In today’s digital world, we conduct so much of our lives online. We shop, bank, socialize, and store personal information online. Although the internet offers conveniences it also poses risks. Individuals, with intent are continually attempting to pilfer your financial data.
Fortunately, there are steps you may do to guarantee the protection and safety of your accounts. We’ve included 20 internet security suggestions in this tutorial to help you protect your personal data. You will learn techniques, like crafting passwords activating two factor authentication identifying phishing attempts and more. By adopting these security practices you can mitigate risks and comfortably enjoy the advantages of the digital realm.
Use Strong, Unique Passwords
The first line of defense for your online accounts is a strong, unique password.
What Makes a Strong Password?
- At least 12 characters long
- Mix of upper and lower case letters
- Special characters
Avoid using personal information like your name, birthday, or dictionary words. The longer and more random your password, the harder it will be to crack.
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Tips for Managing Passwords
- It is important to use a password for each of your accounts. By doing even if one password gets compromised your other accounts will remain safe and secure.
- Consider using a password manager app to generate and store secure passwords. This helps you use unique, complex passwords without having to memorize them all.
- Never share your passwords with anyone, including romantic partners or family members.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Two factor authentication (2FA) offers a level of security that goes beyond using your password. When 2FA is activated you’ll be required to provide two types of identification in order to access your account.
The first factor is your password. The second is typically a temporary code sent to your phone or email. Even if a hacker gets your password, they can’t access your account without the code.
Major sites like Gmail, Facebook, and banking websites offer 2FA. Turn it on for any site that allows it. The minor inconvenience is worth the enhanced security.
Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi Networks
Hackers can easily intercept information sent over public Wi-Fi networks in coffee shops, airports, hotels, etc. Avoid logging into sensitive accounts or making purchases when connected to public Wi-Fi.
If you want to retrieve information it’s advisable to utilize the data, on your phone or a reliable VPN (virtual private network). VPNs secure your internet connection ensuring that your online activities remain private when using networks.
Keep Your Devices Secure
The security of your laptop, phone, tablet, and computer matters just as much as your account passwords. Here are some tips:
- Always keep your devices locked when not in use. Set a strong passcode, fingerprint, or face ID.
- Keep your devices up-to-date. Install software and security updates promptly.
- Only download apps from trusted sources like the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Avoid third party app stores.
- Use antivirus software to detect and remove malware. Malware is software that can infect and damage your device.
- Encrypt your devices. Encryption converts your data into unreadable code that cannot be accessed without a password.
Treating your devices with care will prevent criminals from accessing your accounts by stealing your device or hacking it remotely.
Recognize Phishing Scams
Phishing attempts aim to deceive individuals into providing their login credentials or sensitive data to actors. These scams often begin with an email or text message that masquerades as a communication, from a reputable company.
Phishing messages often:
- Include spelling and grammar errors
- Use threatening language demanding quick action
- Address you as a generic recipient (“Dear user”) rather than your name
- Ask you to click strange links or provide sensitive information
If something seems suspicious, avoid clicking any links. Instead, log into your account directly through the company’s website to check for any notifications. Delete any messages that seem like phishing attempts.
Shop Safely Online
Online shopping can carry risks if you don’t take precautions.
Only make purchases on secure sites that begin with “https.” The extra “s” indicates data is encrypted as it travels between you and the site.
Avoid using debit cards for purchases. Credit cards offer stronger fraud protection. Or use a virtual credit card number when possible.
Beware of scam websites with unrealistic discounts on luxury goods. Check for reviews, grammatical errors, and other red flags.
Use secure payment services like PayPal when possible instead of entering your credit card information. This keeps your financial details private.
Always check your statements closely and report any unauthorized charges promptly.
Protect Your Social Media Accounts
Social media allows people to see a lot of personal information about you, so it’s important to lock those accounts down.
- Set your profiles to private so only approved friends can see your posts and info. Avoid public accounts.
- Review friends/followers occasionally and remove any strangers.
- Be cautious about sharing your location in posts and stories. Stalkers can use this info to find you.
- Limit how much personal information you share publicly on profiles. Keep things like your address, phone number, and employer private.
