These days, data breaches seem to occur almost like clockwork. Phishing scams are getting more sophisticated. Security software simply can’t keep up with the proliferation of computer viruses and other malware. Internet security — if it ever existed in the first place — definitely feels like a thing of the past. Criminals use stolen data to commit identity theft and other crimes that could cost you thousands, lock you out of email and social media accounts, damage your credit, and more.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to protect your data online. In fact, there’s a lot you can do. Experts recommend using unique passwords for each site where you have a login and changing your passwords regularly; enabling two-factor authentication; using a robust antivirus and anti-malware program, and maintaining a healthy level of skepticism when it comes to emailed notifications from institutions with which you do business.
UP YOUR PASSWORD GAME
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to protect your data online is to make sure you use a unique password for every site where you have a login. Most people don’t do this; they just use the same password across multiple sites. That’s a bad idea, because when — not if — hackers get hold of a password for one site, they’re able to access them all. The next thing you know, you’re locked out of your email and social media, and hackers might even be able to drain your bank accounts or steal your credit card numbers, if you’ve used the same password for those sites, too.
But, who wants to keep track of multiple passwords? Besides being a pain, isn’t writing down a list of passwords just as unsafe? Well, with the help of a strong password manager, such as KeePass or LastPass, you don’t need to worry about thinking up a new password for each site you log into or keeping track of usernames and passwords for multiple sites. These applications will generate a new, unique, and strong password for each of your logins, and help store the usernames and passwords for you in a handy database, enabling you to memorize just one master password.
ENABLE TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION
Two-factor authentication adds and an extra layer of security to email, social media, and other logins. With two-factor authentication, you’ll need to enter a one-time security code texted to your cell phone before your login can be completed. This way, even if a hacker has your password, he or she won’t be to access your account.
USE A GOOD ANTIVIRUS AND ANTI-MALWARE PROGRAM
These days, chances are you’re going to need both an antivirus and an anti-malware program for maximum internet security. Even just a simple antivirus program is better than nothing, but you’ll get the best protection from a well-reviewed program. Make sure you choose an antivirus program from a provider you trust and only run one antivirus program on your computer at a time. Don’t forget to protect your phone and other mobile devices with antivirus and malware protection, too; they’re also vulnerable to hackers and data breaches, especially if you use mobile banking or mobile pay apps.
Strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and antivirus and malware protection can go a long way towards protecting your data online but remember — the last line of defense is you. Not every threat to your data comes in the form of data breach or a sneaky bit of software. Social engineering plays a big role in how many criminals are able to steal data. Phishing scams, for example, rely on fostering a sense of worry and concern about your accounts that would spur you to click on a link in a suspicious email and provide your login credentials at a site that mirrors that of an institution with which you do business. Money wiring scams work the same way, preying on your love for friends and family.
Remember, no bank, government agency, or other institution will email you asking for account details. If you receive an email that concerns you, don’t use the link provided therein; navigate to the site in your browser as you normally do and log in from there. Be suspicious of anyone who contacts you online asking for money or login credentials, no matter the reason; if a message you receive leaves you worried about a loved one, try to contact them yourself via other means.
As we live more and more of our lives online, Internet security is becoming a bigger issue than ever. Take the right steps to protect your data, so you can enjoy the ease and convenience of the internet without the worry.