The Internet is a great business friend, but it can attract some enemies too, and if you are not cautious you can be subject to hacking, and this could lead to having your personal details stolen. Here are ten top tips to help towards improved Internet security.
1) Ensure that you have an up-to-date Anti-Virus, and Internet security software installed on your computer. Hackers often aim to install small programs that will allow them to access your computer remotely, and thus collect information through your Internet or Wi-Fi network. These programs are often labelled as a virus, based on the programs’ characteristics. Anti-Virus software will stop rogue programs from running on your computer.
2) If you are using a Window’s PC, make sure that your updates are installed regularly. Microsoft releases updates for the Windows operating system on a weekly basis. These updates help protect your computer from the most recently discovered security risks and plug security holes, which makes it much more difficult for hackers to get into your computer. Think of it as locking all the windows and doors on your house to keep the burglars out!
3) If you are using an Apple Mac, make sure you use the ‘Software Update’ facility in the Apple menu to install the latest software and security updates. This is for the same reasons outlined in Tip 2.
4) Use long passwords. This makes password guessing or cracking much more difficult for hackers. Try using a small sentence, where possible, which includes a mix of lower and upper case letters, numbers and characters, for example the password, freedomisgreat could be Fr33D0m15Gr8!.
5) Password-protect and encrypt your home and business Wi-Fi, to ensure that nobody else can use it without your permission. Hackers are known to connect to unprotected Wi-Fi networks to ‘sniff traffic’, or in other words collect information from your Internet connection, which can include usernames and passwords from your various online accounts.
6) Think before allowing others access to connect to your Wi-Fi network. If the person’s computer or smart-phone has been compromised, it could introduce a virus to your trusted network. In simple terms, it is like allowing a burglar into your house disguised as your friend.
7) Anywhere you are signing into a secure service, for example PayPal, or Hotmail then you need to type the web address starting ‘https://’ – the /s/ means you are using a secure connection. There should be a green padlock symbol on your browser, which proves there is a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate, encrypting the traffic between your computer and the Internet service. This essentially means that the content is scrambled up in transit, so that only you and the end point server can see the information in clear text.
8) Split your emails, so rather than linking your Facebook, Twitter, forums and banking to one email address, separate them. You could use one for your social networking, and one for your financial business. Social networks can easily attract hackers, and so it is in your interest to keep these as non-linked as possible.
9) Do not use a public network for financial transactions. So no Internet cafes, or even friend’s houses, as you do not know if their system is secure or encrypted. Without terrifying you with stories of how hackers operate, just know that they do, and they are very smart! Some even go as far as setting up laptops in hotel lobbies and placing signs saying ‘Free Internet Access’. These types of often-effective traps (AKA Honey-pots) can lead to identity theft, meaning that your details can be stolen and used by other people to access your funds or other personal information.
10) Never click on a URL (hyperlink) that has been sent to you via email. Even if it seems legit or official, do not be tempted. Known as ‘Spear Phishing’, these fake emails are sent with links to false pages that are guised to look like the official page i.e. a login for online banking. So re-type the whole address into your browser (refer to Tip 7). It is a good idea to contact your bank via phone or visit the branch to verify any content that may cause you concern, and to highlight it to authorities for investigations. Do not reply to these emails, or click on any links! Also, be weary of just clicking on any links generated by search engines, as Internet fraud professionals and hackers are very good at what they do and it’s possible that even Google can be fooled in to listing false or criminal websites.
Enjoy the Internet in a safe way!