Up Your Personal Online Security

We are constantly connected. Whether it’s on a smartphone, a tablet or a computer – connectivity is a given. However, by being connected almost 24/7, it also opens up the doors to a few scaly characters itching to get their hands on your personal information. Here are 13 top-tips that should set you in good stead towards hack-proofing your life.

hack1.   Use strong passwords. Hackers tend to use special software that runs automatically and tries to guess your password by attempting different combinations of words, numbers and symbols. The more complex the password, the longer it’ll take for the software to figure it out.

2.   Change your password regularly. This is especially important when it comes to your online banking and other personal services. Also avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. If the idea of multiple passwords leaves you cold, there are several free and reliable password management apps available.

3.   Clear browser history. This applies to all devices you use to go online – your computer, tablet and smartphone. Most mainstream browsers keep a detailed record of what you do online, what you share and what you save and/or send. If you want to protect your online privacy, clearing your browser data is a clever move. You can also make use of Incognito browsing and prevent your browser from storing data.

4.   Avoid free Wi-Fi hotspots when you can. Since these Wi-Fi networks aren’t password protected, it’s much easier for sinister users to access the network. Once they have access to the network, they can then see who’s online and track your usage, steal information and even take control of your device.

5.   Forget Wi-Fi networks. Once you’ve finished using an unfamiliar Wi-Fi network, make sure your phone or tablet forgets the network. This will prevent your device from automatically connecting to that network in future. You want your devices to only connect to Wi-Fi networks you trust, such as your home network. Keep in mind that hackers can trick your device into thinking it’s connecting to a known network. However, you should be safe at home since a hacker would need to be in relatively close proximity to fool your device into joining a duplicate network.If you’re unsure about your at-home security, you can forget your home network as well.

6.   Check for HTTPS. This is vital when you’re accessing sensitive information online such as banking. Check the page address for HTTPS at the beginning of the address. This just tells you that the site contains extra security measures to make your browsing more secure. All banking sites have HTTPS. If it doesn’t, it’s not a secure site.

7.   Click carefully. Just because it’s a link, doesn’t mean you have to click on it. If you don’t know the link, rather ignore it. Suspicious links often contain extra functions that, once you click on them, start running on your system. This is most often used to register keystrokes (ie. it records everything you type), or it could install spyware on your system without you even realising it.

8.   Think before you insert. Whenever you come across an unfamiliar CD, DVD, memory stick or other storage device, make sure to scan it before you open any of the files.

9.   Download with care. When downloading content or files, make sure your firewall and antivirus is running at all times. Also only use trusted sites before clicking on the download button. This rule also applies to email attachments. If you’re unsure, it’s better to rather not open an attachment.

10.  Don’t use public computers for personal business. This includes internet cafés, libraries and your workplace. Rather do your banking or taxes on a computer you know, where you have control of the security settings and who accesses the computer.

11.  Log out when you’re done. A simple way to prevent unwanted access to your personal profiles is to log out of all sites when you’re done. Also make sure the “Remember Me” option is not selected when logging in to a site.

12.  Keep your anti-virus updated. While it won’t necessarily prevent someone from accessing your system, it can warn you against potentially dangerous websites. It will also warn you if someone or something (like a virus or spyware) tries to access your computer.

13.  Update your operating system regularly. Hackers rely on flaws in operating systems and software to gain access easily. To prevent hackers from exploiting these flaws, your computer or mobile device will notify you of updates. It’s best to install these updates as soon as possible. However, always make sure it is a legitimate update. A simple Google search should clear things up in minutes.

14.  If you don’t want it online, don’t put it online. Should you be unfortunate enough to get hacked, you can still ensure that only select information is accessible. The best way to prevent anything unwanted from getting into the hands of a stranger is to rather not put it online at all.4