At Parallax, we see security as one of our areas of expertise. We help businesses and brands across the world maintain their own security requirements, and implement a wide number of special safeguards across all our clients’ websites. But down at the individual level, people still need to take everyday steps to stay safe online, so we’ve put together a few handy tips to get you started.
1. Tighten up your email account security
Your primary email account is like a master key. Lose it, and an attacker can access pretty much every online account you have, so it’s a good idea to make it a priority and keep it locked down.
A great way to secure an email account is to enable two-step authentication. If you’re like most people, you probably carry your smartphone around wherever you go – this means you can easily get two-step authentication setup. Whether it be a text, or an app-generated code, the extra layer of security is a must – you never know when your account might be compromised.
When it comes to your email account, never cut corners. Having a strong, unique password greatly tightens security not only on your email account, but on every login that depends on it. And remember to use a different password for all your accounts – we hear this time and again, but don’t allow your data to be compromised thanks to laziness or convenience.
The only truly secure system is one that is powered off, cast in a block of concrete and sealed in a lead-lined room with armed guards.
2. Use encryption
Most modern web browsers do a pretty good job of telling you if the webpage you’re on is secure. It should go without saying – never type sensitive data into a site that doesn’t use encryption.
The same goes for messaging services. Apps like Facebook messenger offer an opt-in encrypted service, but they send nearly all of their messages unencrypted and store them indefinitely, ready to be dug up at any time. This means any passwords or sensitive data you send are just waiting to be stolen. So make sure you send sensitive data via services you know to be totally secure.
3. Start using a password manager
We all know it’s never a good idea to write your passwords down anywhere – that’s asking for trouble. But having to remember (and even be creative enough to think up) long and complex passwords for every online service you use can be a huge pain. That’s why 55% of users choose the same password for most, if not all their passwords.
Password managers such as LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password fix this problem by allowing you to store all your long and complicated passwords safely inside their “vaults”, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting them. Many services will even automatically generate strong passwords on your behalf – then all you have to do is worry about keeping your password manager locked down!
4. Watch out for phishing emails
Phishing has been around for decades, yet these kinds of email scams still manage to successfully access countless accounts each year. Even if you think you’re too tech-savvy to be tricked, the shock of finding a seemingly legitimate email in your inbox informing you hundreds of pounds have been charged to your bank account can be enough to send you into a panic and catch you out.
A general rule of thumb that’s good to follow is to always type out the address of the site you’re getting the email from by hand, rather than clicking the (potentially dangerous) links. You may have checked the email and it could seem fine, but taking that extra precautionary step ensures greater safety. There are loads of detailed guides online for spotting a phishing email – this one and this one are definitely worth reading if you want more information on these types of scams.
5. Be smart. Be vigilant. Be secure.
Keep the basics covered. For example, remember to clear any form data you’ve inputted during browsing. ALWAYS sign out of services you use on a public computer. Even storing passwords in your browser is dangerous – you’d be surprised at how easy it is to retrieve stored passwords.
Recently, another popular tactic for stealing data makes use of social engineering. Proven to be one of the most successful forms of hacking, they call up your mobile phone provider, pretend to be you and ask for help. It can be a relatively easy (and fruitful) way of gaining access to sensitive information. So you can never be 100% secure – no-one can. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take all the available steps to make it as difficult as possible for would-be hackers and potential data thieves.