National Cyber Security Awareness Month (in the US) and European Cyber Security Month (in Europe) are coming to an end, which makes this the perfect time to double and triple check your cyber safety. Do you approach your use of the internet with a grain salt or are you reckless? Are you doing all you can to protect yourself from online trouble or are you just a hack waiting to happen?
Read the statements below and make 100% sure that they don’t describe your online behavior. If just ONE of them rings familiar, then it’s time to change your online behavior ASAP. Your personal privacy and security depends on it.
1. My password is so good, I use it for everything.
Sorry, but you should never EVER reuse the same password on multiple sites – not even if it is a really good passoword such as Iw2SiTRed, HisIMurL4 or E3w2RtheWld. Every place that requires a password deserves a unique password. Because if one of those websites gets hacked (even if it’s just the free password-protected online news site that you use) it could open the door for all your other accounts to getting hacked.
2. Two-factor authentication is a waste of my time. I’d rather play Smashy Road: Wanted.
Two-factor authentication may be a mild inconvenience, but this more than makes up for itself in increased security. Here’s why. Two-factor authentication means you use more than one piece of information to access your account. So, in addition to your password, you may also have to add a phone number, an address or a code. This means that if a hacker gains access to your password, they still don’t have enough information to enter your account. Leading services such as Facebook and Twitter offer two-factor authentication. While using it may take a few extra seconds, getting hacked (and being stuck without it) can cause immeasurable grief (and embarrassment).
3. I can’t be bothered to upgrade my apps. I don’t even use some of them, so why update?
Updating the apps you have on your PC and your mobile device is of utmost importance. If a vulnerability is discovered in an app (something that happens all the time) and a patch is released, the patch will be included in the updated version. If you don’t install the updated version, your version of the app will still be vulnerable. Regarding those apps you don’t use any more – GET RID OF THEM. Not only will it free up space for more apps, but it will prevent hacks that could be carried out through these old apps.
4. I don’t need an antivirus, because I am careful.
Eeek! Of course you need an antivirus. We recommend getting a complete security suite that gives you maximum protection from all types of threats (plus many other goodies) but even if you don’t want a complete suite, you still need an antivirus and firewall protection for your PC. Because even if you are super vigilant about the websites you visit, and really careful about the emails you open, you may still find yourself faced with a virus one day. In fact, the virus could already be on your PC, dormant, and just waiting to be revived. If you’ve got an antivirus on your PC, the virus will be detected and removed. If you don’t, there is nothing at all to stop.
5. I have an antivirus, so I do whatever I want online.
This would be the equivalent of saying that because you are wearing a seat belt, you can drive like a maniac. No, you can’t. You have to follow the laws, drive responsibility, and pay attention to other people on the road. The same principles apply when it comes to internet safety. Even if you have an antivirus protecting you, you still need to use your head. Don’t download software that looks sketchy. Don’t post private information on public sites. Don’t reply to emails requesting information that could endanger your privacy.
6. I always accept friend requests on Facebook. Who knows – it could be an old flame.
No, no, no. Don’t accept random requests on social media sites, because it could be that the people who are inviting you to be their friend so you can reminisce about former high school / university / college days may not actually be from your former high school / university / college. They could very well be online criminals who are using social engineering to find out private details about you so that they can crack into your accounts and commit online crime. So while it’s good to be friendly, it’s better to be cautious.
7. I only shop online if the site looks trustworthy.
Looks are important, but they can be deceiving. Just think of Snow White and that gorgeous red apple she ate. Never shop online without checking that the URL of the site asking for your credit card details begins with https. Also, use a credit card (not a debit card) when possible and keep track of your receipts, so that if there is any discrepancy between what you paid and what you were billed, you’ll have a record.
8. I never share my passwords unless it’s with someone I really trust.
Don’t ever share a password, not even with your mother or your favorite aunt. Because passwords need to be private in order to protect your information. And if you’ve shared a password with a friend or colleague, that password isn’t going to be private anymore. A person that you trust could inadvertently pass on the password to someone else, and that person may use it for nefarious purposes.
9. I backup my files on an external hard-drive that I store in my parent’s basement.
Backing up your files is critical, there is no question about that, but in this day and age, there is no reason for you to be doing it manually and no reason to be storing the backup in your parent’s basement. Or anyone else’s for that matter. The best way to back up your data today (and the easiest way, too) is through online backup. ZoneAlarm offers 5 GB of free online backup through iDrive, one of the top cloud-based backup services available. With online cloud backup, you get regularly scheduled backups in a rock solid storage site.
Hacks Happen. Do Your Best to Make Sure They DON’T Happen to You.
Listen to the news on almost any day of the year and you’ll hear about major and minor hacks. They happen. And they are going to keep happening. So while you may not be able to ensure that your mobile phone company, favorite supermarket or health care provider is hack-proof, you can certainly do your best to make sure you’re protected at your end.
If any of the statements above ring true to you, then you need to improve your online safety and reduce your hackability – pronto. Because hackers are out there, and they’re looking for their next victim. Being cyber savvy helps reduce your chances that they’ll find you. And, if you do find yourself the victim of hack (through no fault of your own), engaging in safe cyber practices will definitely reduce the damage.
Tell us: What’s Your Top Tip for Staying Hack-Proof?