In 2018, the term “digital safety” is still neglected by many people. Despite the constant flow of cyber attacks, data breaches and malware spreading to all types of devices, even CCTV cameras, many people still underestimate the importance of keeping yourself safe in the digital age.
It’s not only due to lack of knowledge. For years in a row, one of the most popular passwords for literally millions of people is 12345. Of course, you can argue that hackers are rapidly advancing and there’s no safety feature that’s absolutely unbreakable. So, why bother? Well, hackers are indeed inventive. But they also like the quick and easy route. As a result, they would prefer to target people with weaker digital security. Unless they have a very specific target, but then that’s a whole other issue.
For the regular people, the weaker their digital security is, the more attractive they become to hackers. And in the dawn of automatization, even cyber attacks are becoming automated. They are also programmed to look for the weakest link. So, how not to be that weakest link? It’s actually not that difficult to keep yourself safe in the digital age.
Here are a few simple tips to follow.
- This one is obvious, yet the most neglected. Don’t use simple passwords like 12345 and don’t use one password for more than one account. Don’t write down or store passwords in a plain text file. Instead, opt for a password manager program.
- Don’t download or open attachments in emails and other messages from people who you don’t know. If you receive an attachment from someone you know, but you’re not expecting one, or the email text is not typical to their style, ask that person first before opening the file. They may have been hacked.
- Never share your password with anyone. One common practice for hackers is to set up phony emails or spoof sites claiming that there’s an issue with your account and you need to enter or send your password to verify it’s you. Legitimate companies and services would never ask for your password or PIN via email, text or other means. If you are suspicious when a familiar company sends you something like that, don’t click on the link in the email. Instead, open a new browser window or a tab and type the domain of the site by hand and log in your profile as usual to see if there are issues. Or contact the company via its support page and ask for verification that they indeed sent the email.
- Always check if a website is secure before you enter any account or bank card details. Look for “https” at the start of the web address and the green padlock or unbroken key icon at the top of the page next to the address bar.
- Enable two-factor authentication for the services thar offer it as a possibility. Major social media and online service providers already offer such features. Those measures take a bit of fiddling to set up, but add a much-needed extra layer of security. Again, it’s not a complete 100% guarantee of safety, but it’s a lot better and will defer most attempts.
- Keep regular track of your bank statements and even log in details and active sessions on your email and social media profiles. The data will show you any unusual activity or if some unknown device has accessed the account.
- Never use public WiFi or public computers to access your online banking or even to access your email or social media profiles.
- Pay attention to what permissions a mobile app wants when you install it. A weather app, for example, shouldn’t need access to your contact data.
- Set up a lock screen on your mobile device with a PIN or a fingerprint (if available as an option). It’s much more secure than a pattern or worse, no lock screen at all.
- Avoid sharing too much personal information on social media. The data can be used by hackers for ID theft or phishing scams in order to lure you to a digital trap.
- Avoid common online scams like “Free gift if you do our survey!”, “Congratulations, you’ve won!” and the likes. All they want is your data.
- Of course, keep your software as up-to-date as possible. This is an obvious one, but an old survey by Skype shows that about 40% of consumers don’t update their software when they are prompted to. Another research from the University of Edinburgh and Indiana University showed that almost half of consumers experience issues or frustrations when updating. Still, the price is weaker cyber security, so it’s up to you.