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How to be more secure online

You might be surprised but the internet can be a dangerous place. Land on the wrong website or click a suspicious link, and you can infect your computer with malicious software that will steal your data and demand a ransom for its return. Fill in a username and password in a dodgy form, and your digital life can be turned upside down. With technology taking over nearly every corner of our daily lives the risk of becoming a victim to a security breach is becoming higher and higher. According to the Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, over 4 in 10 business (43%) and 2 in 10 charities (19%) experienced a cyber security breach in 2018. Here are our Top 5 internet safety rules to follow to help you avoid getting into trouble and how to be more secure online.

Use an anti-virus software

You may be thinking, wait, isn’t antivirus built into my device? And you’d be correct in thinking so, but unless you’re on an Apple device you’re probably better looking elsewhere for other options. The thing is, the windows built-in antivirus just doesn’t compare with the best third-party solutions. Even the best free ones are way better than Windows Defender. Don’t rely on it, you can do better.

It might be called Anti-Virus, but it actually protects you against all kinds of malicious software. Spyware is simply spying software but noticing if you have spyware is anything but simple. It runs unnoticed in the background collecting your information. Criminals use spyware to collect financial information, passwords or even credit card information. Ransomware is malicious software which encrypts files on your computer or completely locks you out. It’s spread by hackers who then demand a ransom claiming that, if you pay, you’ll receive the decryption key to recover your files. An effective antivirus protects against these and many other kinds of malware.

Only input important information on websites with an SSL

An SSL (secure socket later) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private. Basically, it’s used to secure any data communicated over the internet between your computer and the web server. This could be something like your passwords or your debit/credit card information you input when you’re online shopping.

Therefore, you should make sure that any site you’re using has an SSL before inputting any important information. One way of knowing is checking to see if the URL starts with https:// rather than http://, its also indicated by a locked green little padlock on the left-hand side of the address bar.

To read more about SSLs, we’ve previously posted a blog all about them, why not have a read? – https://cyberfrogdesign.co.uk/what-is-an-ssl-certificate/

Use unique passwords every time

One of the easiest ways to have your information stolen is by getting your username and password combinations from one site and trying those same combinations elsewhere. For example, let’s say hackers got your username and password by hacking your social media. They might try to log into your online banking or online stores using the same username and password combination. The best way to prevent one data breach giving access to all your accounts is to use a strong and unique password for every single account you have.

Although, I know what you’re thinking, how am I meant to remember so many unique passwords. Well that’s where Password Managers come in to play. Several excellent password managers are free to use and only take a small amount of time to set up and to start using. The benefits of a password manager are that you only need one “master” password to access your “vault” of passwords, which are all secured through high levels of encryption. Most of them will also have a built-in password generator to create long, randomised passwords. Not only do they help keep you safer, but also increases your efficiency and productivity. You no longer spend time typing your logins or dealing with the time-consuming frustration of resetting a forgotten password.

Don’t click on suspicious links

A lot of malware often spreads because you’ve clicked on a link from someone you know. If anyone you know sends you a strange or suspicious looking link, you’re best sending an email or message to ask them if the link you’ve been sent was sent on purpose, or if your friend or family member have become victim of a hacking attack.

Get a VPN and use it

If you want to take your security up a notch, consider using a Virtual Private Network service (VPN). VPN services both protect your connection to the internet by encrypting the data in the connection and hide where you’re connecting from, which protects your privacy.

Using a VPN is especially important when working on insecure Wi-Fi networks, such as those found in public places like cafes, hotels and restaurants. Those networks are insecure because it’s quite easy for someone to intercept traffic on them with a software tool. To read more about the risks of using Public Wi-Fi have a read of a blog we previous posted: https://cyberfrogdesign.co.uk/is-public-wifi-safe-and-secure/

However, there are some downsides to using a VPN. One of which is the fact that they can slow down your internet experience because your traffic may be making more jumps to get from point A to point B than it would usually have to if you weren’t using a VPN.

Also, any VPN that’s worth talking about will charge you for using it. Avoid the free ones at all costs, you will end up paying for them – but not in the way you think! They compromise your security, they slow down your internet considerably, they bombard you with ads, they sell your bandwidth and they track your online activity. All of which defeats the purpose of using a VPN.

Closing down

The internet has, undoubtedly improved many aspects of our lives and brings convenience, entertainment, information and resources that many of us never imagined twenty years ago, it has also brought problems and presented risks that never existed. It’s all about vigilance, looking out for scammy signs and making sure we protect our identities and hardware. The internet can be a minefield and a jungle if we’re not diligent, and as Sergeant Esterhaus said in Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.”

Photo by Luther Bottrill on Unsplash

Posted in Help and Advice, Web Design Liverpool

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