It’s the holidays and that means taking online security seriously and making sure that you protect yourself. There are almost daily news stories of security breaches and account hacks. What makes this a great time for security tips is that many of you will be shopping online even more then normal.
It’s an unfortunate fact that as you email friends and family, or buy gifts from online retailers, you can also unintentionally expose your sensitive information and devices to hackers and scammers. Here are 10 internet security tips that you can use to ensure you have a happy holiday season, free from bad things like:
- Identity Theft
- And more
1. Always Check For a Secure Connection Before Entering Payment
You should never enter details like your credit card, social security number, or anything beyond your name or email if the connection is not secured. If you are ever prompted for sensitive details including credit card numbers or your address, simply check the address of the page. If it is secure, you will see the URL preceded by “HTTPS://” with the “S” indicating “Secure”. Your browser may also use a shield or lock symbol in the same address bar. If the page does not appear to be a secured connection, do not enter your information.
2. Never Enter Information In A Popup
This can be confusing, given that many sites use what are called “modal windows” for prompting users. For instance, you may come across sites that activate a modal window asking you to log in. These are not popups. Why? because they are a part of the site, with the same (root) domain. Popups, however, are injected in either the site or your browser. In other words, they are not a part of the site. These can be used to track behavior, steal personal information, and are generally never to be trusted by entering any personal information in. The best way to identify a popup is to look for it’s URL. A popup will always appear as a new window or tab. Usually, it will have an address bar that you can use to compare it with the site you were on. If it does not match, be very cautious about entering any information. If it does not have an address bar, it is usually better to error on the side of caution and close it.
3. Use Unique Passwords & Change Them Often
Don’t make it easy for them! Birthdays, nicknames, kids names… These are wonderful, cute, precious things. But, they make for terribly insecure passwords that are constantly exploited by even the most amateur of hackers. But, how can you keep track of them all as the number of sites and services you use increases? Who can remember all those shifting passwords? That’s why we recommend using a password service like Last pass. You can use it to generate ultra-secure passwords for every site and tool you use. Best of all, you can manage them across every device you own!
4. Log Out When You Are Done
It’s not just something we need to worry about at internet cafes or at the library computer. WiFi, Bluetooth, and network technology have advanced far enough that people accessing your devices is a real concern. That’s why it’s always a good idea to log out of any account if you have finished using it, or if you will be away from the device for an extended period of time.
5. Don’t Access Your Bank Through a Public Network
Public Wifi networks and Hotspots are always vulnerable to attacks or infiltration by hackers. In fact, data sent out over public networks can easily be intercepted by “sniffers” that can then parse out personal data. Even if the connection is secure, it is never a good idea to trust these public access points with your login credentials, bank details, or other sensitive information.
6. Use An Anti-Virus Program On All Your Devices
One of the easiest ways you can protect your computer and your information is to install an antivirus program. While most computers come pre-installed with one, many users don’t realize that it is equally important that you keep the antivirus program updated with the latest version. New viruses appear all the time and unless your antivirus program has been kept up to date they cannot effectively protect you against them. Most anti virus programs will also include the option of turning on, or bolstering your firewall. This is something that you should always have selected in order to prevent malicious hackers and data thieves from accessing your network and getting information directly off your computer.
7. Turn On Aggressive Spam Filtering
Most email clients and providers include variable spam filtering options. Since your spam folder in your email inbox prevents emails from auto loading images and other malicious script it’s always a good idea to send any questionable or unrecognized emails to the spam folder first. That way you still receive every email, but you can keep them in a “quarantined” area until you have time to check them. By setting your client or account spam filtering settings to “aggressive” or “full”, you can ensure that every email of questionable or unrecognized source sends to the spam folder first, thereby offering you the greatest amount of protection from spam phishing.
8. Avoid Sending Sensitive Information Over Email
Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to avoid sending any sensitive information via email. In fact many services and vendors expressly discourage users from ever sharing their information by email. Instead, most of them suggest you call or live chat with an agent directly. Unfortunately, even if the recipient is a close personal friend or family member, it is still never a good idea to send them things like credit card numbers, bank details, passwords, and so on. While you may be sure they would never willingly share your information, the fact remains your critical information sits waiting in their inbox or archives waiting for the day it is accidentally forwarded, phished, or stolen.
9. Check Any Link Before Clicking It
Even if an email looks like it is from a credible source there is nothing guaranteeing that the links or buttons it contains lead back to that source. It’s important that you know where a link is going to take you before you click it. Otherwise, you may unintentionally reveal sensitive information or expose your computer to identity thieves and hackers.
If an email asks you to click on a link, button, or other hyperlink elements, you should first hover over (or preview) that link to see it’s address. Make sure that the URL it will send you to is credible and leads where you are trying to go.
10. Never Download Something In An Email From An Unknown Sender
It’s common for hackers to use attachments and downloads in emails to inject malicious script and programs on user’s devices. Often times, the user remains completely unaware that they have downloaded these scripts which can do anything from slowing their devices performance to stealing their sensitive information. That is why you should never open or download anything inside a email from a sender you don’t recognize or know.
I hope you find these tips helpful, and keep them in mind as you shop and communicate with loved ones this holiday season. If you have any tips you’d like to share with us, please leave them in the comments below!