As technology becomes increasingly integrated with our daily lives, the question becomes ever more prevalent: how safe is our information? After a number high-profile celebrities recently became victim to a team of hackers, many internet users have begun to raise concerns about web security. Until global action is taken, however, it is up to us to protect our own data as best we can. To help keep your private information private, keep the following secure internet usage tips in mind.
Avoid Using the Same Password for All Accounts
69% of internet users will be hacked at some point in their lifetime. There are a few different methods of hacking, but one of the simplest and most common methods is the brute-force attack. In a brute-force attack, the hacker targets the victim’s passwords. To minimize your vulnerability to these forms of cyber attack, do not use the same password for multiple accounts. If you use a universal password and a hacker cracks it, you’ve just given them an all access pass to your identity.
Choose Your Password Carefully
It can take just ten minutes for an accomplished hacker to crack a standard 6-letter password. To make your passwords as hack-proof as possible, start out by combining two unlikely words, then add a capital letter and a punctuation mark. In doing so, you will make cracking your password a three year task instead of a ten minute one. As important as it is to create a password that is difficult for hackers to crack, avoid creating one that is overly challenging. If you have to reset your password frequently, store it on your computer, or write it down, then you also present a vulnerable front to hackers.
Be on the Alert for Scams
Some hackers access your computer and/or personal data through scams that disguise malicious content. Common e-scams you may see include the “FBI Moneypak,” which hijacks your computer by informing you that in order to unlock your browser you must first pay a pirating fine. Other scams you may come across will urge you to download new software (commonly spyware software, but Adobe Flash Player and Open Office phishing scams are also circulating). If your computer is hijacked, restart it it in safe mode, and then run an advanced anti-virus. Malwarebytes is a personal favorite of mine, but Hitman Pro also rates highly. If the attack has compromised your system to the extent that you cannot boot in safe mode, then load Hitman Pro through your USB.
Protect Your Sensitive Information
When you browse online, you leave a trail of information behind you that any hacker worth his salt can easily follow. To keep your sensitive data safe, do not post it online. Your credit card information should not be stored on your computer; a scan of your driver’s license should not be twiddling its thumbs in your email; and your home address and cell phone number should not be publicly displayed on your social media accounts. Minimize your vulnerability by avoiding storing sensitive information on your iCloud (and similar cloud storage services). Despite coming under fire recently after celebrity accounts were hacked for nude pictures, iCloud has not worked out the kinks in its security standards. To access your iCloud account, hackers need only know your security question responses, date of birth and email address.