6 Steps to Hacker Proof Your Life & Stay Safe Online
With all of the recent ransomeware, phising scams, and data breaches in recent months, I know most of you feel like it's an impossible task to keep your information private and out of the hands of cyber-criminals. Google and Facebook are spying on your and sharing your information. Big companies are failing to protect you from cyber-crime. Is it time that you abandon your digital life? It's true that large companies have become targets to data thieves, but you don't have to disappear off the grid to keep your data safe. So what can you do? Follow these steps if you want to lock down your information and increase your online safety.
1. Passwords are your best defense. I can never stress the importance of creating and using strong passwords for all of your online accounts. For many of you, a password is the online thing between keep you safe from a cyber-criminal. Yes, passwords are a pain in the butt, here are some rules you should follow when creating and using them.
Create unique, passwords that aren't hard to remember: The average 6 character password takes a hacker only a few minutes to break. You can add more protection by adding a few more characters which could extend the length of time to break it to about 30,000 years. Creating strange phrases like 'SpaceyElephant451' or 'BumpyPinto836' is a great way of creating passwords that you can remember.
All of your online accounts should have different passwords. The worst mistake you can make is using the same password for all of your online accounts. Hackers benefit from this because if they figure out that your Facebook password is the same as your banking account, it just makes their job easier. If remembering passwords isn't your thing. Use a password manager such as LastPass (www.lastpass.com) or 1Password (www.1password.com) to keep track of all of your online passwords. These free programs allow you to enter in all of your passwords for your online accounts and then will automatically log you in using the different passwords you setup.
Change your passwords yearly. Get into the habit of updating the passwords for all of your online accounts once a year. This way, you can take time to get familiar with your newer passwords and won't get confused with what password is for which account.
2. Use Two Step Authentication for Your Accounts. Many online services offer two step authentication in an attempt to keep your account safe from the criminals out there. What is it? Two step authentication is a process that makes you enter in more than your username and password when accessing your online accounts. When you log in a website or a online service for the first time, you will be sent a verification via text to your mobile device confirming that you are trying to access the account. This process comes in handy in the chance that a cyber-criminal gets access to your username and password. If you don't enter the access code that is sent to your device, you don't access to the account.
3. Delete Those Old Online Accounts. Old online accounts don't disappear automatically. It's up to you to delete them. Why? You'd be surprised of all of the information those accounts hold, information that cybercriminals can use against you. Not sure of what accounts you have out lingering out there? There's a great website called AccountKiller which can help you track them down. (www.accountkiller.com). AccountKiller can help delete most online accounts, but some services have a pretty extensive process to permanently get rid of them. Also, deactivating an account isn't the same as deleting an account, so make sure you are deleting that account, not deactivating it.
4. Check to see if you've been part of a data breach. Worried that you've been a victim of a data breach? Fear not. Check out HaveIBeenPwned! (www.havibeenpwned) Pwned means owned in the gaming community, but just like the term means, HaveIBeenPwned is a great web site that makes sure that hackers don't own your sensitive data. The site keeps track of the information that was compromised in data breaches. Verifying that your information is safe is as easy as typing in your email address. It will let you know if your information has been compromised and what breach your information is associated with. You can also sign up to get notified if your information is part of future breaches.
5. Lock Down All of Your Social Media Accounts. Yes, cybercriminals look at your social media accounts. Use strong passwords with all of your social media accounts and don't use the same passwords. Don't fill out all of your information on your social media profiles. Change your privacy settings so only your friends can see what you are doing and be leary of who you connect with. That friend request you accept could be a cyber crook.
6. Keep Others Seeing Your Cookies and Surfing Habits. Cookies are tiny files that your web browser stores from each web site you visit. They are harmless, but many companies use your cookies to build a profile of you by using the information from your web browser to build a profile of you to target advertising to you. Cookies could also help a criminal get a profile of you so it's best to elimnate them. How? Use Ccleaner (www.ccleaner.com), a great utility that will clear out all of the cookies from all of the browsers on your computer and phone at the touch of a button. Want to keep sites from spying on your surfing habits? Consider using 'incongnito mode' or 'private mode'. This feature is included on all web browsers. It blocks other web sites from seeing where you've been.
What do you do to keep safe on the Internet? Please drop me a line and let me know!