The recent international environment projects a very unsafe and dangerous aura around the Internet, so much so that many people have begun shrinking their online presence and switching over to anonymous browsing. It is quite understandable because of the people and corporations involved in the recent data leak scandals. Following the WikiLeaks cables, many thought that if even the CIA is not safe, how can a common man feel safe online. And that’s the whole point. Given enough time, all your personal data can be obtained by an attacker who is skilled and focused. And we have seen the terrible misuse of such data in the Cambridge Analytica and other such organizations.
However, that does not mean you stop using the Internet (even Facebook). The dangers can be negated by cultivating certain habits regarding the use of the Internet. Here, I discuss some tips which will help you have a healthy experience with the Internet –
1.Latest and up to date software
Using updated software is extremely important to ward off hackers, as the latest and updated software have better security features and fewer vulnerabilities to be exploited, compared to older software. Software updates also patch previously known bugs, making various methods of gaining unauthorized access to your data more difficult. Make sure your OS and other software are latest and updated.
Many scams exist on the Internet today. The most popular are the Nigerian fraud and Phishing. Nigerian fraud uses the guise of a banker, royalty or any other position of power to inform you that you have won a lottery, or they need your help in moving money from their country etc. It is generally perpetrated via email. The phishing scam is a more sophisticated kind of scam, where an attacker tries to steal your personal data via social engineering constructs. Let’s take an example of a Facebook phishing attack. The attacker creates a fake Facebook login page, which is similar to the actual page but has a different URL. As soon as you enter your username and password, the attacker gets that information. To keep yourselves safe from such attacks, carefully vet any suspicious emails you receive, and always check the URL of any website which you reach via an email link.
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I cannot stress enough on the importance of a strong password for all your online accounts. A strong password is 20+ characters long with a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Such a password cannot be brute forced by any cracker within a reasonable amount of time. Also, never share your passwords with anyone, nor should you use the same password for all accounts.
Avoid using public and unsecured wireless hotspots. The data on such networks can be accessed by anyone on the same network. This type of attack is called a Man in the Middle attack. If absolutely necessary, use a VPN on such networks. Even with VPN, do not engage in any monetary transactions on an unsecured network.
5. Keep your personal Information secret
It is called the present day gold for good reason. The most important point is to never trust a stranger online. Do not divulge personal information online to unknown people. Preferably, use a nickname to protect your identity. Don’t share information with websites and services you don’t trust.
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All social media have privacy settings, where you can set who can view how much of your data. Set it such that only your friends and family can view your data.
7. Use Anti Virus
Antivirus removes various harmful software, like keyloggers, RATS etc., which steals your personal information. Once on your computer, there is no way of removing such software without loss of data, other than an Antivirus. There are various antivirus available. My personal pick is BitDefender, but you can use any antivirus which suits you.
8. Don’t install Pirated Software
Never use pirated software, period. Not only does it deprive the developer of their rightful income, they’re almost always laced with viruses, spyware etc. Pirated software is a big threat to your security and should be avoided.
The HTTPS protocol ensures that the connection between you and the website you’re accessing is secure, which means no 3rd party would be able to see or compromise your information. Thus, ensure that all your sensitive information goes through HTTPS-enabled websites only.
10.Downloads from the trusted source
Use only known websites for downloads. Downloads from suspicious or unknown websites should be avoided at all costs. Same for with email attachments and links. Only open those links and attachments whose sender is trusted.
With these tips in mind, your online activity would be much more secure. However, nothing is fool-proof. So, be observant and trust your instincts to keep yourself safe online.
I am a student of Mechanical Engineering (Undergrad 6th sem). My interests lie in 3D modelling, technology, writing and football. Feel free to ask me anything !