It’s difficult today to avoid scare stores about viruses, ID theft, ransomware and other online problems. People are worried about Online Security, particularly the theft of their financial information. They don’t want to sit down at their online banking app and find a zero balance in their accounts because their banking details have been stolen.
All is not lost, there is a lot you can do the protect yourself. It’s quite easy, sometimes effortless and inexpensive. Here are six ways to improve Online Security.
Sometimes it seems that common sense flies out the window when operating online. The FBI has said that most problems arise because of actions originating between the keyboard and the back of the seat.
Use common sense when looking at emails, web pages and the like. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Better known as Anti-malware. Viruses are only one of a range of malware issues that users are confronted with. Today you are faced with ransomware that encrypts your files, keyloggers that record your keystrokes and pass them back to a thief, bots that turn your computer into a mail server that spews spam or a member of a robot army attacking other computers. Antivirus software offers protection against all these.
There is Windows defender which comes free and automatically kicks in if there is no other onboard malware protection solution. However, informed opinion is that it’s a useful backstop, but any other solution, even a freeware one is better.
The budget-conscious can opt for one of a range of excellent free, but limited in capability, solutions. For professional users, a full security suite is probably the best bet. If it doesn’t protect against ransomware, install one of the free solutions out there.
Most, if not all, offer automatic updates for the basic software and the virus identification files. Keeping it up to date is a no-brainer since new viruses and delivery mechanisms appear every day. If you are using a corporate package downloaded from the corporate server, automatic updates should be switched on, and you shouldn’t be able to stop them from happening.
Another thing you need to do is to look at the things your anti-malware solution offers, for example, protection against malicious websites. Again Microsoft Edge does this. So do most anti-malware solutions but probably more comprehensively. Some offer ad-blockers and identify dodgy apps, those that aren’t exactly malware but don’t provide any benefit. Some add-ons are switched off by default and should be switched on.
Passwords are often the weak point in any online security environment. It won’t be the first time that a security sweep has found passwords written down near the computer or easily guessable.
Another problem is memory. Most folk can’t remember a unique user-id/password for every account they have, so they re-use the same one. If a hacker works out your user-id and password combination, they have access to your email, your bank accounts and the online e-commerce sites you have accounts with.
You need unique, strong and different passwords for each different account. That is probably beyond the capabilities of most human memories.
It again is easily got round. A free or inexpensive password manager does the trick. One password to remember, that of the password manager itself.
Unlock it, and it will automatically log you in. With a new account, it will generate a strong password for you and retain your login credentials for later use.
Authentication used to be so easy. Enter your credentials and there you go. However, hackers found it just as easy. For accounts with sensitive or valuable information, additional verification is needed. Step forward Two-Factor Authentication. Simply put, it is a second layer of authentication.
It can take several forms. The first is an “I am a Human” verification like reCAPTCHA, which strictly speaking is not a true second stage authentication, more a proof that you are not a bot collecting information.
The second is, for example, a requirement to enter further information A code sent to a cellphone number or email address is usually the mode.
Use it for financial accounts.
One area of particular concern is the recording and use of financial information in e-commerce. The current trend is towards using an actual or virtual credit card to make e-payments without handing it over.
At a PoS, RFID technology allows you to tap your card on the terminal. Some even extend to letting you use your smartphone. The online equivalent is a virtual card, which allows you to make payments without holding account information online. Smartphone payment apps lead the way, but desktop and web-based apps are following quickly.
Protecting yourself online is not rocket science. It mainly needs the application of common sense, helped by inexpensive or free software.