and ensures that any communication sent online is secured by a SSL/TLS connection. If you are wondering “what is TLS,” you are not alone. This indicates that your connection is secure and that the website you are visiting is less vulnerable to cybercrime. In essence, these protocols ensure that no one unauthorized can see or access the data you have entered, and also helps to verify that the person entering data online really is who they say they are.
Avoid Clicking on Unknown Links or Opening Strange Email Attachments
Whether it’s a link on a website you think is secure or an attachment in an email from someone you know, think before you click. Cybercriminals have gotten quite good at tricking people into clicking links or opening documents, thinking they are legitimate communications from their banks, insurance companies, and more. Before you open anything that seems suspect, look for red flags, such as misspellings in an email, or a strange email address. If a friend, particularly one who rarely contacts you via email, sends you something that doesn’t seem right, reach out to them before you open anything to be safe.
Ensure That You Have Security Software on Your Computer
Odds are your computer came with a trial version of some type of security software. If you have let that lapse, it is a good idea to look into getting something that will regularly scan your computer for threats and viruses before it is too late. There are a number of products available, and many are free or relatively inexpensive. It is much easier to be proactive than reactive, and having to clean a virus off of your computer once it has already been infected is much more challenging than simply installing some anti-virus software to prevent attacks.
Think Twice Before You Post Something Online
Before you post something online, be sure that it is something that you are okay with putting out there forever. They say that once something is online, it is always online. In the age of screenshots, this could not be more true. Further, when signing up for new social media accounts or websites, be sure that the information you enter isn’t too personal. For example, very few sites actually require a social security number, so think and verify before you give that type of data.
Remember these tips as you navigate your digital life. By making smart decisions online, you are much more likely to stay ahead of security threats and never become a victim.