Top 5 Ways to Stay Safe Online
There’s plenty written about online security and the threats that people face in an online world.
There are also a lot of different terms people use such as phishing, whaling, ransomware and it can get confusing so let’s keep it simple with the top 5 things you can do to be secure online and why:
1. Be Aware. This is far and away the best thing you can do to protect yourself online. The vast majority of all online issues occur from human error for a number of reasons. So, when you get a new email or a pop-up appears on your screen, there are a few simple things to ask yourself:
- Do I know this person? Mouse over the email address, check the spelling and make sure you know who it’s from
- Does it sound like them? If someone has sent an email pretending to be someone else, they generally won’t write the same way and use the same words
- Were you expecting it? An email from an old friend you haven’t heard from in 10 years is a good sign it’s not who you think it is.
- What does it say? Never accept a pop-up on your screen, reply to an email, or provide permissions to something if you don’t know what or who it is.
- If in doubt, delete or deny. If you aren’t sure then delete it or deny the request. They can always ask again if it’s legit.
The general rule is to delete or cancel unless you are certain.
2. Use multi-factor security. Multi-factor security requires an additional step when logging in to somewhere and most applications and web sites now support it. We all use it for our banking these days so it’s nothing new. It takes very little extra time and is well worth the security it provides. Your accounts should have instructions on how to set this up.
3. Password Safe. People commonly use simple passwords because their easy to remember and they use the same password for multiple accounts, so they don’t have to remember different ones. This is easy, but if someone figures out your password a lot of information is suddenly exposed and at risk. The solution is a password safe which allows you to create different, complex passwords for each account you have (and we all have a lot these days) without needing to remember them all. You only need to set a complex password to access the ‘safe’ and it does the rest for you. There are a number of tools available and they usually have browser plug-ins to automate a lot of the work for you. I use Lastpass. I also deviate from most people and recommend you write your password safe password on paper and store it somewhere safe so you can always get in if you forget, but do not store it electronically and do not carry it with you.
4. Do not complete Facebook questionnaires and challenges. Have you ever seen those Facebook posts where you have to answer 10 questions and pass it on? They seem like a harmless bit of fun, but if you look at the questions they’re typically asking you about where you first lived, your pet’s name, favourite colour etc – all things that people use when choosing passwords. Hackers use this information to try and work out your passwords to access your accounts, so the rule here is very simple – don’t complete them.
5. Create a separate email account for mailing lists. Don’t use your main email address for mailing lists and subscriptions. Use one account for email that you send to and from people, and another account for mailing lists and subscriptions. This way if the mailing list site is ever compromised your primary email address is still kept safe. You’re also less likely to get spam in your primary mailbox. I use Gmail.com and Outlook.com to keep emails separate.
Using these 5 simple tips will improve your online security.