Too often we think if our computer has security software then we’re safe from all online hazards. While these programs are useful for keeping malicious software at bay, they’re not the be-all and end-all of online security. In fact, it shouldn’t even be your first step.
We outline the actions you should take to keep yourself secure on the World Wide Web, taking you from the basics through to the more advanced tips. All of this helps protect you from viruses and keep your identity safe.
Online security starts here. This is the bare minimum you should be doing every day:
Use strong passwords. A strong password is one that uses letters
(capitals and lower case), numbers and punctuation. There’s no
defined length, but longer is better. The trick is using a
combination that’s both strong and memorable. The two best ways to
keep your password memorable is taking a word and modifying it. For
example, “password” is very weak; “P455word” isn’t much better; but
“p#s5Wor’D” is good. However a passphrase is best of all, for example
“AlwaysStrongPasswordPizza” is a strong password and chances are
you’ve already memorised it, and if you’re required to add numbers or
punctuation it’s easy enough.
Never use the same password twice. There’s no such thing as an
un-crackable website so, if one of your accounts gets broken into,
you don’t want that stolen password to open any of your other
accounts. Always use strong passwords for your email and websites
where you use your credit card or share financial details.
Never trust messages from unknown sources. This includes emails,
Facebook messages and texts. Never click links in these messages or
open attachments. Even if the message is alarming or intriguing, such
as “your account has been frozen” or “75% off Ray-Bans!” If you’re
worried, bypass the message and go straight to the source (for
example, call or contact your bank or directly visit its website).
If you’re already doing the basics, then these are our next recommended steps:
Don’t save your credit card details. Many online stores offer to save
your credit card details so you can make subsequent purchases faster
– no need to re-enter all your details. This is a terrible idea. If
these sites get hacked then your information is at risk. While a site
remembering your details is convenient, chasing your bank to refund
fraudulent purchases is not.
Don’t download any old app. Not every app in the Google and Apple app
stores is above board, some come with nasty fish hooks – from hidden
in-app purchases to selling personal data to flat-out scams. If
you’re installing an app, don’t just choose the first one in the
search results. Read the reviews, and check the developer to see what
else they’ve made.
Report everything! If you’ve been scammed, report it immediately. Go
to your bank, Netsafe or the police.
Once you’re in your groove with the security routine, try these:
Take note of app permissions. When you install an app it’ll ask for a
range of permissions. Sometimes these make sense, sometimes they
reach too far – a photo-editing app needs access to your photos, but
it doesn’t need your contacts. You can see the permissions required
before you install it. You can also revoke permissions in your
Give false information. We don’t mean lying on anything official, but
not telling the truth in some circumstances makes your online
presence safer. Security questions are a good example. Questions like
“Where were you born?” are used to verify your identity when you
forget your banking login. However, that type of information can
often be easily found on your Facebook page. Instead use false or
unusual answers such as “at the bottom of a well” or “Valhalla”.
Another trick is giving a slightly different spelling of your name
when signing in to a new website or service (this includes loyalty
cards that keep your information in online databases).