We have to face it – the Internet isn’t as safe and private as before. It used to be that you could just turn on your computer, start up your Internet browser, and look up things online without worrying about a thing.
Nowadays, you can’t even run a simple online search without having to deal with:
- Unsecured WiFi networks putting your data at risk.
- Hackers setting up fake WiFi hotspots to steal data from you.
- Potentially being infected with malware.
- ISPs logging and selling your data to advertisers.
- Malicious scripts that can take over your browser.
And those are just some of the most common threats. The list could go on and on.
So, what could you do to better protect yourself online? Well, here are some really secure recommendations that aren’t difficult to put in practice:
1. Use a Password Manager
Passwords are the gatekeepers to your data, and most of them are sadly very weak. So weak, in fact, that they account for 81% of hacker-related data breaches. Not only that, but people don’t store passwords securely. They either keep them in plaintext on their devices, or on pieces of paper which they can easily lose (or someone could easily steal).
That’s where a password manager comes into play. It’s software that uses high-end encryption to store your passwords safely. You only need one master password to access them, and the service can actually automatically fill login fields with your usernames and passwords.
Pretty cool, right? Not only does that feature save you the hassle of having to type long passwords, but it also protects you from keyloggers if you’re ever exposed to them. After all, you won’t be using the keyboard at all to log in.
And get this – most password managers can actually generate strong passwords for you in seconds. You just need to make a few tweaks, and you’re good to go.
Finding a good service can be hard, though, since there are so many options on the market. To save time, use this guide to the best password manager software options that are available right now.
2. Install Antivirus Software
Gone are the days of being able to say you don’t need to use antivirus protection because you’re smart enough to not fall for hackers’ tricks. Now, cybercriminals are way more skilled, and they can outsmart even the most cautious Internet user with stuff like polymorphic malware, encrypted payloads, and even file-less malware.
So, there’s no question about it. You need antivirus software on all your devices – especially your smartphone. And make sure you update it all the time. Otherwise, it won’t be able to keep up with the latest strains of malware.
Some antivirus services I found to be very effective include Malwarebytes, ESET, and Norton.
3. Keep Your OS Up-to-Date
Speaking of keeping software up-to-date, you should do the same for your operating system. They can be annoying (especially on Windows), I know, but not updating your OS can put you at serious risk.
Why? Because cybercriminals can use that vulnerability to their advantage.
Take EternalBlue, for example. It was an exploit that affected Windows devices. Cybercriminals used it to target people with ransomware (NotPetya, WannaCry, and Retefe). Microsoft released a fix for that exploit, but whoever didn’t run that update continued to be vulnerable to ransomware attacks.
4. Use Script Blockers
Script blockers are software that prevent background scripts from loading up on websites without your permission. They are a great way to protect yourself from malicious scripts – especially cryptomining ones that can damage your CPU.
Right now, the best script blockers to use are uMatrix and uBlock Origin. They are open-source, free to use, and lightweight. Also, I highly recommend you use them together.
5. Avoid Phishing Attempts
In a nutshell, phishing is when a cybercriminal tries to trick you into accessing a fake website that logs your keystrokes or infects your device with malware. They might also try to convince you to install malicious files.
Usually, the scammers will pretend to be a figure of authority (someone from your bank, a police officer, the head of the IT department at a company whose services you use, etc.) to earn your trust or scare you.
Basically, here’s the main idea – if you get any weird emails that try to force you to access shady shortened links, misspelled website links, or download and install weird attachments, ignore, report, and block them.
Of course, being on alert 24/7 isn’t exactly desirable or doable, and some phishing messages might be too well-crafted to tell they’re shady. In that case, it helps to use anti-phishing protection – like Stanford’s Anti-Phishing Browser Extensions. They make staying safe much simpler.
Oh, and a password manager will come in handy here too. If you do end up on a phishing website somehow, the service won’t fill in the login fields with your credentials. In fact, it will even alert you that you’re on a phishing site.
6. Use a VPN
A VPN is an online service that hides your IP address and encrypts your traffic. It might not protect you from viruses, but it will make sure hackers can’t spy on your traffic – even if you use unsecured networks or fake WiFi hotspots!
Also, because the VPN encrypts your traffic, it effectively stops your ISP from monitoring everything you browse on the Internet.
Plus, by hiding your IP address, the VPN makes sure advertisers can’t track you online. That, and online creeps can’t find out:
- What country you live in;
- What city you live in;
- Who your ISP is;
- What your ZIP code is.
NordVPN and ExpressVPN are currently some of the best options.
Know Any Other Useful Tips?
Please share them with all of us in the comments below. I’m really looking forward to hearing what other things people can try to enjoy better online security.
And if you find this article helpful, don’t forget to share it with your friends and family on social media.
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