We live in a hyper connected age unlike any before it. Your online safety and privacy is at risk on a daily basis. Here are 8 tips to keep you safer online:
1. INTERNET BROWSER SAFETYNew online threats emerge everyday and for the bad guys the race is on to find ways to compromise your browser with malware, security holes and malicious exploits. Your best defense is to ensure that you're using a modern browser such as Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. These browsers update themselves automatically to keep ahead of all newly discovered threats. Also consider installing an ad blocker that blocks intrusive ads and unnecessary tracking scripts. An added bonus is a more enjoyable browsing experience by speeding up website load times.
2. EMAIL SAFETYFor all the convenience that email provides it is also one of the most prolific points of entry for scams and malware. There are some basic rules that will help to keep you safe: always assume an email is a scam. Always reject unsolicited advances and messages in your inbox. Be suspicious of all attachments and don't open anything unless you were expecting it, the bad guys are brilliant at hiding their traps in attachments. Lastly, never click on any links within an email.
3. ANTI VIRUSStick with a paid product that performs well in anti-virus comparative tests. Free products nearly always come with a catch unfortunately. Windows 10 has built in anti-virus and it's making great strides in efficiency but tends to be outpaced by top tier paid products. Symmetric IT endorses and supplies ESET Anti-Virus products.
4. UPDATESSoftware programs nowadays are exploited and compromised mercilessly. If there is a security hole (and there IS) it will be exploited by someone, somewhere. You can't always stay ahead but you can put up a good fight with patches and up to date software. Apple Mac and Windows updates often break legitimate things but the pros outweigh the cons, so next time Windows nags you for an update it's best to let it have its way! (and if you're still on Windows 7, make upgrading to Windows 10 a priority).
5. PASSWORDSSo many passwords to remember! - just make sure you use different passwords for different services. So often victims are cross-compromised because they re-used a password for different services (think about your email password matching your PayPal password..). Secondly, strong passwords go hand in hand with security: Long passwords or even phrases(easy to remember!) with uppercase, lowercase, special characters and non-dictionary words are best.
6. SMARTPHONESControversial and very debatable - which smartphone ecosystem is more secure and respects your privacy the most, Apple's IOS or Google's Android? We are of the opinion that the walled garden approach of Apple tends to be more security/privacy oriented than Android's somewhat wild west approach. Whichever you choose, the same safety guidelines apply: Don't install apps thoughtlessly. Check what permissions they require and deny that which they don't. A minimum permission model is what is desired, a dictionary app certainly doesn't need access to your contacts!
7. PRIVACY SETTINGSYour default privacy settings on all your favorite social media apps and websites often don't have your privacy as their number one concern; they tend to be more concerned with sharing your data with 3rd parties for extra profit. Facebook was caught red handed recently with misusing user personal data. Check each service's privacy settings individually and make sure you are aware of what you are sharing with the general public.
8. BACKUPSAll hard drives and storage media can and will fail eventually, when this does happen, as long as you have backups you will be OK. Ensure that you have multiple backups of your most precious data in more than one place (offsite if possible as well). Backup your smartphone as well - we treat it like a casual accessory but in most cases it's more expensive than a laptop and carries more information!
Hopefully this gives some food for thought when you interact online and how to stay safe while doing it. Comment if you have ideas to add.
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