- Disable location tagging in posts and photos when possible.
Following these steps makes it harder for strangers learn too much about you or misuse your information.
Securing Your Email Accounts
Email is a common target for hackers because of all the sensitive information people store in their inboxes. Applying some basic security measures can protect your email account.
- Avoid using personal info in your email address like your name, birthday, etc. This makes you easier to track down.
- Turn on enhanced security settings like 2FA whenever possible.
- Never click password reset links in unexpected emails. Instead, navigate directly to the site to reset your password.
- Be cautious about opening attachments or clicking links in emails, especially from senders you don’t know.
- Regularly clear out your inbox and delete emails you no longer need. Less data stored makes you less of target.
Securing your email helps prevent criminals from gaining access to messages with personal information, account logins, passwords, and more.
Use Security Questions with False Answers
When setting up online accounts, you’ll often get prompted to provide answers to security questions as a backup authentication method. Avoid using real information—especially for questions based on public records, like your address history or age.
Instead of correct information, enter false answers that you’ll actually remember if you ever need to reference them. Just be sure to keep your phony answers consistent anytime you need to use security questions to access an existing account.
Manage Your Privacy Settings
Take time to manage the privacy settings on your devices, browsers, and accounts. Turn off any location tracking, limit ad tracking, and opt out of data collection you’re uncomfortable with.
Review the privacy policies of services you use to understand their data practices before signing up. Look for companies that pledge to collect only essential user information and allow you to control how it’s used.
Reading the fine print helps ensure you don’t unintentionally expose personal data.
Protect Your Home Wi-Fi Network
Make sure to enable encryption and set a password for your home Wi Fi network to keep individuals from accessing it. Avoid using information, such, as your address as the password.
Also consider disabling remote management of your home router and turning off Wi-Fi broadcasting so your network is invisible to anyone nearby. This provides an additional layer of security, though guests will need to request the Wi-Fi password from you to get access, which some find inconvenient.
Regularly updating your router firmware and resetting the admin password from the defaults also helps boost home network security.
Back Up Your Data
Backing up your data provides an important redundancy if you ever suffer a device failure, hacking attempt, or malware infection.
You have various options for backing up data:
- External hard drives: Store backups of important files on an external hard drive that’s disconnected from your network for safety when not needed.
- Cloud storage services: Services like Google Drive and Dropbox let you automatically sync files to their online servers. This both protects you from hardware failures and ensures access to files from anywhere on any internet-connected device. Just be sure to use strong passwords and enable 2FA for these services.
- Backup software: Programs like Apple Time Machine (for Mac) and File History (for Windows) schedule regular backups of your files to external storage devices.
Monitor Your Accounts and Credit Reports
Routinely check your financial and online accounts, social media profiles, and credit reports for any unauthorized activity. Immediately report anything suspicious to the relevant companies.
Monitoring your digital footprint makes it quicker and easier to catch fraud in action before major damage occurs.
Many banks and credit card companies have online dashboards or app notifications that alert you to suspicious transactions. Be sure to turn these on.
You’re also entitled to free credit reports from each of the major credit bureaus once per year at annualcreditreport.com. Review your reports closely for accuracy and any accounts you don’t recognize.
Use a VPN
As mentioned earlier, virtual private networks encrypt your internet connection to keep your online activities more private and secure, especially on public Wi-Fi. VPN services provide secure tunnels for data transmission over any network.
When choosing a VPN provider, look for companies that don’t log user data and offer fast speeds. Some recommended options include ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and ProtonVPN.
Installing a trusted VPN app protects against snoops, hackers, and government surveillance. Just be sure to still practice good security habits within the encrypted connection.
Limit Use of Public Computers
Refrain from accessing sensitive accounts and info on public computers like those found in libraries, cafes, airports, hotels, etc. You don’t know how secure these devices really are.
If you need to briefly sign into an account during travel, try to avoid logging in to important financial, email, or social media accounts. Stick to more trivial accounts instead to avoid exposing yourself too much. Sign out promptly after use.
Never save usernames, passwords or other personal info on a public computer. And avoid entering any credit card details. If you need to make a purchase, see if you can complete it on your secured phone instead.
