Going online isn’t just convenient; these days it is often essential. The internet is becoming the go-to place for banking, shopping, socializing, and much more. Most of us spend time online every single day, whether it is on a computer or on a mobile device, so it is important to know how to stay secure while going digital. Here are six steps to get you started.
1. Create Strong Passwords
A strong password is the first step to staying safe online. Here are a few quick Dos and Don’ts.
Create a password should with uppercase and lowercase letters and a variety of numbers and symbols. The more random the better. It should also be at least 10 characters long. Change your password regularly to prevent hackers from deciphering them.
Don’t use any personal information to create a password; your birthday, maiden name, social security number, and names of family members are all off limits. You should also avoid common lazy passwords like “123456,” “qwerty,” and—one of the silliest—“password.” It is also a mistake to use the same password everywhere. If hackers discover your email password, you don’t want them to have immediate and easy access to your online banking, social networking sites, and digital storage.
2. Choose Smart Answers for Security Questions
Many sites use security questions to verify your identity, especially when you forget your password. While the answers to these questions should be things you can remember, take care not to choose answers that are obvious. If everyone on your Facebook page can figure out your mother’s maiden name, your elementary school, and your favorite sports team, you probably shouldn’t be using those as answers to online security questions.
3. Back Things Up
Storage is getting more affordable every day, so your excuses for not backing up data are dwindling. If you make a mistake and download a virus or a hacker tracks down your email password, you don’t want to lose everything. Have back-ups prepared for when the worst happens. External hard drives are a simple and reliable way to back up your data, but you can also use an online service, so your data is preserved in case of a fire or flood.
4. Use a Credit Card
Some people are nervous about credit cards because it is easy to rack up interest on a card, but, used wisely, a credit card is a valuable tool. You may remember that Target was recently hacked and over a million people had their information stolen. While this was stressful for many, those with credit cards were better off than those who had used debit cards.
Credit cards are easily cancelled and not attached to the real money at your bank. Credit card companies are required to pay if you are the victim of fraud. If your debit card info is stolen it may take time for the bank to make you whole (if they do at all), and when the time comes to pay rent, it doesn’t matter whose fault it was, your bank account is empty.
5. Use More than One Email Address
You don’t want the same email address that Facebook displays everywhere to be the one you use for important financial things. Create separate social and financial email addresses, and consider creating another email for “throwaway” so you have something to give businesses and shopping sites that you’d rather not be spamming your regular inbox.
6. Remember the Internet is Infinite and Eternal
Once something is online, it is there forever, so be smart about what you share. One of the best and worst things about the internet is that it makes the world a very small place. That selfie you posted while you were partying with friends is out there forever and don’t kid yourself—future employers will find that stuff.
Don’t share your home address or personal phone number on a social network. Putting that information out there for a few hundred friends and acquaintances is really putting it out there for the whole world to see.
The internet is an amazing tool and, used correctly, it can make your life better—and even safer. If you need more tips for staying secure online or need to look into more serious security like a TMG gateway or a VPN server, check out companies like Celestix. Online security is important, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Stay smart and use the right tools for a positive digital experience.
Michael David is a freelance blogger who writes about a variety of topics. Look into Celstix for more digital security tips and tools.