Hackers and cybercriminals seem to be getting smarter by the nanosecond, but there are plenty of small and simple precautions that can be undertaken by anyone who cares about keeping their financial data and other important information safe. If you lead even a small part of your life online, you need to get serious about the threats lurking throughout the Internet.
Becoming a cybersecurity expert takes a good, focused education, a broad skill set and a diligent temperament. The average Internet user isn’t likely to understand the threats that await them every time they logon — especially because every time technology shifts, a new potential for danger emerges. However, that doesn’t mean there is nothing for the average Internet user to do. Just a little due diligence — like following the tips on this list — on the part of consumers can go a long way, and while it’s far from all-inclusive or guaranteed, it’s simple and straightforward enough to provide a little more protection when browsing the Internet.
Set Up a Google Alert
Google offers an alert feature that, while not entirely comprehensive, will still let you keep track of what is being said about you — in any capacity — online. It’s a way to stay aware of unauthorized use and activity of your identity. If someone gets a hold of your credit card or is using your identity in unsavory ways, Google alerts may be able to let you know about it. To set it up, go to http://www.google.com/alerts, enter your name and variations of it with quotes around them, and Google will see to the rest.
Whenever you buy something at a store nowadays, it’s common for the clerk to ask for some kind of information: email, phone number or a ZIP code. Regardless of what they’re using it for or how secure they claim they’ll keep it, every time you put your personal information into a computer, it’s one more place that can be accessed by hackers. Don’t tell even the sweetest old lady at a retail counter anything.
Encrypt Your Computer
When you encrypt your computer, it forms another barrier of protection by forcing users to have a password to access the hard drive. Once encrypted, if your computer is ever stolen, sensitive data will still be protected. If you use a PC, get Bitlocker. If you use a Mac, do the following:
- Go to “Settings”
- Choose “Security and Privacy”
- Select “FileVault”
- Choose the “Turn on FileVault” option
Use an IP Masker
IP maskers work to hide the places you’ve been online. Since some scammers use blackmail to get money and more out of their victims, hiding certain activities or purchasers from those who may try and hold it against you can be useful.
While it may be hard to believe, some people don’t always log out of social media or email when they use public computers. Anytime you are where another person might be able to get into an account you’ve been working in, log out. It’s best to use this practice even at home so it becomes a habit.
Keep Your Operating System Up to Date
The makers of your computer’s operating system are continually striving to learn about and adjust to cyberthreats that affect their products and customers. When you maintain your operating system with the latest security updates, service packs and more, you make sure you are benefitting from the latest lines of defense.
Establish a Personal Firewall
Firewalls work to control network traffic that comes to and from a computer. Access is either permitted or denied based on preset security guidelines. When you install a personal firewall, you’re setting up another obstacle that will keep hackers out, and you can tailor it to your online usage so it won’t interfere with the browsing and work you need to do.
Staying safe online is as vital as staying safe in your regular life. Identity theft and fraud are real dangers that even the most casual Internet user needs to be aware of — and guard against. While not every storm and attack can be adequately foreseen and prepared for, if you do adhere to these simple tips, you will bolster your security online, saving yourself plenty of hassle — or worse — down the road.
About the Author: Brandon James is an IT professional.