Online Security Basics – Keeping It Human
Seems like every day brings news that some big company-everyone-knows has been ‘hacked’, reported a ‘data breach’ or ‘security issue’…with OUR data. For network security professionals, it’s a recurring-nightmare-come-true scenario, and how they handle it can mean everything, in terms of our privacy and the protection of our digital information.
We hope and expect that every precaution will be taken, and no expense spared to protect our digital stuff…but people are human, and the ‘good guys’ are always a step behind.
Hackers have the upper hand anyway, because…well, people are human. Humans are more easily hacked than any computer or smartphone.
Keeping your digital world safe is getting trickier all the time, but the basics never change. You probably have virus and malware protection running on your computer (I hope so!), but it’s never been more important to take a few extra steps to protect our sensitive information from being exposed or destroyed.
We’ve got a few basic tips below that can help you stay safe and secure online.
Keep it Updated
Whatever the device or software, your best bet is always to keep things current. Software and hardware makers work hard (most of them) to deliver important updates and security patches without delay. If they discover a security risk, an update might be released to fix the issue even before the rest of us find out it existed!
Updates for Windows and key applications like Microsoft Office, Chrome, Firefox, Adobe products should NOT be ignored. For most people, setting your system to update your important and frequently used apps automatically is the right answer. Most importantly, when your system tells you it needs to reboot, just do it.
Tip: Windows 7 support ended on January 14th 2020, and if your computer is still running Windows 7, that means you’re no longer receiving security updates! Upgrade to Windows 10 to ensure you and your digital information stay safe online.Microsoft Windows 7 EOL Info
Back It Up
It’s only a matter of time before your PC suffers hardware failure. You could accidentally erase your data, or become victim of a ransomware attack. The first line of defense against EVERY type of data loss is a good back up. Nothing can replace a regular, automatic copy being made of your key data. If you can’t afford to lose it, you can’t afford NOT to back it up…Twice.
Redundancy (using multiple backup locations and methods) is the key. Backing things up to a network location is good. Backing up to a USB drive that it’s kept in a fireproof safe adds additional protection from fire, theft and ransomware, for example, but because human actions are necessary, it cannot be fully automated and can therefore be forgotten. Designing a backup plan that it’s suitable for your data shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Tip: Backing up to the cloud is a great way to keep your data safe and in sync between devices. Programs like OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive offer ways to keep your files accessible across your devices, while offering features like internet file sharing, version control and ransomware protection.
Be Smart Online
In our always-connected world, it’s easy to forget that our devices are always sending and receiving data, sharing your personal information with servers across the internet. Visiting a website is a lot like visiting a store and leaving your wallet behind, and lists of your interests and personal information, so they can send you endless ‘personally tailored special offers’. Some of these websites might also sell your information to others, or abuse your privacy and trust in any one of a thousand ways.
Bottom line: Trust is earned. Don’t trust ANY websites unless you have a track record with them…and even then, don’t trust them. Don’t click links in advertisements or pop-ups unless you can verify the link goes where it SEEMS to go (hover your mouse over a link to see the link target…It’s not always where you THINK it goes).
Privacy experts recommend you clear your browser cache and cookies regularly. Yes, this means some sites will forget who you are, and force you to login again. That’s not a bad thing, privacy-wise.
Email and social networks are the biggest sources of network and computer security problems. Phishing attempts can fool even the sharpest of us, but staying safe is easier by following a few simple rules.
Online Security Tips
- Don’t open an attachment unless you are expecting it, and you know who sent it. If you aren’t sure, contact the sender first. If your bank sends you a notice that your account has an issue, use your browser shortcut to visit your banking website as usual, rather than clicking the link in the email or chat app.
- Use virus and malware protection. Run regular scans and keep the software up to date. Always-on behavior protection, that protects you behind the scenes, is an important tool for avoiding problems with malware and malicious websites. It can totally save you if you happen to click a dangerous link. Windows 10 includes pretty good virus and malware protection these days, but we still recommend using a secondary malware scanner, such as the free version of Malwarebytes as an additional line of defense.
- Use a Gmail account for online shopping and signing up for services and websites online, rather than your primary email that you use for important correspondence or business. Gmail scanners are better than most at protecting you from the bad stuff, and it’s free, so if your mailbox ever gets overrun by spam, you can always just get a new gmail address.
- Be careful and use common sense. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Email and pop-ups are not legal ways for the IRS, debt collectors or law firms to contact you. If you’re not sure, put it in the junk mail folder until you ARE sure it’s junk.
- Look before you leap. Curb your curiosity. If you don’t know the source, don’t risk it. Google it. Is it legit? Check the reviews and recommendations.
The Bottom Line
New threats and scams are discovered daily it seems. The internet is a constantly evolving soup of useful things, not-so-useful things, and risky things that can ruin your whole day. We humans are the weak link in the chain. Most hackers get in because someone lets them in. Staying alert is the key to avoiding becoming a victim.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Jamie Epranian 2/4/2020
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