Target, Sony, Anthem, oh my.
These days, it seems that every few weeks a new major corporation makes the news for all the wrong reasons. Their systems get hacked, sensitive customer information gets compromised, and their bush-league executives make promises that everything is fine and nothing of the kind will ever happen again.
Then a few weeks pass, and yet another corporation announces the same song and dance.
While these kinds of data breaches are certainly unfortunate, they can serve as a great reminder for us, personally, to reexamine the way we use the Internet so as to do our part to make sure our identities and personal information remain secure.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five easy yet effective ways to boost your personal digital security:
Construct complex passwords—and change them regularly.
Even if you hardly even use the Internet, you’re going to need to set passwords that are difficult for anyone to figure out. In other words, don’t even think about making your password something that’s easy to guess, like “password123” or your first name.
Instead, you’re going to want to make sure to construct more complex passwords. Something like “PasswOrd123_!” would be considerably more effective. Beyond simply constructing these hard-to-guess passwords, you’re probably going to want to change them regularly—something like every 90 to 180 days will probably suffice.
Protect your network.
If you’ve not yet set a password for your home network, do so right away. If you don’t require a password to access your network, anyone nearby will be able to gain access through it from their own devices. Skilled hackers may even be able to use the access to your network to steal critical information from you, whether that’s personal data or simply your life patterns.
Beware of unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
Heading down to the neighborhood coffee shop for a cup of java and a little Internet browsing might seem harmless, but believe it or not, free public Wi-Fi networks are known to attract hackers who wait for someone to slip up before stealing their information.
As such, it’s recommended that you don’t do any serious computer-related tasks—e.g., buy something off Amazon, pay your credit card bill, or check your stock portfolio—until you’re back home on your own secure and trusted network. Otherwise, a hacker could very well intercept your data, creating an unnecessary (and preventable) headache.
Alternatively, you can make use of a VPN to keep yourself protected while on a public network. I’ve been a PIA subscriber for more than a year now, and I’ve found their service to be the best of its kind, whether you’re using a laptop, a desktop, or a mobile device.
Make use of two-step authentication.
Providers are increasingly turning toward two-step authentication to provide their customers with beefed-up security. Instead of simply entering a password to access an account, a program that boasts two-step authentication might ask for a password before sending a text message with a numbered code to a user’s smartphone—a device that only he or she has access to it. The user would then have to enter that code to access his or her account.
To increase your digital security, look for programs and services that offer two-step authentication—there are quite a few.
Update your software often.
There will always be malicious folks who try to exploit security vulnerabilities in existing software. That way, they figure they’ll be able to steal important information from unsuspecting users.
But all hope is not lost. Companies pay employees big bucks to stay ahead of these security vulnerabilities (for example, Google offers programmers $8,000 to find such flaws in Android). So in order to make sure that your online life remains protected, be sure to constantly stay on top of all software and operating system upgrades.
At the end of the day, you can’t prevent ill-intended folks from snooping around the Internet and trying to steal private data. But you can change your approach to how you govern your personal information on the Internet, making you a harder target than your unsuspecting peers. Good luck!