5 Easy Tips for Staying Safe Online
You don’t think it’ll happen to you, until it does. You go to open your [insert social media app here] and you’ve been logged out. Odd, but okay. You go to log back in, but it says the password you have entered is wrong. When you click on “Forgot Password?” the alert says a “Reset Password” form has been sent to….a different email address than yours. You’ve been hacked. Millions of cyber attacks happen everyday. It will likely be you at some point if you don’t try your best to stay safe online. Here are just a few important tips/reminders for staying safe online and keeping your information out of the hands of cyber attackers:
- Make sure your passwords are reasonably complex. Do not use dictionary words. Make them at least 16 characters long. Include numbers, symbols, and capital letters, too.
- Do not use the same password for multiple sites. Instead, use a different password for every website.
Yes, it can be difficult to remember a separate password for every website and app, but using a passwords manager like LastPass, can help store all of your passwords in one safe vault and make it a bit easier on your brain.
2. Multi-Factor Authentication
Because cyber attacks are becoming more and more prevalent, more websites and apps are offering multi-factor authentication, or maybe the more commonly seen, two-factor authentication. Many services offer an option to verify your identity if someone logs on to your account from an unrecognized device. Always use this option when it’s available.
3. Be Weary of Phishing Scams
Phishing is essentially the act of pretending to be someone else in order to trick the victim into entering his/her data. A lot of times we see phishing scams in the form of emails that look like they’re from the legitimate site, but in fact, are not. Sure, many of us think we can spot a scam when we see it, but scams can be sophisticated nowadays, and there is a reason these scams persist...because they work.
For example, we often see messages and emails ostensibly from Facebook that say something like “Your account has been or will be locked, disabled, suspended. Login to verify your account.” They look real, but they are not. If you get an email, text, tweet, direct message, etc. resist the urge to automatically click on any link. Instead, go to the address bar and type the official site (e.g. www.facebook.com) and log in. If you do not see anything directly in your account, chances are it was a phishing email. I personally also like to do a web search to see if it’s a known phishing scam that is going around. As a rule of thumb, I never click on any link from an email asking I log into a website. Instead, I go directly to my address bar and enter the URL for the website.
Though phishing scams are not exclusive to Facebook, the company does have some good basic tips on protecting yourself.
4. Ensure Safety While Shopping
Always double-check the address of the website you are visiting, especially if you are planning to place an order or enter your credit card information. Sometimes scam websites will add an extra letter or have slightly different spelling than the site you meant to visit.
When online shopping, banking or conducting other sensitive transactions, always make sure that the site’s address starts with “https” instead of “http”. You should also check to make sure there is a padlock icon in the address bar. This is an indicator that the website is secure and uses encryption to scramble your data so it can’t be intercepted by others.
Avoid doing sensitive transactions while utilizing public WiFi or a public computer. Since you are not in full control of the actual networks or computers in public, it is best to be cautious about using public utilities for sensitive data exchange. It is possible for someone to gain access to your personal information when you utilize public options.
5. Antivirus and Anti-Malware is a Good Safety Net
Though antivirus software can be a good mitigating factor for stopping cyber breaches, it’s not fool-proof. It isn’t guaranteed to pick up every virus or malware, however, it’s a good option if you want that extra safety on your computer.
Though there are many different methods to employ in order to help stay safe online, these are just a few to be aware of and integrate into your knowledge bank. If you have any questions about the above suggestions, feel free to tweet us @ThinPigMedia.