Since most people today have at least one PC and other mobile devices and with software and website security rules changing daily it is very important to take certain measures on your end to be safe on and offline. If you do the following five thing in the new year you can ensure better security and become a more savvy user.
First you can use passwords correctly. That's right--correctly! Even if people have password protected their devices and accounts many break at least one of these no-no's:
- Don't use the same password (or 1 or 2 passwords) for multiple devices and accounts.
- Don't write it down or share it.
- Don't use words and numbers that are easy to guess.
Second, cull through your social media accounts and profiles. There is no reason to tell everything about you from your family members to where you work and live to your political stance. It is also good to remove old posts that might be inappropriate if found later. You want to do these for the following reasons:
- Many security questions involve personal information such as 'mother's name' or 'hometown.' If a hacker can find both sets of information on your Facebook account, for example, they can hack your accounts easier.
- Data mining, the processing and analysis of larges sets of information, is collected on many of these sites for uses ranging from advertising to surveillance. It is a good idea to read the privacy documentation of each site you are registered with to see what they collect and what they do with the information.
- And, you don't want information online that can come back to bite you later on. The more social media and other community websites you use, the larger this job will be especially with the advent of things like photo tagging or wall posting that others do to you but everyone can see.
Third, be app aware. There a millions of apps for all the different mobile platforms. Among these you will deal with everything from malware and privacy invasion. So it is a good idea to use tools such as Clueful (iOS app) or TraintDroid (Android app) to help with the barrage of choices. Also, before installing apps read their privacy policies so you know what data they collect about you and how they use it.
Fourth, you should stop believing every email you receive and clicking on everything you come across online. Phishing scams grow each year but always remember that legitimate companies don't ask for your personal/financial information (e.g., passwords, bank account/credit card information, Social Security numbers, etc.) via email. Just never trust unsolicited contacts via email, links, or files. Also, when you click on online items from ads to search results you could receive ransomware and other malicious attacks on your system. Find a browser plug-in such as Flagfox for the Firefox. This add-on, for example, uses different safety checks on websites to keep you safer while you browse.
Fifth, use only the most secure and up-to-date versions of your software. This basically means updating your operating system (e.g., Windows, OSX) monthly, updating your browsers and other commonly attacked software titles (e.g., Adobe, Java) as needed. You can use a site called Qualys BrowserCheck to assist you with checking your browser versions. And in most software titles you can go to the 'Help' menu option to check on version number which also may include an easy-to-use update link too.
And one more thing...back up your data! Invest in an external hard drive and move your documents and pictures, at the very least to it at least once per month.