India’s internet landscape has completely changed over the past couple of years. Laptops and smartphones are now easy to afford, and high-speed internet has also become cheaper. These factors have helped a billion unconnected to come online. But, at the same time, internet has also become a dangerous place, especially with the data breaches and malware that we hear about on a daily basis.
Today, even connected and intelligent IoT devices are putting more data online, which is worrisome for the internet users. We have heard about apps that pose as imposters and steal your sensitive information. Even the recent vulnerabilities such as Meltdown and Spectre could allow hackers to steal your passwords and other sensitive information. And with so many threats out there, it is important to take precautionary measures to stay safe online.
Tips to help you stay safe on the internet
Use a secure password
Let’s admit, we all try to keep passwords that are easy to remember. According to a report, the most commonly used passwords of 2017 were – 123456, password, qwerty, and 1111111, to name a few. If you want utmost security of your account, ensure that you use a secure password.
Ideally, a mix of upper and lower cases, along with digits and special characters make for a good password. An example could be something like “$ton3c0LD” which has numbers, special characters, upper and lower cases, and the length is also above eight characters. Also, do note that your password should not be your vehicle or driving license number, your pets name, or your date of birth among others.
Change your passwords regularly
A lot of people tend to use the same password for years, and that is something that needs to change. Regularly changing passwords in every 45-60 days is a good hygiene to follow. If you find it difficult to remember the passwords, you could write them down, or use services such as Dashlane or LastPass among others, that let you manage all your passwords. It is also important to have different passwords for different websites, rather than having the same across the internet.
Sign-up for login notifications
This is very important. Services like Facebook, Gmail, AliExpress, Amazon and Twitter among others, allow you to sign up for login notifications. What it does it, every time you login to your account, you get a notification email about the same. Facebook usually sends a notification if the login is from an unfamiliar location. This is a good security layer that offers account protection on the go.
Use 2FA wherever possible
2FA or two-factor authentication adds another layer of security when logging into a website. This is especially true for banking websites. With the 2FA enabled, websites such as Twitter, Google and Instagram send you a text message with a code which you need to enter to verify your identity. There are also authenticator apps that let you connect your account, and generate a random code to access the account. This is very helpful when your phone is out of coverage area and receiving text messages is not possible.
Avoid accessing internet from public Wi-Fi
The best part of public Wi-Fi at places like railway station, airports, shopping malls and cafes is that it is open and free to access. Yes, data-hungry mobile users do get free internet access, but it also opens doors for hackers to access your device and steal sensitive information. The best practice is to avoid connecting to the internet at such places, unless it is extremely important.
Avoid clicking on random emails
Call it click bait or phishing attack, this is a pretty nasty one. Open your inbox, and you are more likely to find emails with subject line such as – “personal loans up to Rs 500,000 without any documents,” or something like “Apple iPhone X for just Rs 55,000, special offer,” and many more. Most of these are phishing attacks, the moment you click on the links in the email, hackers get backdoor entry to your sensitive information. They can monitor your keystrokes, access your camera, and much more. It is better to not open emails or click on links from unknown senders.
Use VPN to browse anonymously
A virtual private network (VPN) creates a secure tunnel between the website that you are visiting and your PC or smartphone. It also ensures that your online activities are secure and private. This means, your ISP or government cannot snoop on the website that you are visiting. There are VPN services for both smartphones and PCs that you can use. While some of them are free of charge, you may have to pay a monthly fee of Rs 50 or more for a better service provider.
Use ad blockers and trackers
How many times have you searched online for a cheap flight tickets or hotels, or sale on apparels and accessories? And then, how many times have you noticed relevant ads popping up on every other website that you visit? Well, if you think you are being followed online, it is true.
Every website you visit, a third-party tracker gets stored on your computer. These trackers are basically things like cookies, web beacons, pixel tags, and flash cookies. With the help of these trackers, companies come to know about your internet activities. It is good because services can help you find a better deal via the ad network, but at the same time it is a breach of your online privacy too.
If you don’t want to be followed around on the internet, using browser extensions such as Adblock Plus, Ghostery or Disconnect could be a good option as they allow you to disable ads and trackers, thus helping you browse like no one’s watching.
Use firewall and antivirus
Even if your network is secure, it is always good to use a firewall. For those unaware, a firewall is more like an internet barrier that blocks unauthorized access to your computer. It also ensures that your internet connected devices are secured from hackers. Using a good antivirus program is also an important step in further securing your laptop or desktop from virus and other vulnerabilities.
Keep your software updated
Last, but not the least. Simply installing the software and an antivirus doesn’t mean the job is done. There are new vulnerabilities that are found every day, and virus definitions are also updated on a daily basis with the latest security patches. So, every time there is a new software update, do not hesitate to download and install it, as it is for your safety and security.