By: Laura Yecies
Everyday, the news reports new Internet/PC vulnerabilities, exploits, and dangers. To anyone serious about security, it can seem pretty daunting. So I decided to boil down my top strategies and tactics to protect you against the vast majority of attacks. It takes a little technology and a little behavior modification, but it can be done without a lot of effort, if you arm yourself with a little knowledge.
1. Avoid Web Traps: I don’t ever click a link in an e-mail that appears to be from a bank, eBay, my stock brokerage etc. I simply visit the site directly, or call if the e-mail indicates a potential problem. It’s an easy step to avoid phishing attacks. When using search engines, I’m always wary of possible “bait” sites set up to direct me to a malware-infested trap. There’s no easy indicator of a search trap, but if something seems amiss or my PC suddenly acts up, I immediately disconnect from the Net and run a security scan.
2. Shop with a Singular Purpose: When I want to buy something online, I typically visit shopping sites directly, instead of following links in e-mails, portals, coupon sites or shopping directory Web sites. It’s the best way to know that I’m shopping at the right site, and not a spoof. I also have a low-limit credit card that is only for use on the Internet. If it’s compromised, I won’t lose much and won’t have to disrupt the rest of my life with a new credit card number. And I always, always check to make sure my transaction session is encrypted using SSL security (the URL will be “https” and a little lock icon should appear in your browser).
3. Keep an Eye on Your Identity: I signed up for a service that monitors my credit report every 90 days. In fact, adding the ZoneAlarm ID Theft Protection Service to the ZA suite was one of my first initiatives at the company a couple of years ago.
4. Reveal as Little as Required: The more a hacker knows about you, the more valuable your profile becomes on the black market. On social networking sites etc, I try to leave a little to the imagination. Once you post personal info and pictures, it can be almost impossible to wipe it clean. I also usually avoid viral links being passed around, unless I know the person who actually created the content. And I research new applications before downloading them. A simple Google search can be very revealing.
5. PATCH YOUR PC!!! I’ve previously mentioned this, but I wanted to reinforce it (again and again!). Keeping all the software on your PC up-to-date is the single most effective way to keep your PC inaccessible to hackers. So whenever I get a little alert saying that I have out-of-date software, I immediately accept the offer to update it. And I always, always make sure my operating system and browser have all the latest security patches. I even have a calendar reminder set up to remind me of Patch Tuesday!
6. Turn On Your Technology. A two-tier technology solution is necessary in the current threat environment. I secure my OS (I still run XP, but this goes for
too) with a firewall, antivirus and antispyware with the ZA security suite. I also have taken the time to configure all my settings and spam filter. And, not surprisingly, my favorite new technology is ZoneAlarm ForceField. It allows me to virtualize my browser to keep the Web junk and drive-by spyware from reaching my PC. That way, even with all my other precautions, if I make a mistake I’ll still be safe.
What are some of the ways you stay safe online?