As October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, I thought I would share my top 5 simple tips for improving your online security. I’m no expert by any means, but I know enough to be able to increase security on my computer, and reduce the risks to my personal information, data, and so forth.
How secure is your data? Do you have different passwords for the many internet sites you access? Do you have Anti-virus software? Do you keep it up dated? These simple tips can make a big difference and all of the links are for free applications you can download and use straight away – so what are you waiting for!?
1. Passwords and Logging Out! – For starters you should have a login password to access your computer, and on your screensaver. This is very simple to sort out in the control panel of your machine, user accounts (if you need more details on this drop me a line and I’ll walk you through it). Passwords should be strong, using a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and (where allowed) punctuation marks. Then as we all have so many different social media, email, banking and other sites which require password access you should be storing your different passwords for each site somewhere secure – don’t use a single password for everything you login to, and don’t just store your passwords in a document on your computer. You should use a password safe such as Kee-Pass which can also randomly generate secure passwords for you. Just download and install the Kee-Pass Password safe and you can keep all your login details securely in there with space to store URL’s, notes and any other important access information for each entry. You need to remember a single secure password to access/lock the password safe but the rest you don’t need to memorise any more! To get Kee-pass click here.
Once you have secure access to your information to make sure it stays that way you need to remember to LOG OUT/OFF when you have finished. Almost everyone has been ‘fraped’ at sometime, due to not logging out of Facebook or letting a friend use your phone/laptop while you are logged in, but being fraped is a low concern compared to other information that may be accessible if you haven’t logged out – so always LOG OUT when you have finished and ‘lock’ your computer with your password if you are gong away from it!
2. Anti-virus Software – Firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware programs are the first line of defence against viruses and cyber threats. If you want to buy expensive programs with complex features, just make sure you keep paying to keep the software up to date otherwise you are wasting your money! But, you don’t have to pay out a fortune. AVG (amongst many) provide a free antivirus package (or you can upgrade at a cost). The free package does what you need, and you can update it regularly and simply. And of course just in case your software is out of date or misses a potential threat (which does happen sometimes) NEVER open attachments/files that you don’t know who they are from/are not expecting and don’t click on all those spam links that pop up on websites – these include fake antivirus warning! beware! To get AVG click here
3. Encryption – Encrypting your data/hard-drive is one of the most secure ways to protect all your information and data. Even if you have a secure login password, your data is still at risk if someone steals your machine as there are other ways they can access your data – your login password is more for convenience than robust security. Encryption means they cannot get onto your machine/hard-drive at all without the encryption key (which should be a very secure complex password – but one you MUST remember)! One open source software available to encrypt your machine is truecrypt – To get truecrypt click here. Windows 7 premium has an equivalent built in facility. In addition when you are using instant messaging the information you are sharing is not very secure, one way to improve this is for you and your friends to install encryption software such as Simplite for MSN messenger, then no-one can eavesdrop on the messages you are sending – To get Simplite click here
4. Backing up your data – So even once you have made sure you are being ‘secure’ in how you loo after your information/data, you also need to be prepared for other eventualities such as hard drive failures (or if you have failed in your security measures…) that could result in the loss of information from your machine. the most obvious (and actually very simple way to deal with this is to BACK-UP your data regularly!! Now if you are lucky enough to have a home server then that is the ideal thing to use, completely securely separate from your machine – whilst readily accessible. Even if you don’t have this facility, you can purchase high capacity memory sticks and external hard-drives for relatively lost costs. And then there are online back-up facilities, I know a lot of people are still anxious about how secure their data will be on the ‘cloud’ but these facilities can be very good, simple and even free. A simple google search will bring up a variety of different cloud based back-up utilities (I can’t recommend one personally as I don’t use one having access to a server!) What ever facility you use to back up your data, make sure this is also encrypted!!
5. HTTP vs HTTPs – when you login in to your email, facebook, banking or other online sites where you may be giving personal information it is important to check you have a secure connection before you input any pertinent data (especially credit card/bank details!). There are a couple of things to look out for here, beyond a sites own claims of being ‘secure’ depending on your browser you may see a padlock symbol in the address bar (or other location) but most of all if a site is ‘http’ then it is not secure whereas ‘https’ means the site is secure and therefore so is your data!
I hope this information has been helpful, if you would like any further support in acting on the information provided here drop me a message and I will do my best to help you (having my own Computer Network Engineer at home, if I get stuck I can ask him to step in! lol)
Thank you for reading! If you have enjoyed reading this post please share it with others who may be interested and I always enjoy receiving feedback and comments 🙂
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