5 Ways to Improve Your Online Security
Avoiding dangerous websites and updating your computer’s operating system are great first steps to take if you’re concerned about boosting your online security.
With identity theft and password theft such big issues these days, there are more targeted steps that you can take to protect yourself online, though. Both Home Depot and, more recently, Target were the victims of password theft, which shows that this is very much an active issue.
Install a Password Manager
A password manager can help you to generate, store, and encrypt a different password for every website that you frequent. The gold standard is, of course, having a unique, hard-to-crack password for every website that you visit.
The longer and more complicated your password, the harder it will be for scammers using AI and robots to crack it using brute force algorithms. There’s another huge advantage to using a password manager: Using a password manager means that a scammer might, though probably won’t, be successful in cracking one password, but that same scammer will be very unlikely to crack all of your passwords.
Most people have relatively short, simple passwords. Worse yet, many people make all of their passwords the same so that scammers are able to infiltrate and compromise all of their accounts by simply knowing one password.
Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) is a surefire way to protect your data when you’re on a private wifi since it disallows would-be scammers the opportunity to eavesdrop and make off with your valuable data. VPN provides added online security.
Avoid Suspicious Material
When your computer’s virus protection software tells you that a particular website is dangerous or insecure, then consider going elsewhere. Similarly, you might want to reconsider responding to that Nigerian prince who promises to send over $5,000 if only he can have $300 by Friday.
Though fanciful, such requests are far from out-of-the-ordinary. People get these kinds of requests all of the time in the form of suspicious emails and email attachments. Perhaps worst of all, some email attachments can contain malware, which can bring your entire computer to its knees and fork over all of your personal files to scammers.
Also, be hesitant any time that a bank or online service asks you to confirm your credit card or something similar through email since banks, etc. rarely ask for that kind of sensitive personal information over email.
Install Anti-virus Software
Experts in the field of data security, PC Magazine says that installing antivirus software and keeping it updated with automatic annual renewals is the best way to protect against malware and ransomware. Ransomware is especially dangerous since it allows hackers to control all of your data until you provide a ransom. It’s scary stuff.
Use Two-step Verification
If you decide not to go with a password manager like LastPass, then at least update your personal information so that you can retrieve your password if you can’t remember it or deny someone the opportunity to glean your password should they try to do so with bogus contact information.
Also consider using two-step verification, also known as two-factor authentication, on your most important accounts like your Gmail or Yahoo! email account. Two-step verification can use a number of different pieces of evidence in order to verify that you are who you say you are.
One very common way that you probably already use two-step verification in the real world is an ATM card. The bank requires you to have both the card (first piece of evidence) and an ATM PIN (second step). This enhances the security of your card in the sense that even a would-be scammer who stumbled upon your card number would be thwarted without also knowing the PIN.
A one-time password or code generated and sent to your email account is another way that trusted websites use two-step verification to confirm that the person trying to log in really is you.
Two-step verification protects against password and identity theft by asking you to provide some unique knowledge (e.g., your favorite childhood pet’s name) or enter a randomly generated code sent to your email address in order to log into another website that you’re trying to access.