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Cybersecurity is a very broad topic that is growing day by day and has the notion that this is only for the experts. So how can we as normal internet users apply it to our daily life? Should I have a degree in cybersec? Will I be able to secure myself without professional help?
Well, you’re in luck! We will provide a guide to help you to improve your digital security with as little hassle as possible!
How to Secure Yourself Online
The first thing to note is that anyone, anywhere, anytime can be a victim of hacking (including you), but there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk.
Use strong passwords for your emails and social media. Seems pretty straight forward right? Well, there are a few things that go under ‘strong password’.
1. Never use the same password for different online accounts.
But why? Well if one account gets hacked, the other accounts will soon follow. To stay safe, you can use anti-spyware software/tools which will remove spyware from your system.
The best way to secure your online accounts is by using two-factor authentication where you will have to confirm your identity twice: once from the credentials entered and then using a code sent to your phone or a similar method of authentication.
Also, don’t keep your passwords written on sticky notes and around your computer!
2. Stay safe from spyware.
In short, spyware is a type of malware that collects sensitive information without the victim’s knowledge. Here are some warning signs of having spyware installed on your system:
- the computer is slow when running/opening some applications
- random pop-up windows appear all the time
- error messages start to appear unexpectedly
- the homepage of your browser has been modified without your input for said action.
These tips will also help you to avoid spyware (prevention is always better than cure):
- Don’t click any suspicious links or pop-up windows
- Don’t answer to unexpected queries or simply choose No
- Be careful when downloading free applications
3. Keep Windows and apps up to date.
Software updates come with new features and fixed security issues. If the software is not updated, then you leave vulnerabilities for hackers to enter your system.
The updates are annoying but it’s better to spend a few minutes to fix the vulnerable parts rather than face a massive loss in the future. Software like Java, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Shockwave, or browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer should always have the latest versions because cybercriminals are constantly trying to find security holes in them.
To make life easier and safer you can either set your apps to automatically update or even download a tool to do this for you.
4. Use a standard user account in Windows.
You can set different levels of rights and privileges when using Windows accounts. Be sure to use a standard account daily instead of using the administrator account. Only an administrative account (once hacked) can make major changes like deleting system files or installing malicious software.
If you use a standard account, then before any major changes, Windows will prompt you to provide administrative credentials preventing unauthorized actions from happening without your knowledge.
5. Keep UAC (User Account Control) ON.
UAC is the window that pops up asking your permission before you make changes in the system. UAC monitors the changes happening in your system and prompts before installing or removing applications or before running some applications and this prevents the suspicious software from making changes since it lets you know before it initiates the process.
6. Use a secure browser when going online.
The main tool used to access the internet is your browser. So if the browser is not safe, it’s like giving a backdoor pass for cybercriminals to take your personal data like passwords, bank credentials or websites you visited (and we certainly don’t want that to happen).
To secure your browser you should do the following:
- Increase the privacy and security settings in your browser.
- Have the latest version of your web browser (update frequently)
- Use private browsing for sites you’re not sure about.
- Only use secure websites (https) when dealing with financial operations.
7. Be vigilant when using public or free WIFI.
Online criminals love to find potential victims connected to public WIFI. They use network sniffers which monitor and analyze network traffic and also harvest data that is transmitted over the network.
One way to increase the security is by using private browsing which prevents storing cookies (your credentials). This won’t stop the cybercriminals, but it adds a layer of security. The best way to stay secure and keep your data private is to use a VPN (virtual private network).
8. Don’t click on random links.
Some links might stumble upon you from very famous institutions or well-known, trusted brands or persons who will ask for your private information. Don’t do it unless you’re 100% sure of the authenticity. you might fall for a phishing attack.
You will be redirected to fake sites which look very similar, but you should be careful.
- Check the URL if it’s exactly the URL you want because some links look similar but are not.
- Check for the SSL certification on the URL bar
- When you are asked to click on a link (your personal bank site for example), hover over the link and see if it will take you to your bank account or some weird link (ger549.te). If it’s weird don’t go.
9. Don’t forget to log out.
Yes, this is something very common which slips our minds. Since we're used to using our own private PCs (laptops, phones, tablets), when accessing financial services or social media, were not bothered to log out of them.
But when we use public systems like at the office or even colleagues’ devices, we should be vigilant to always log out of our accounts. If you forget to log out of Facebook for example and the next person who will go on Facebook from that device will directly go to your profile.
My recommendation is to use a virtual browser or private browsing so that your credentials will not be saved.
10. Don’t post everything about your life on social media.
Sharing your life with others is good but too much will only come back to bite you. Putting too many personal details on your social media might lead cybercriminals to get ahold of your financial information. Keep in mind to check your kids’ accounts so that they won’t expose too much information (home address, what you own, how you go to work, etc.)
11. Stay away from questionable websites.
Don’t go or download content from shady websites (torrent sites for example). Even though this is not a guarantee that you won’t get infected because even from legitimate websites cybercriminals can inject malicious codes into unsuspecting visitors.
Any IT security expert will agree that there is no such thing as an impenetrable cybersecurity solution. However, with these tips and tricks, you would no longer belong to the majority of internet users who do not follow these steps and are at risk. Stay safe on the world wide web.