In the modern era, services involving sensitive information, such as shopping and banking, are commonly conducted over the internet. However, many of us are not careful enough with accessing our banking accounts or inputting credit card and social security information while utilizing these services. Here’s a couple of steps you can take to ensure that you are protecting yourself, your accounts and sensitive information from falling into unscrupulous hands:
1.) Never shop or bank using a device that does not belong to you
You are in control of your own system’ and information security settings. However, if you use a friends phone, a work machine, an internet cafe, or some other device which you do not own and control access, there will be no guarantees that your information will remain secure. You have no idea what spyware or viruses might be on a friend’s phone or an internet cafe’s systems. Never ever use a machine that does not belong to you when handling sensitive information.
2.) Maintain and update your anti-virus regularly
Now that you are using your own machine, it is up to you to ensure it is secure. Always have antivirus installed. Make sure that it is updated regularly. New viral codes are written all the time, so if you do not update your antivirus regularly, it will not know to look for the newest and latest threats, at which point it is not doing you any good. Before storing and using sensitive information on your machine, ensure it’s protected.
3.) Maintain good strong passwords
I talked about this in a previous post.
4.) Use incognito browsing when accessing important and sensitive information
Incognito browsing is a privacy setting that prevents internet history and cookies from being stored. While not completely anonymizing, (your IP address will still be recognized and monitoring services on your computer such as keylogger and parental control will still be able to keep track of what you do), this cuts off a vital source of data for malware and viruses to access.
5.) Avoid social engineering
No matter how secure your systems and machines are, there is always a human element that can ruin everything for your security regimen. You can be a hackers best friend if you aren’t careful. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but be vigilante! Be suspect of links in emails that you are not 100% sure about, even if they are from a known email contact or friend and especially if they contain some sort of downloadable content like a picture, video, app or document. Be cautious of messages or sites that insist you verify your information, hackers sometimes will try to mimic a legitimate organization or site. Carefully check the link’s and url’s to be sure that they don’t go to an unrelated site or country-level domain. Never ever think you are a winner if an email says you are. Be careful of which friend requests you approve or profiles you allow to see your information on social media. Hackers will use many sneaky methods to glean information off of you. Do not be baited by their attempts.
6.) Never leave your devices unattended
There is nothing more gut wrenching than realizing that you left your phone or laptop somewhere unattended. Someone could just stroll right up and either steal your machine or quickly steal information off of it. Always be conscientious of where your devices are. If you have to get up and leave them for a moment, and you are not worried about them being taken, at the very least lock your devices so nobody else can access them.
7.) Be careful of what you plug into your machine
Infected thumb drives, smart phones, or external drives are a great backdoor way for viruses and malware to spread. Know where your external devices came from and ensure that the device you are plugging into your machine is clean.
8.) Regularly backup your devices, machines and systems
In the event that you were infected and hacked, the best way to undo the damage is to revert your machine to a state it was in before it was infected. By regularly backing up your devices, you will be able to prevent physical damage to your systems from being too catastrophic. While you will still need to worry about the data that was stolen, this takes one huge component of a hack off of your conscience. Schedule your devices to regularly backup at frequent and predictable intervals. For example, I have my phone and computers set to back up every 12 hours. This way, if I need to restore my device(s) from a previous backup, I’ll only lose at most 12 hours worth of work and data, which is not terrible in the grand scheme of things.
9.) Regularly monitor your accounts
Hackers, obviously, will want to conceal from you the fact that your devices have been infiltrated and your sensitive information has been compromised. Monitor your bank statements, media accounts, and credit card data to ensure that there is no suspicious activity. Often times, you won’t know you’ve been hacked, and thus keeping tabs of your accounts will provide the earliest warning that something has gone amiss.
10.) Be realistic! You can be a target no matter what you think
One of the biggest advantages the bad guys possess is the mental misconception amongst the internet using public that being the victim of a hack only happens to other people, not oneself. Now say this out loud with me: ANYBODY CAN BE THE TARGET AND VICTIM OF A HACK! Do not kid yourself. If you think the hackers won’t want to go after you, you are doing yourself a disservice and letting your guard down. The best way to approach your system and internet security is to assume that there are bad actors out there targeting you, and protect yourself accordingly.