Top 10 online security tips
By Vinod Mohan Sr. September 30, 2013
- As much as you try to tighten security, there are malicious sources trying to bring you down
- Have different passwords for different sites; also also better to not sync your login with multiple sites
THESE tips may all appear as commonplace, but they are also those we tend to overlook. As much as you try to tighten security, there are malicious sources trying to bring you down.
Yes, we should have proper security devices in place, but it’s also good to revisit the basics to avoid potentially risky online practices to implement a pre-emptive security approach.
Let’s look at the top 10 security tips to keep your online experience secure.
1) Prevent identity theft
Don’t give your house key to the burglar. There are so many untrusted sites, potentially malicious, that mislead you into believing them to be genuine sites and make you enter your personal financial and security information (such as username password, bank account number, credit card PIN, etc.).
Phishing is become more common on the Web. So, never enter your password on site by following a link in an email or chat message. Do so only when you know it’s from a trusted source.
2) Strengthen passwords
- Try to have longer passwords with combinations of numerals, letters and special characters.
- Have different passwords for different sites
- It’s also better to not sync your login with multiple websites
- Set up password recover options to reset your password
- Always remember to log out when you are using a public computer
- And, lastly don’t share your passwords with anyone or leave them anywhere easily accessible
3) Beware of phishing and malware sites
There are many unsafe and untrusted sites that have the possibility to compromise your data, spam your website or even hack your system. These unsafe websites are typically classified as either phishing or malware sites.
- Phishing sites have the pretense of being legitimate and will trick you into entering and sharing private information and login credentials.
- Malware sites are those that contain a malicious code or script to install a hidden software onto your computer when you visit and access the site. Cybercriminals use malware to capture and misuse your private information.
You need to be equipped with the expertise to identify such sites if something seems fishy, and come out of them immediately.
4) Keep an eye out for website certificates
Have you noticed the closed padlock symbol on the address bar of your browser and the URL addresses that begins with HTTPS?
These are indications that the website you are visiting is secured and has encryptions in place to secure your data integrity. Make sure to check if the website you are using for sensitive information sharing has a valid certificate from a trusted certificate authority.
5) Insecure file sharing: A vulnerability gateway
Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing has become a very common method of breaking into end-user computers. You may never know what malware or infectious code or script is coming along with your download, or shared file.
Some P2P applications may ask you to open certain ports on your firewall to transmit the files, and by doing so you go one step further in letting your network and computer infrastructure be compromised.
Firewalls and antivirus software can help fight known viruses and infections and help keep your system guarded. But it’s better to be more wary about sharing files over untrusted websites, or use a secure file transfer server.
6) Dangers of insecure WiFi and unsafe public networks
You may never know who is monitoring your network usage and online transactions over a public network. So, it’s safer to use a protected private network (wired or wireless) for processing financial transactions and sharing sensitive information.
Watching your wireless space is also important as you may accidentally cross over to an insecure connection, or a hacker may break into your secure WiFi environment.
- Change default WiFi passwords
- Encrypt data using WiFi Protected Access (WPA)
- Do not publicise SSIDs (service set identifiers) of wireless devices
- Restrict and monitor WiFi access especially in relaxed BYOD (bring your own device) environments
7) Be discreet with social media sites
Generally, we tend not to exercise the same amount of caution while sharing information on social media as we do with other forms of peer-to-peer communication.
It is imperative that we really be careful about what information we reveal over social media. It’s not only your friends and professional connections that are privy to your information. There are cyber-criminals snooping around, and listening in on your conversations and social messages.
- Take advantage of your social media site’s privacy settings and ensure you don’t allow outsiders to see your data
- Try to avoid using applications modify your settings to gain access to your personal information and post on your behalf
- Use stronger passwords and keep changing them often, and don’t link your social accounts too much
8) Remove unused software, browser plug-ins and extensions
Over a period of time, it is quite possible that we accumulate a lot of browser plug-ins, extensions and other software that we just tried on but never actually used.
It’s a good security measure to uninstall and remove them from your computer as they may have grown to be vulnerable and susceptible to hacking.
9) Keep browsers, third-party apps and operating system up to date
Older versions of applications and browsers can be potentially dangerous as they may have vulnerabilities that can be compromised. Always pay heed to updates from application vendors and try to keep your apps, OS and browsers patched and up to date.
Take the example of the most popular version of Java (version 6, update 20): It has 96 vulnerabilities that are rated a ‘perfect 10,’ according to Bit9's report. Have proper patch management process to automate third-party application patching.
10) Ensure your VoIP communication is foolproof
As Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is also dependent on your Internet connection, this makes it an easy target for attackers.
Your VoIP calls can be intercepted and illegally pried upon. VoIP control can be compromised and fraudulent calls can be made from your account by manipulating your caller ID and causing your service to fail.
To prevent such security risks:
- Keep your VoIP software up to date
- Implement antivirus software to protect against known viruses
- Install firewalls to block malicious traffic before it can enter into your computer
Not limiting yourself to the above-mentioned tips, try to educate yourself about attacks, vulnerabilities and threat vectors and equip yourself against cyber-crime.
Log monitoring and event analytics will provide real-time intelligence to detect, alert and respond to threats and attacks and enhance IT security. Keep your computer safe and online experience safer!
Vinod Mohan Sr. is a product marketing specialist at SolarWinds.
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