Taking a systematic approach to online safety and protection is only half the battle! To be truly safe and protected online takes effort and discipline on our part. Fortunately, it requires very little time and virtually no effort at all. In most cases, it requires nothing more than a heightened sense of awareness and a few simple tweaks to your online routine. Here are a few suggestions that will go a long way to keeping you (and your data) safe online.
Think Before Installing
Free apps are available all over the Internet and many of them promote a faster computer, fewer malware attacks and a better experience. While this may be true of a few rare exceptions, in large part, this simply is not the case. Nearly all free apps have an ulterior motive. In some cases, it’s to tease you into purchasing additional apps or add-ons, and in other cases, these free apps can cause harm to your system and your privacy. Before installing ANY application, ask yourself two questions: 1) Do I truly need this app? 2) Is it coming from a trusted source? If the answer is “no” to either of these questions, or you aren't sure, avoiding installing the app until you ask someone else. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Watch Out for Typos
Malicious websites are rarely accessed by going to www.thissiteisbadforyou.com. They are almost always accessed by mistyping a legitimate site’s URL. For example… www.appple.com (notice the simple typo in the address) could potentially take you to a site that you don’t want to go to and may be filled with malware and viruses. Those who intend ill-will on you prey on those who mistype addresses. Avoid this when possible.
Pay Close Attention to Suspicious Email
I routinely receive emails from companies like Apple, American Express and Microsoft that are legitimate. Every so often, I also receive emails from what appears to be a legitimate source with something like “Your account has been suspended. Click here to reset your password and recover your account.” in the body. This may sound scary, but if you look closely, you will see that this is nothing more than a phishing attempt… they are tempting you to click on a link that will take you somewhere that you do not want to go. Read these emails carefully and pay close attention to spelling and/or grammar mistakes. This is where most phishers make their mistakes (most of them are foreign and don’t have the best English spelling or grammar). If it seems out-of-the-ordinary or looks suspicious, it probably is and you should delete it immediately.
Never Open Attachments that You Aren’t Expecting
Hopefully this goes without saying but if you receive a suspicious email that contains an attachment, disregard and delete it immediately! Often times, these attachments contain viruses, macros or other dangerous payloads that will compromise you, your system, your data and your identity.
Avoid Using Public Hot Spots
Public WiFi hot spots are available all over the place and are, in many cases, free to use. You can find them in airports, hotels, Starbucks, etc. Avoid using them unless it’s absolutely necessary. You just don’t know who or what is watching your traffic, and believe it or not, your system is transmitting passwords constantly across the Internet. If your cell phone plan offers a hot spot plan, use that instead. If not, consider adding it to your plan. If that’s not possible and you really do need to use a public WiFi hot spot, consider using a VPN service like Express VPN.
Keep Your Software Up-to-Date
The easiest way to stay protected and current on patches is to install all available updates for your Operating System and applications. If you can, set your updates to notify you when they become available. If you can’t, I recommend checking for updates once a week (sometimes I check daily). This is as simple as setting a recurring event in your calendar to remind you.
We all work hard at what we do and we all deserve to be kept safe while working online. I know this is a lot of information to digest, but it’s based on many real examples of how people just like you have lost control of their data (and their identity) because of a small mistake that could have been easily avoided.
If you’re ever not sure about your online safety, please reach out to us! We’re here to help!
Happy online computing!
PS. Feel free to pass this information along to anyone who you think could use a helping hand with online safety.