Without taking proper precautions against hackers, you raise the risk of exposing sensitive information – from credit card numbers to family emails – to hackers who are ruthless in their pursuit, and use of, your personal data. From blackmailing to phishing, hackers can use your data against you in many ways, which is why you owe it to yourself to start taking basic online security seriously.
No matter your personal prestige or the cost of your computer, you may be vulnerable to hackers. Recently, hackers obtained and publicly posted sensitive pictures of various celebrities, culled from their Apple iCloud accounts. “The brazenness of the attacks has increased and they are targeting household names,” said Matthew Prince, chief executive of the security firm CloudFlare.
So, while most people are vulnerable to hackers, hackers often won’t spend their time on a potential victim who is very difficult to hack. The more difficult you make it to hack your computer, the less likely it is to be hacked. You can get started making yourself a less desirable target with the three basic steps below.
Avoid Using the Same Password
Nowadays, we all have various accounts spread across the web, from Facebook and Twitter to the login credentials for your bank account or even local library due notices. It’s obviously easier to remember the login details for all these accounts if they’re all the same or very similar, but while this is convenient it is also extremely dangerous.
In the chance that a hacker accesses one of your accounts, if you have the same login information across several sites, you have practically handed them the keys to your entire online persona. To minimize damage and make yourself less hackable throughout the web, try using different passwords for every important web site you’re a member of. Even if someone hacks into one of your accounts, they’ll be stopped there.
Utilize a Password Manager
Avoiding using the same password across the web is a great idea, but how can you keep track of all the passwords? This is where a password manager comes in. Tools like 1Password, Keeper and Dashlane allow you to login to various sites with just one master password, even if the passwords across the sites are different.
It works this way: all your various passwords are encrypted. When you enter the master password, the specific password for the site you’re on will unlock and be entered into the password box. These password managers also have a password generator that can help you create complex passwords that are very difficult to crack.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
Most major web sites, from Facebook to Bank of America, offer two-factor authentication. Some, like Bank of America, use this feature by default, while others like Facebook must be turned on manually. It’s very important that you only have accounts on sites that use two-factor authentication. If your bank does not use two-factor authentication on their web site, you might even want to consider making the switch to a bank that takes security more seriously.
Two-factor authentication works by detecting whenever someone attempts to login to your account from a location or device that’s different than usual. For example, if I usually access my bank account on my laptop in California, my bank account will promptly flag someone with two-factor authentication if they attempt to access it on a cell phone from New York. The authentication usually involves sending a code to the cell phone number registered to the account holder. Then, the user can verify it’s them by entering the code.
Two-factor authentication won’t be an inconvenience for most people, because it’s not often that someone other than yourself will successfully log in to your account. As a result, you’ll only experience the impact of two-factor authentication in the case of an actual hacking attempt, or if you’re traveling and are accessing the site differently than usual.
It’s Worth the Effort
The three tips above are well worth the minimal hassle it takes to install and implement them. Even if you aren’t a widely beloved celebrity with legions of adoring fans waiting to download your leaked nudes, you owe it to yourself to secure your online presence – and your very identity.
Image Credit: Flickr (via Creative Commons)