With the increasing rate of computer crimes cases, forceful intrusions and infiltrations into secure Wi-Fi networks, personal computer files and information and daily cases of thefts of personal and financial information via phishing, email scams and a recent trend which involves the hacking and hijacking of social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp accounts; it only becomes highly important to do everything possible to protect ourselves while we are using the Internet.
The actual truth is that there is really nothing we can do to ensure that we never have our privacy compromised in today’s ultra-connected world.
But we can take steps to mitigate the risks associated with being online as much as possible. Here are some tips to help increase our online security:
- LIMIT THE PERSONAL INFORMATION YOU SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Privacy starts by actually being intentionally private. This means you must try to resist the urge/tendency to overshare your personal information online especially on the various social media platforms. Providing too much information on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram could increase the probability and or make it easier for cybercriminals to obtain identifying information, which could allow them to steal your identity or to access your financial information. Your reward for sharing your e-mail address and phone number? Hundreds of spam in your e-mail inbox and hundreds of robocalls on your phone. Even if you can’t avoid sharing this info with Internet services and online stores, don’t share it with random people on social networks. And consider creating a separate, disposable e-mail address and, if possible, a separate phone number for these cases. Create an additional e-mail account and purchase an additional SIM card to use for online shopping and other situations that require sharing your data with strangers.
- GET TO KNOW SOCIAL NETWORKS’ PRIVACY POLICIES & SETTINGS
You must ensure you always keep abreast with you the privacy policies of various social media platforms. This will help you to know what information to share and how whatever you share will be used by the social media platform, and also, it will help you to know your rights and privileges in the event a dispute occurs. Check them fairly regularly, too, because Facebook and other social media channels change/update their privacy policies from time to time.
- USE MESSAGING APPS WITH END-TO-END ENCRYPTION
Most modern messaging apps use encryption, but in many cases it’s what they call encryption in transit — messages are decrypted on the provider’s side and stored on its servers. What if someone hacks those servers? Don’t take that risk — chose end-to-end encryption — that way, even the messaging service provider can’t see your conversations.
Use a messaging app with end-to-end encryption — for example, WhatsApp;
Note that by default, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Google Allo do not use end-to-end encryption. To enable it, manually start a secret chat.
- PLACE PRIORITY ON SECURING YOUR MOBILE DEVICES
In today’s cyberworld, many of us spend more time surfing the web, answering emails, and watching videos on our smartphones than we do on our personal computers. It becomes very important, then, to put as much effort into protecting our online privacy on our phones and tablets as on our computers.
To start, make sure to use a passcode to lock your phone. It might seem like a hassle to enter a code every time you want to access your phone’s home screen. But this passcode could offer an extra layer of protection if your phone is lost or stolen. Make sure your passcode is complex. Don’t use your birthdate, your house number, or any other code that thieves might be able to guess.
Use caution when downloading apps. These games and productivity tools could come embedded with dangerous viruses or marketing adware and cookies. Also, consider providing an extra layer of security on your smartphones by utilizing an effective antimalware/antivirus software program.
- USE QUALITY ANTIMALWARE SOFTWARE
Ensure you always install antivirus software on all your devices. This software can keep hackers from remotely taking over your computer, accessing your personal and financial information, and tracking your location.
And once you install this software, don’t forget to always update the antivirus definitions and program. Manufacturers frequently update their virus protection software as a defense against the latest malware, spyware, and other viruses. Install updates as soon as they become available. A very good example of an antivirus program I will recommend is Sophos.
- ADD TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION
Two-factor authentication or also referred to as 2FA can mean the difference between safe data and complete and total destruction. Add it to your primary email addresses and social media accounts that offers this service. It might not always be convenient, but it will keep your accounts safe. At the very least, you will be the first to know if someone is hacking your account. If two-factor authentication is not available for a particular service then you must create very strong passwords and change them regularly.
- ENABLE REMOTE WIPE
Android Device Manager, iOS’s Find My iPhone and third-party apps such as Avast Anti-Theft will ensure your data remains safe if your device is lost or stolen. In the event that your mobile device gets stolen or misplaced, you can remotely initiate a device wipe, which clears and formats your device. This ensures that the thief in possession of your device does not have access to your personal information. It is better to lose a mobile device with no personal information stored in it than to lose both the device and personal information which scammers and con artists can use to perpetrate frauds to other contacts in the phonebook or contact address list.
- SECURE YOUR WI-FI CONNECTION
Since we spend most of our time on the internet and in today’s world where most people connect to the internet via Wi-Fi, it becomes necessary to always secure personal hotspots or Wi-Fi connections with the strongest encryption method that’s supported by your device or router. If you have an older router that only supports WEP and WPA encryption, I strongly recommend upgrading to a newer, more secure model. Most Wi-Fi devices and routers offer various security options such as: TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol), WEP (Wired Equivalent Protocol), WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), WPA2, WPA2-AES (Wi-Fi Protected Access – Advanced Encryption Standard). Avoid TKIP and WEP by all means possible. WPA2-AES is the best option for wireless network security if it is an option your device have available, if not; you can go with WPA2. If you have an older router that only supports WEP and WPA encryption, I strongly recommend upgrading to a newer, more secure model.
While it is very important to understand that your personal and financial information is always at risk whenever you are online, the tips listed above can help keep you as safe as possible while minimizing the risks associated with being online.