It’s almost unavoidable to buy products online or give our personal information to trusted websites. Unfortunately, that information isn’t always safe and criminals could easily access sensitive knowledge about you. To help, we’ve made a guide for regular people who don’t have time to develop a deeper understanding about wireless networks, yet still need to protect their data over wireless channels.
1. Be Safe on Social Media
Social media may seem like a safe place to share some of the more intimate details of your life, but you should be vigilant about what you post on these networks. Even seemingly innocuous information, like your birthday or address, can be used by criminals for more dangerous applications.
To avoid this, personalize the security settings in your social network accounts. If you share a post with personally identifiable information (PII), make sure to only select trusted individuals who can see it. Additionally, be wary of anyone you don’t know in real life making appeals to you for such PII.
2. Protect Your Credit Cards
When making purchases online, always be sure that the website you enter your credit card information into is secure. The URL should begin with “HTTPS”, not simply “HTTP”. Don’t make purchases on an unsecured network, such as that at a coffee shop, and remember to logout of your customer account when using public devices.
To be extra careful, load a prepaid credit card with limited funds for online purchases. This reduces the risk in case someone steals your information.
3. Use the Cloud for Back-Ups
Backing your important files up is essential in case your devices are ever stolen. Over the years, cloud computing has become more secure, as large technology firms like Amazon and Microsoft take control of the market. Even hospitals and healthcares have started using clouds for data storage, easy access of files and to secure confidential documents.
A common example is Gmail and Google Drive, where you can upload the files and access them from anywhere in the world. The only requirement is a working internet connection; that isn’t hard to find these days. Moreover we can secure files with user-based or group-based permission. This is the future of backing up digital files on the clouds.
4. Factory Reset and Drive Wiping
More often than not, simply “deleting” something from your computer or mobile device will not permanently remove the information from the machine. Before you sell or throw away your old machine, make sure that the drives are fully wiped and that the machine is given a factory reset.
Without this extra step, whoever gets your device next will have access to even the most secured information on your machine, including files you previously thought were deleted.
5. Disable Bluetooth and WiFi When Not in Use
Whenever you’re not using the Bluetooth or WiFi capabilities of your computer or mobile device, be sure to turn them off. If you don’t take this precaution, other devices in the vicinity may be able to gain access to yours; including access to open file sharing networks. For this reason, your network sharing settings should always be set to only share files with other trusted devices you own.
6. Password Protection
Many sites these days require you to have a complex password before signing up, and while this may appear to be an inconvenience at first, it’s really in your best interest. Passwords should be impossible to guess by family and friends, which mean you shouldn’t use birthdays, anniversary dates, family member names, or other obvious identifying information.
Ideally, everyone would use a random password generator, and have those random passwords saved on a secure and encrypted file on their computer. Since that may be a bit extreme for most internet users, just be sure to use different passwords for all important accounts (bank, email, etc.). Additionally, don’t use accurate information for password recovery questions like your mother’s maiden name, as these details are easy to get for the right cyber criminal.
7. 2-Step Authentication
Large, trustworthy companies like Google, Facebook, Paypal and more all offer 2-step authentication, which forces users to enter a code sent to their mobile device in order to sign in. Other companies will ask for your mobile phone number or an alternative email address, so if someone attempts to log into your account from an unknown device, a message is sent to you requiring additional verification.
Both of these methods offer extra security for your sensitive information, whether it be financial or personal. If your social media or ecommerce site asks for additional identifying information like this so they can verify your account against strange login attempts, always opt in. You will get warnings of suspicious activity, and the ability to change your information if it ever becomes compromised.
We hope you’ve finished this article with a deeper understanding of online and wireless security. It’s never too late, or too early, to start protecting yourself online. Remember that even small details can be used to steal your identity or worse.
Featured photo credit: Safe on the Internet via lifehack.org