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Importance of staying safe online – 8 Must Know Tips

Web-connected devices become easy targets for cyber attacks. Researches already showed that a hacker attack takes place every 39 seconds. All the statistics shows one thing – you either learn the importance of staying safe online, or you eventually end up losing your money in a cyber-attack or the victim of identity theft.

You don’t have to be a computer wizard to stay safe online. With a little bit of preparation and the right tools at your disposal, even the biggest technophobes can learn how to navigate the internet without putting themselves at risk.

Here I have shortlisted 8 must know tips to help you to stay safe online.

1.    Create strong passwords

Setting a strong password is one of the most effective things you can do to avoid password hacks. The more secure the password, the more difficult it is for hackers to attack your system and it is high priority of being safe .

If you have to remember a number of accounts and passwords use a password manager. 1Password, LastPassDashlane and Sticky Password are all reputable products that allow you to store all your passwords safely without requiring you to remember. You can consider KeePass, a free, open-source password manager.

Here are a few guidelines to help you create a bulletproof password:

  • Length: Your passwords should be at least 12 characters in length.
  • Complexity: Include a combination of numbers, special characters, and upper and lower case characters.
  • Randomize: Do not use words that are in the dictionary.
  • Unique: Do not use the same password across different websites.

Using this practice could be extremely detrimental to your protection online, as the hacker would have access to anything you have ever created an account on and could do some serious damage.

You should also avoid using the same password for two different websites, let alone using the same password across the Internet. Be sure to change your passwords. Changing your password regularly still is good practice. 

Use Two-factor authentication whenever available.  It has increased user security across many many websites. They provide an extra layer of security by requiring you to confirm your identity before you are able to log in. This might sound like an unnecessary hassle, but 2FA is a very effective way of preventing fraudulent logins.

2. Keep software up to date

As vulnerabilities arise and security flaws are exploited, developers deploy patches to update their software and provide users with better protection. Delaying these updates leaves your device more open to an attack.

It is important that you keep your operating system, web browser, antivirus program, and other software up to date to reduce the risk of a security breach. Enable automatic updates in your software settings for greater peace of mind.

3. Install an Antivirus and Keep It Updated

Antivirus software plays a key role in helping you stay safe on the internet. A strong, reputable security solution can prevent malicious software from getting onto your machine and clean up any issues that may slip past your system’s defenses.

Your antivirus software protects against all kinds of malicious software. An effective antivirus protects you against Ransomware, Trojan horse programs, bots, and many other kinds of malware. Look at the list of best antivirus which will provide full protection.

You may have set and forget your antivirus protection allowing it to download updates. But now and then you have to take a look. Most antivirus software displays a warning message if the software is not upto date.

Whether you have chosen a full security suite or a simple antivirus, you’ll need to renew it every year. Make sure to enroll in automatic renewal.

4. Email with Caution

The golden rule. The main way criminals infect PCs with malware is by luring users to click on a link or open an attachment. One of the most common ways malware is distributed is through your emails.

Phishing is one-way hackers infect your computer. This strategy is executed by sending emails posing as a reputable company in attempts that the user believes it is an authentic email and updates their personal information on a malicious website. You can often determine if a website is a legitimate a few ways:

  • Check the e-mail address of the sender. It may only be a letter of a valid email from the company they are trying to mimic, so make sure you look carefully.
  • Check for spelling and grammar mistakes. More often than not, phishers do not speak perfect English, and language errors may be a signal that the email is not coming from a reputable company.
  • Check the IP of the sender if you are suspicious. If you check the source code, the IP address can be found following the lines “Received: from.” You can then google the IP address and view information about the computer it was sent from.

These emails contain enticing links and/or attachments that, when clicked upon, may trigger malware downloads or take you to websites that try to steal your personal information. Be suspicious of any unsolicited offers and double-check URLs and file extensions before clicking on anything.

Sign up for accounts on legitimate sites only. No matter how secure your passwords are, using your emails on unsafe sites will put your information in danger.

