In recent months I’ve discussed my views on internet security issues in the blog and newsletters, specifically focussing on data security – you’ll no doubt be sick of hearing about the importance of security and you’ll probably be thinking “dammit man, what can I actually do to keep my information safe?!”.
Here are 5 points you can address right away that will instantly reduce the probability of any such data breach happening to you.
Number 5 – Two-step verification
Google, Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter: these are some of the high-profile and reputable websites requiring a login with 2-step verification. You should use this if a website offers it.
What 2-step verification means is that in addition to the requirement of a password to log in, the website will also send a code via SMS which is also necessary to complete your login. So even if an unauthorised individual gets hold of a user’s password they will still be unable to log in.
This will drastically reduce the chances of a password hack meaning your personal and professional data is essentially unobtainable via unauthorised access.
Number 4 – Using Anti-virus? Is it up-to-date?
I’m pretty certain everyone reading will have some form of anti-virus software installed on their PC. If you haven’t, or the version of McAfee/Norton that was bundled with your computer has been complaining to you in the form of pop-ups for some months that your subscription has run out, then do something about it. Now! Seriously, stop reading now and fix it!
You don’t necessarily need to pay for subscription-based internet security software as long as you are careful where you browse and are not in the habit of clicking every ad and pop-up you see.
You should get protection for your mobile device too. AVG, Avast!, 360 Security – there are many free and paid mobile anti-virus and anti-malware apps available for Android and iOS, and I recommend checking them out. These apps often offer clean-up, memory optimisation, and anti-theft features that help keep your phone secure and running smoothly and speedily.
Of course, many people now use Apple laptops and desktops for work while increasing numbers are bringing Chromebooks in too. Neither of these operating systems is afflicted by viruses in the same way as Windows so may be worth considering purely on that basis.
Number 3 – Update your software frequently
Make sure your operating system and programs are fully up-to-date.
Many security breaches occur because hackers are able to exploit vulnerabilities in Windows or other seemingly innocuous programs on your computer, such as Office or older versions of IE browser.
If you choose not to have automatic updating enabled on your computer do remember to check frequently for updates.
Number 2 – Use a Password Manager
Chrome has a number of extensions that help you to keep track of your passwords. Ideally, you should be using a different password for everything you sign in to – email, banking, shopping, and social media sites – but this can be a little bit frustrating and impractical to keep track of.
There are a number of password managers available for download as browser extensions which will help you keep track of all your personal information easily. One that I’ve recommended several times is my1login which has the advantage of being able to assist you via a browser extension or, even better (in my view), through the web which can make managing passwords for a whole team much more manageable.
Number 1 – Review your passwords
Simple and extraordinarily effective – if you have any doubts about the strength of your passwords then review them now.
Websites normally won’t accept a new password if it is deemed to be insecure, and you will be given a visual indication of the strength of the one you have chosen, which is good, but you can do better.
There is research to show that nonsense sentences made up of random words are far more effective than single words made up of characters and numbers.
You should never use the same password across different websites as it only takes your password to be hacked on one site before hackers are able to attempt to use your password and email combination across a number of sites. This is why a good password manager is an essential add-on for your browser.
If you think you might have missed any of the above security tips then get on it now. Experiencing a data security breach is terrifying, frustrating and extremely time-consuming to remedy – I know because it has happened to me.