stay safe online

Do your passwords meet the required complexity guidelines to stay safe online? are you shopping online securely? with the rise in ransom-ware and other threats, it’s time to make sure you’re doing enough to stay safe online.

It can be daunting to stay safe online with the internet becoming a more dangerous place every day. Are you taking the necessary steps make sure your personal information is safe? With the increase in devices used to connected to the internet, like smartphones, tablets, to internet connected appliances, it has opened us, the user up-to greater risks.

If you are unsure of how to stay safe online, then I have some useful tips that will help you along the way to greatly reduce your exposure to all these threats.

Read on to find some helpful tips:

Complex Passwords

Creating a strong, unique password for all your online accounts is critical as it’s the best way to keep your personal and financial

Stay safe online password
Strong Password

information safe. When creating a password, it’s a good rule of thumb to include at least one capital letter, one number, and one special key (special keys being +*&$£).

A good idea is to use passphrases rather than passwords.

Think of any phrase that might be:

  • A quote from a movie.
  • A line from a song.
  • A proverb or idiom, etc., etc.

Make some simple changes to the phrase to help make it more acceptable to a complex password policy, as well as to avoid dictionary attacks. All your passwords need to use the same changes, that way you won’t forget them. An example of such changes can be:

  • Replace the spaces with underscores.
  • Replace the last letter with a digit that denotes the number of words in the phrase.
  • Capitalize the second letter of each word.
  • Shift the first three letters alphabetically to the left
  • …or anything else you’re comfortable with.

Example

Complex Password
Complex Password

Let’s say you need to create a password for your domain login.

You think for a minute and remember a quote from Léon (1994).

Tony: Hey, it’s your money. I mean, I’m just holding it for you, like a bank. Except better than a bank, because you know banks always get knocked off. No one knocks off old Tony.

“No one knocks off old Tony” is now the base for your passphrase. Now, apply the changes and you get something like “No_one_knocks_off_old_Ton6”.

It’s also a good Idea to create different passwords for different accounts, this especially true due to the widespread of big company hacks, revealing tens of thousands of user passwords. If you use the same password for everything then the hackers have access to your all your accounts.

Personally, I highly recommend using a password manager to help you store and create strong passwords for all your accounts. This way you can use your strong passphrase to access the password manager and use the password manager to create the non-dictionary based complex passwords that you don’t need to remember.

Then there is Multi-factor authentication, which gives an extra layer of protection to the user. This follows the principle that you need “something you know” (pin/password) and “something you have” (passcode retrieved via text/email/hardware token) the “something you have” usually changes each time you log in but the “something you know” (password) stays the same until you change it. This way even if someone manages to get hold of your password they still can’t get access without the “something you have”.

Boost Network Security

When your browsing online at home it’s safe to say you are connected to a password protected router that is encrypting your data. When you are connected wired this is the most secure connection you can get, on the other hand, its vitally important that your router’s WiFi is secured by a password with WPA2 + AES encryption for the best results. This can be achieved by signing into routers graphical user interface and configuring the WiFi setup.

We are most vulnerable when we are on the road, as you may be tempted to use free, public WiFi, this can have significant consequences as public WiFi is unsecured, making it very easy for a hacker to access your device and information. Not to worry there is a security procedure you should consider investing in, that is a VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPN’s are software that creates a secure connection on the internet, encrypting all your data so anyone snooping can’t see any your data transactions. You can safely connect from anywhere. There are some great free VPNs out there like TunnelBear. The only problem with free VPNs is that they reduce your network bandwidth significantly so if speed is what you’re after while connected then paid VPN is your better option, I recommend DigibitVPN for £2.50 a month it’s not going to break the bank.

Use a Firewall to stay safe online

A firewall is an electronic barrier that adds another layer of security, by blocking all unauthorized outbound or inbound traffic from your computer. Windows has its own firewall build, but firewalls are usually included in comprehensive security software. I recommend using Bullguard Internet Security. The use of a firewall has become increasingly important now with the rise in the use of devices connected to our networks, including Internet of Things (IoT) devices like smart thermostats and webcams. This is important as these devices usually are not equipped with security measures leaving you open to attacks from hackers, by giving them a vulnerable point of entry to your network. I’d also suggest you connect to your home router and amend the firewall settings. Most home routers have a basic firewall function and at the very least you can block connections coming from the WAN (connection to the internet) but allow connections to the internet from the LAN/WLAN (connection to your home devices via cables / wireless connection).

Protect Your Mobile Life

Due to the advancements in technology over the last 15 years in mobile phones, they are no longer used for the sole purpose of making phone calls. With our constant demand to be able to access our accounts on the go, it’s become increasingly important to ensure our mobile devices are safe. With the increase in app usage, this increases the risk, be sure to download apps from your provider’s official app store after reading user reviews. Be sure to enable your security software on your phone just as you would your laptop.

Click Smart

With the rise in online threats mostly coming from phishing or social engineering, do not invite any unwanted danger by carelessly clicking. These threats trick you into revealing personal information for fraudulent purposes. These threats usually come in the form of Spam emails, phoney free offers, click-bait, and online quizzes all designed for you to give up personal information.

Beware of web popups claiming that your machine is infected by a virus and advising you that you should call their tech support line for help. These are often a tech support scam with premium phone lines. They have also been known to talk end user into giving them access to machines using valid remote support tools such as team viewer. Once they are on your machine they have been known to place malware on the machine or in some of the worst cases log into bank accounts and transfer money.

YOUR LOCAL FRIENDLY TECH SUPPORT TEAM WILL NEVER USE POPUPS TO GAIN NEW BUSINESS SO ALWAYS USE A TRUSTED TEAM.

Big company’s such as your bank will never contact you via email asking for personal information. If you do receive such emails then contact your bank immediately and they will pass you to their online team and they will ask you to forward the email so they can check it and store it for evidence. Always be wary of offers that seem to be too good to be to true, as these are usually just scams.

Secure Shopping and Surfing

Stay Safe Online
Stay Safe Online

With the increased use of online shopping, and the use of banking apps, comes the risk of hackers getting hold of your banking details. Always make sure that when visiting shopping sites, or your bank’s web page that the site’s address starts with HTTPS and not just HTTP, and has the little gold padlock item in the URL. This ensures your data is secure and encrypted to stop it being intercepted by anyone else. I highly recommend using the Secure Shopping software that comes with BullGuard Internet Security.

Always be on the lookout for copycats of legitimate websites, these will usually involve misspellings and grammar mistakes. Be sure to use a safe search tool, these usually come with your Antivirus software.

Updates

Keeping all your software up-to-date plays a vital role in staying safe online, Software Manufacturers will release security updates once they are made aware of vulnerabilities in their software. Ensure all the latest security patches are installed, and automatic updates are turned on so you don’t forget. Run security scans regularly.

Latest Scams

With the continual evolution of online threats knowing what to look for is always good practice. With the most recent rise in Ransom-ware, it’s vital you stay informed so you can stay safe online. Ransom-ware is when a hacker threatens to lock you out of all of your personal files unless you pay them a ransom fee. Stay on top of these and other threats by staying informed.

Feel free to contact us, if you would like any further information or for assistance on how to stay safe online.