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Today is Safer Internet Day! At Creativity Design Group, we wanted to take today to help internet users all around the world partake of internet safety. We want to offer you some basic safety tips to ensure that you and your computer remain safe while online to prevent your personal information, identity and files from being stolen or hacked. Let’s go over some internet safety tips that will help you out greatly.
1. Using STRONG passwords with different variations
One mistake that many people tend to make is that they choose to use extremely easy passwords that anyone can remember; sometimes they may even set the password to the word “password”. Because this mistake is so common, many people such as hackers will guess this when trying to login to a website with stolen information. The best way to fight hackers is to make an extremely difficult password that no one could remember; instead of using actual words for your passwords you should create a string of symbols, upper and lowercase letters and numbers together. Additionally, you should never use the same password for all of your online accounts; your social media, email and bank account passwords should always be different as well as hard to guess.
2. Using WordPress? Use a security plugin.
Back in October (Cyber Security Month), we made a post about using a security plugin on your website if it is on WordPress (check it out here if you missed it). Security plugins will keep your website safe from unauthorized logins, malware and many other types of threats. Install one on your website if you do not have one already; please check out the blog post for recommendations.
3. Watch out for ads and spyware
There are many types of harmful software programs out there that can track your online activity and even steal your personal information without your knowledge. Watch out for adware, which are software programs that send you unwanted popup ads and spyware, which are software programs that install in your browser or behind the scenes in your computer that track your online activity and possibly steal your information. These types of programs are usually obtained through online popup ads advertising programs that can speed up your computer, clean your system or for free games among other types of programs. Are you unsure if you have adware or spyware on your computer? There are plenty of free programs that will scan and clean your computer if you do, such as Malwarebytes.
4. Keep all of your software up to date (including antivirus, spyware scanners, and operating systems)
Having the latest versions of all of your software programs prevents your personal information from being compromised and your computer from being destroyed. When software companies update their software, they usually are fixing several security holes that would put your computer and its data at risk. Antivirus and spyware scanner updates include updates to their databases of threats to help ensure that such scanners find the biggest and latest threats to your computer. Browsers such as Firefox and Chrome update themselves in the background to ensure you receive the latest features and security. If you use either a Windows or Mac based computer, Microsoft and Apple regularly provide updates to their operating systems to fix security holes as well as provide new features. It is recommended to turn on auto-updating if you use Windows (find out how here) or Mac (find out how here).
5. Use a Firewall
A firewall is a program that prevents unauthorized access into your computer but allows incoming internet traffic in. You should always use a firewall on your computer and if you use Windows or Mac, then you have a firewall built in your system already and will not need to download or buy one. By default, your Windows or Mac operating system already has it turned on but if you need to enable it manually, check out how to do it at these links (Windows/Mac).
6. Shopping (or providing information) on Secure sites.
When you are shopping online or providing incredibly sensitive personal information, it is important to make sure that the site you are on is using an SSL certificate (new website owners, please check out our blog post on this here). Normally, your browser will warn you with a big notice that a website you are about to visit is unsafe and prompt you to click the Back button; when in doubt about a website you are on simply look in the address bar for the “Secure” icon or a padlock next to the URL. This means that the website you are providing information on is secure.
7. Don’t be a software pirate – only use legitimately purchased software.
Many people who cannot afford certain software programs will attempt to “pirate” or obtain them for free via cracks that can be downloaded from different sites on the Web. Aside from the fact that pirating software is illegal, it can also be risky in many different ways. One reason is that the cracks found online are often viruses in disguise; another reason is that pirated software is not supported by its developer and cannot be updated to newer versions that have major security hole fixes. The best way to avoid these legal and security risks is to purchase your software legally directly from the developer; buying from third party sources that are not authorized dealers is often risky as such sellers often sell pirated copies.
8. Be careful with what you share on social media
Social media can be fun, and we all love to share our pics and best moments with our friends. But sometimes, we need to remember that not everyone can be trusted. You should never share any type of personal information on any social media platform as this opens the door for identity theft as well as unwanted phone calls. If you are creating a business page for Facebook, ensure that your business information is displayed and its posts are completely separate from your personal feed. Don’t display photos of anything that has personal information, such as credit cards or social security cards.
9. Avoid outdated browsers
This reiterates point #4 above about keeping your software up to date. Using outdated internet browsers can easily exploit your most personal information to hackers, who are breaking into these browsers due to the fact that the newer versions have better security. Aside from security issues, outdated browsers do not support newer Web technologies and may display websites in a broken way. While Firefox, Chrome, and Safari are updated regularly, the only version of Internet Explorer still being updated is 11 and will only run on Windows 7, 8 and 10. If you are using any version of Windows other than these, you are using an outdated browser that cannot be updated to 11 so you will need to consider upgrading either Windows or use another browser than Internet Explorer.
10. Secure your Wi-Fi connections
Unsecure Wi-Fi connections are no different than leaving your door unlocked. Anybody can get into your connection and possibly into your computer where they can steal your information. If you are using a public Wi-Fi, be careful when using these connections when sharing personal information as they may not be secure. If you have a Wi-Fi connection, a username and key are usually set by your internet provider taped to the side of your modem. Learn more about wireless passwords for Windows here and for Mac here.
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