Cybersecurity is a growing issue and protecting personal data while using the internet can seem like a huge challenge. However, a little knowledge and a few safety tips will protect you from the vast majority of threats online.
This guide is here to help you learn how you can stay safe online by showing you some of effective methods for personal online security. The list below focuses on simple but effective techniques that everyone should follow to keep themselves better protected.
Stay vigilant to phishing attacks
Proofpoint describes phishing as a form of cyberattack that involves attackers sending malicious emails, private messages, or texts designed to trick people into giving away their personal, financial, or other sensitive data. Many of these messages will claim to be from your bank or HMRC and they can be difficult to spot, but to avoid the issue it is good practice never to click links, especially from financial or governmental institutions, within emails.
Avoid using public WiFi
Public WiFi is generally an unsecured network, and even when it does require a password the data is often not encrypted end-to-end, which means it is relatively simple for cybercriminals to intercept and monitor the information.
It is also often difficult to determine which network showing up as a public WiFi connection is an official connection provided by the café or train station and which is a network setup entirely by cybercriminals looking to capture your data.
In general, you should try to avoid using public WiFi whenever possible. And when you really do need to connect via public WiFi make sure to encrypt your data with a VPN and avoid any sites that require you to add passwords or payment information.
Choose better passwords
Choosing better passwords is one of the most basic techniques to stay protected online. You should try to choose a unique password for every new account that you make, no matter if that website is a financial institution or a niche web forum. All passwords should also be difficult to guess or crack, which means they should be over 12 characters in length and not contain any dictionary words or the names or people or places.
If you are using secure unique passwords for each website and service, then to keep track of them all you will need a password manager. These services, which range from free and open source options like Bitwarden to premium paid options like Lastpass and 1Password.
Keep your devices up-to-date
You should always update your devices as soon as the latest update has been launched to make sure you are protected from the latest threats. Microsoft (Windows), Google (Android), and Apple (OSX and iOS) regularly release security updates for their operating systems, and you should install these as soon as possible. Don’t keep hitting ignore!
Use two-factor authentication (2FA)
Whenever you can, you should choose to use two-factor authentication as means of validating your identity once you have logged in to an account. Two-factor authentication sometimes involves having a code sent to your phone or answering additional security questions, using a security app like Google Authenticator, or using a security key. If you have 2FA enabled then even if your password is compromised you have another line of defence to protect yourself from hackers.
Be careful what you share online
Cybercriminals can do an awful lot with only a limited amount of information. It is vital that you remain mindful of the type of information that you are sharing online. You should not publicly share any personal information such as your full address or financial information anywhere online. Hackers are always on the lookout for people that overshare online as they make easy targets – make sure you are not one of them.