5. Browse with Caution

Pop-ups can contain malicious software which can trick a user into verifying something. Always ignore pop-ups offering things like site surveys on e-commerce sites.

Avoid sites with misspellings or bad grammar in their addresses, which could be dangerous copycats of legitimate websites.

Look out for sites that have lots of pop-ups, or numbers or gibberish in their addresses.

Log out of sites when you’re done using them. Logging into a site creates a cookie in your browser, which identifies you and, if stolen, can compromise your account. This is especially an issue on sites that hold sensitive information, like your bank account or credit card number, so it’s always best to log out once you’re finished.

Log out of any online banking or shopping site you use, even on your home computer and network.

It’s typically OK to keep your home computer logged on to accounts like your email or social media, as long as you make sure to lock your computer if you ever step away from it.

Avoid clicking on sites that look fake or scammy. If you’re even somewhat familiar with the Internet, chances are you can recognize bad links when you see them: bad grammar, popups or a false-looking web address. Avoid clicking on these sites and never download anything from them.

Spending time on these kinds of websites can give your computer a virus or make it crash.

Clear your browsing history often to maintain your privacy. Many sites have access to your cookies, small text files that record your preferences and let sites respond to them, often to show you more relevant ads. However, cookies can also be used by hackers as a way to get your personal information. Clear your cookies regularly to wipe out any personal information in them

Do online shopping on encrypted sites. When you’re shopping online or logging into your online bank account, check the URL to make sure it starts with “https” instead of “http.” The “s” means that the website is s ecure and encrypts your data so it can’t be stolen.  Secure sites should also have a small lock icon in the URL field.

Although it’s convenient to save your payment information on a shopping site, always do so with caution, as this puts you at risk if the site gets hacked.

A good adblocker can greatly enhance your online experience. Not only does it make pages load faster and remove annoying ads from your online life, it also makes your web browsing experience safer and more private by removing the risk of malvertising (malicious software spread via advertising) and preventing ad servers from keeping tabs on your browsing habits.

I recommend the free and open-source uBlock Origin as best adblocker, , which supports most modern browsers.

What to do if my computer has been hacked ?

6. Don’t forget about your mobile device

Given that 50 percent of the world’s population now uses a smartphone, it should come as little surprise that hackers are increasingly turning their attention to mobile devices. 

You can protect yourself online by using the same secure browsing habits you would on your computer.

Download apps from verified stores only. The easiest way for viruses to get into your phone is through downloads like apps. “Official” stores like the Apple app store or the Google Play store can typically be considered safe places to download apps, but you should never download one from any other site.

Remember to read over the requirements, terms, and conditions of the app before you install it. It’s important that you know exactly what is being installed onto your device.

7. Be wary of public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is a fantastic way to stay connected when you’re out and about, but it also poses some significant security risks. For example, man-in-the-middle attacks (a situation in which criminals intercept information being sent between your computer and a website) are incredibly common on public Wi-Fi, and can give the hackers access to your emails, private documents, passwords and more.

When using public Wi-Fi, assume someone is watching. Only transmit data that you wouldn’t mind being stolen and never enter login details or banking information when connected to public Wi-Fi. If you do need to use public Wi-Fi to send important information, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to create a more secure connection.

8. Customize privacy settings

The default settings of many websites (particularly social media platforms) tend to be somewhat invasive and may leave your personal life exposed.

Avoid this by being mindful of your privacy settings, create customized profiles to suit your needs and reduce the risk of a data breach by only entering essential information that the service requires to function.

Browser plugins such as Ghostery and Privacy Badger provide further privacy by blocking third-party advertisers from tracking your movements without your permission. This feature adds an extra layer of privacy to your browsing and helps further secure your personal data.

Conclusion

Follow these safety tips of importance staying safe online and be prepared to protect yourself against the cyber criminals lurking in the dirty corners of the web.

Browse safely! Have a wonderful Day!!

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