A Basic Guide to Online Security

Posted by Laura N on

a basic guide to online security

When was the last time you visited your parents? Were you horrified by their lack of even the most basic knowledge of how to stay safe online? That's the place we're coming from with this guide. It's made for sharing with your parents, grandparents, and clueless friends. And if you find some helpful information here for yourself, we won't tell anyone.

PASSWORDS

example of a terrible password

Do not reuse passwords. That way if one service has a data breach, the problem ends with that service and the bad guys don’t potentially have the ability to access more of your accounts.

If the service has two-factor authentication, enable it.

Use a password manager to store your passwords such as Last Pass, 1Password, or Dashlane. Pick a really strong master password for it. Either 12 characters or longer with uppercase, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols or 4-6 random words you can remember. If you think there’s a chance you will forget this, write it down and put it somewhere safe. Never use this password on someone else’s computer or phone. Access it from your phone and then use the password you need to log into the other device.

Sure this piece from The Onion is funny, but it’s also true. You know people who do this. If you need to keep a written copy of your password, don’t leave it right next to the computer. Please.

Are you using one of the “worst passwords?” Change them!

Here how to create passphrases that you can memorize but even the NSA can’t guess.

AWAY FROM HOME

Never use a public network, like Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, for financial transactions. If you use a wireless network that isn’t secured, make sure to use a VPN.

Also, if you’re using iOS (an iPad or iPhone), you might want to stay home until Apple fixes this

Your device charges and passes data through the same port which makes it vulnerable to being intercepted. Get a USB Secure Charging Cable for when you need to charge up away from home. Here’s why.

SOCIAL MEDIA

facebook privacy checkup

Live, location based posts not only reveal where you are, but that you’re not at home. If local, delay posts for a few hours until you are at home. If out of town delay posts for a few days.

Try to avoid revealing standard security question information such as your birthday, high school, favorite pet, first car, etc.

Take time to set who can view what in the privacy settings. This complete guide to Facebook privacy settings should help you get started.

SECURITY SOFTWARE

Use an antivirus software and a firewall. Antivirus alone won’t protect you, but it is a part of keeping your computer secure.

Windows users, use your built in firewall and make sure it is configured correctly

Mac users, your firewall is off by default. Read to find out when you might want to enable it.

We’re also quite fond of Little Snitch, a firewall app that also allow you to see and control which apps are phoning home.

Looking for a free and super simple alternative? Check out Radio Silence.

SOCIAL ENGINEERING

Be suspicious. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You probably have not won an iPad or a cruise.

Reading these examples of how social engineering was used to compromise security will help you better recognize it in the future.

EMAIL

Make sure your mail email address that you use to sign up for things is a free web based service like gmail. That way if you change ISPs you won’t lose access to those accounts.

Use a different email account for social media than you use for online banking, bill paying, etc.

Find out more in this complete guide to email security.

GENERAL

Use your credit card with the best fraud insurance to shop online. Never use a debit card.

Afraid to use your real credit card number online? Check out Blur, which creates a new credit card number for every purchase you make.

Update your operating system and software promptly. Most can be set to do this automatically.

Be very careful about the programs you download and run. Never download files from a banner. If you need a particular software, get it from that company’s official site or the app store for your particular operating system.

Have a backup system in place. Some attacks might require you to wipe your computer and start over. We like BackBlaze and CrashPlan. If you have a Mac, Time Machine is fine.

And finally, review the top 11 scams used by online criminals to trick you.

 

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