10 Security Tips to Protect Your On-line Life

1 – Regardless of location, always look at your physical surroundings, before entering sensitive information on your phone or computer. Spies are everywhere. They may not be hacking you, they may have already hacked that security camera over your shoulder.

2 – When on a public network, use a VPN to keep your traffic encrypted on the public network. Two weeks ago, I was at the public library. To check the environment, I ran a scan on the wireless network I was connected to. I was able to see passwords for different accounts being sent ‘in the clear’. I quickly turned the VPN on.

3 – Keep your device updated. Device and Operating System providers are notified daily of weaknesses in their products. These updates often include patches to those vulnerabilities.

4 – 2FA. Two-Factor Authentication. It is slow, cumbersome, tiresome, and even annoying as hell to enter in a password, then wait for a text message to complete a login. All this just to check e-mail or log into Facebook? But when you have to do the same for your bank account it clicks and makes more sense. Use it everywhere it is offered. That added layer of time and forced patience may just save your privacy and your money.

5 – Use the safest web browser. New testing in 2019 shows Firefox is back, topping the list as the safest browser to use, after a complete overhaul. It is followed by Chrome, Opera, Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Vivaldi and Tor. Exact details on how this order was determined are not available. A balance of functionality, speed, and security are your markers to choose the browser that best meets your needs.

6 – Search Engines. Everytime you search on Google or Bing, it comes at a cost. Cookies and other flags are set on your machine which allow identification and tracking of your online activities. This is why searching for something ensures you are flooded with ads related to that item.DuckDuckGo.com claims to be a tracking free web search engine. Consider using it to protect your privacy more.

7 – Personal information on social media. Who can see it? Only you? Good. Just your friends? Not so good. After all, what are your requirements for accepting a ‘friend’ request on Facebook? Limit what information you post to Facebook and who you share it with. On any given day, someone I know is sharing their schedule. Or when they are leaving for vacation. Or when they will be away for a long weekend. Protect yourself and stop sharing this information online.

8 – Beware of phishing links in your e-mails. Notifications of a file you need to log into a website for is helpful. But if you are not expecting the file, do not follow the links. Once you have followed the link, check the address in the browser address bar, to make sure it is relevant to where you expect you should be.

9 – Messaging apps. WhatsApp used to be the holder of the title of ‘most secure’ and ‘safest’ for direct messaging. That was until 2014 when it was purchased by Facebook. Now there are serious questions about what information is being collected by Facebook. iMessage, Wickr and Signal are the top three, now that WhatsApp has been put in a compromising situation.

10 – Passwords. Keep different passwords for each site/account/login. In today’s world this is really difficult. The use of a password manager can provide highly complex passwords that are different for each site and are easy to change, frequently. Ensure a minimum of 12 characters of mixed case and includes both numbers and other characters.

Author: Daniel Curry, owners and CIO of Indy’s IT Department.  Indy’s IT Department bring stability and reliability to your computer systems and network through regular maintenance, policies and procedures.  As an ‘IT Department for hire’ we specialize in the small and very small businesses of 30 or fewer users who want and need the support of a full-time technical staff without the full-time expenses.