How to Be Secure Online
The internet is sometimes a scary place. It seems like every week I hear about some new hack or exploit. There are nasty things out there trying to find you and infect your computer. You must protect your online assets. There is no such thing as perfect online security, but we must do our best with what is available.
Security, Not Privacy
I will go over steps you can take to protect yourself online. While some of these methods will increase your privacy, this is not the focus. Also keep in mind that, at some point, you have to decide between convenience and security. There are some security options I have passed on because they are too inconvenient.
Passwords Can Be the Weakest Link
One of the biggest weak points of online security is passwords. You have probably used a weak password before. I have in the past. A password should be over eight characters long and use capital letters, numbers, and symbols. Using this method is a good place to start. Using longer and more complex passwords is better. I mix my passwords up with random words, numbers, and characters.
Do not repeat passwords! At least not for sites that are even the slightest bit important. Keep in mind the value of accounts. My PayPal and bank account have much stronger passwords. I am not as concerned with some of my online accounts.
Do You Use Strong Passwords?
Use a Password Manager
You should use a password database/manager. If you want to be extra secure, use an offline manager like KeePass. I use a cloud-based password manager. Find what works best for you and stick with it. Using a password manager allows you to make more secure passwords. I have over 50 unique passwords, and there is no way I can remember them all. If you do use a password manager, disable password storage with your current web browser. I find what they offer to be redundant.
An Example of a Password Manager
Use Two-Factor Authentication Whenever Possible
Having strong passwords is not enough for me. I use anything I can to add extra security to my accounts. I do not want any gaps in my online security. If a website offers two-factor authentication, use it! While the extra security may seem like a hassle, it is 100% worth it.
Two-factor authentication is having something other than a password to log into an account. Two-factor authentication applications normally send you temporary codes to use. Two-factor authentication makes your accounts much more secure because if the attacker can not access the device that generates the codes, they should not be able to log into your account.
Examples of Two-Factor Authentication
You can use a service like Google Authenticator or Authy. Some services have individual mobile applications you must use. Some services offer authentication by sending texts. I use this type of authentication to protect my PayPal account. Some services send codes by email for new sign-ins.
An Example of a Two-Factor Authentication Mobile Application
Useful Web Browser Extensions
I currently use Google Chrome as my main web browser but what I recommend here also works with Firefox.
- HTTPS Everywhere: This extension tries to open the most secure version of web pages. I have it on at all times, and it's a nice and free thing to have to make your internet browsing more secure.
- Ad blockers: Use an ad blocker often. Ads can lead to shady websites with malware. They are also annoying and slow down web pages. If you still want to support a website, you can whitelist them.
- Password Manager: Most online-based password managers have browser extensions.
Clear Your Browsing History When Using Public Computers
I have seen people still logged into Facebook on public computers. What a scary thought. Just imagine what a person could do with your accounts. It is important to make sure you sign out of all your websites before you stop using a public computer. Clearing your browsing history makes sure you do not miss anything. I always clear my browsing history on public computers to be safe. I do this when I start and finish using a public computer. It's even better if you can use an incognito/private browsing mode.
Clearing Browsing History on Google Chrome
Other Things to Keep in Mind
It is important to protect your home network as well. Change your WiFi SSID name. You see this when you find your connection. Change the password of your network settings page as well. Leaving the default settings unchanged is very bad. People know these default settings.
Be wary of using public WiFi networks. Hackers use public WiFi to find victims. While there won't be a hacker every time you use a public network, try to avoid doing anything too personal. Some people recommend only using public WiFi networks with a VPN. I can't say that is something I do myself, but I have considered it.
Did You Learn Something New?
What Do You Think?
How secure are you online? Did this article help in any way? Post in the comments. I would love to read your thoughts.
© 2017 Eric Farmer