Disable Autofill Form Features
Autofill tools built into browsers and password managers that fill out online forms can be convenient. But they also carry risks, especially if you stay signed into them on public or borrowed devices.
When using any public computer, disable form auto-fillers. Don’t give others access to your personal details. Make sure to log out of any password managers to cut off access as well.
You can enable autofill features again after returning to use of your own private, secured devices.
Avoid Password Reuse
The most common error people make is using the same password for several websites and accounts. Hackers can access all of your linked accounts if just one password is compromised.
Make your life safer by using completely unique passwords for every account or service. Password managers make this effortless by generating and storing complex passwords for everything.
If you currently reuse passwords, start changing them systematically to distinct complex phrases for each major account, prioritizing financial and email logins first.
Change Passwords Periodically
In addition to avoiding reuse, you should periodically update your passwords for an added layer of protection. Major sites that store sensitive data like Google, Amazon, banks, etc. are common targets for hackers.
Get in the habit of refreshing your most important passwords every 90 days or so. And always change passwords immediately if there are any security concerns with a breached account or company. Updating keys regularly limits how long hackers can access your data if they do get hold of an old password.
Be Cautious with Password Reset Emails
When you forget a password, many sites offer password resets via email. But hackers exploit this feature by sending fake password reset messages trying to convince you to click their sketchy embedded links.
Always navigate directly to the legitimate site and request a reset through their official process. Avoid clicking any links in unexpected password reset emails you receive.
And if an email refers to an account you don’t even have, it’s definitely a scam attempt.
Consider Using a Password Manager
Juggling unique complex passwords for every account is extremely challenging. That’s why using a dedicated password manager makes security so much easier.
These apps generate strong random passwords for each account and save them in an encrypted vault for easy access when needed. Top options include 1Password, LastPass, Dashlane, and KeePass.
Just be sure to master the password for accessing your manager app. It becomes the key to unlock all your other passwords.
The convenience of a password manager removes the frustration of password security. Let the app handle the strong passwords so you can focus on just remembering one master key.
Beware of Shoulder Surfing
Shoulder surfing refers to someone spying on you physically in person to steal your passwords, PINs, or other sensitive info.
Be careful accessing accounts in public areas. Cover your screen and keypad when typing login credentials. Avoid verbalizing passwords either on phone calls or to companions asking for account access.
Also position screens away from windows or security cameras that might offer unwanted onlookers a view of your private information.
Monitor Your Online Reputation
Beyond securing accounts and devices, it’s also wise to monitor your general online reputation and presence.
Perform occasional searches for your name, phone number, email, usernames, etc. to see what turns up. Look for any concerning personal information exposed publicly online.
Also set up Google Alerts for your name and other keywords to receive notifications if they appear in new online content.
If you discover sensitive details posted in online forums, social media, or sites with lax privacy rules, request their removal or opt out of data collection through available preference dashboards.
Monitoring your digital footprint helps minimize vulnerabilities and unnecessary oversharing.
Educate Yourself on New Threats
Hackers constantly evolve their tactics and techniques. To keep your information safe, you need to stay current on cyber security trends and news.
Read articles, listen to podcasts, or consider cyber security training to boost your knowledge and preparedness. Understanding the threat landscape will clue you in to what dangers to watch out for when using the internet.
Some great educational resources include the National Cyber Security Alliance website, privacy blogs like Restore Privacy, and podcasts like Darknet Diaries and Hacked.
Make ongoing learning a habit. The more you understand about potential risks, the better you can tailor your own security habits.
Mastering basic internet security best practices may seem daunting at first. But putting in the effort ultimately protects your data, identifies, finances, and privacy in our increasingly digital world.
Start applying these 20 tips to secure your online accounts. The peace of mind is well worth the time invested. Here are some final takeaways:
- Use strong unique passwords and two-factor authentication whenever possible
- Recognize phishing attempts, avoid unsecured networks, and install antivirus tools
- Only download apps from official stores and keep devices updated
- Limit sharing on social media, shop at trusted online retailers, and back up your data
- Monitor your credit reports and online presence while being wary of security threats
What other internet security tips would you add to this list? Are there any particular concerns not covered? Let us know in the comments!