How To Stay Safe Online

Online security is not something that should be taken lightly. Make sure to take the necessary precautions to stay safe when using the internet.

Hackers are far too prevalent around the web. Unfortunately, 73% of Americans have fallen victim to some sort of cyber crime. There are laws in place to crack down on cyber hackers, but when it really comes down to it you should be taking extra precautions to protect yourself online.

So what are the most efficient ways of keeping your online information secure?

Choose a strong password

The most common reason for being hacked is due to a poor password. It’s easy to forget the importance of a password, as many people view it as a hindrance when logging in to their accounts. This thinking leads to an abundance of very weak and crackable passwords such as ‘123456’ and ‘access’; even ‘password’ itself is a popular pass phrase choice

A password that contains six lowercase letters can be hacked in just 10 minutes. If you add two more letters and switch up some of the lowercase letters for capitals, that timespan jumps to 3 years. If you include at least nine characters made up of numbers, symbols and random letters, a password could take over 44,000 years to hack.

It is of course reassuring to know that a long random password is almost uncrackable, but the truth is only 50% of people are actually using these kinds of passwords. This means almost half the people online could be hacked in under an hour.

Tips for choosing a strong password:

  1. Use at least 8 characters (the more the better).
  2. Choose a different password for each login. Never use the same password for Facebook and your online banking.
  3. Avoid using dictionary words. If you do choose an actual word, mix up the numbers for letters and vary between lowercase and uppercase. For example, N3wY0rk359 is much better than just NewYork. Never use just letters.
  4. Use an acronym that only you know. This makes your password easy to remember, while keeping it secure. When writing the acronym, substitute numbers just as you would with any other password.
  5. Never include your name, your hometown, a pet’s name or your birthday.
  6. Avoid passwords that only have numbers.
  7. Change your password frequently, as in every three months or so.

Set up login verification (2-step verification)

Many sites that require a login will give you the option of a login verification. This generally requires you to have a password and enter a code you receive via text or email. This means that a hacker cannot access your account if they do gain access to your password.

If this option is available always choose to do it. The extra step really is worth it considering the damage that can occur if someone gets into your account. You’ll only have to enter the second verification once every 30 days, or when accessing your account from a different computer.

If you have a gmail account, set up 2-step verification here. It only takes 30 seconds!

Invest in antivirus software

It’s not worth saving a couple of dollars to not have antivirus software. Most legitimate software will cost around $40, but you can find free or cheaper versions if you’re on a tighter budget.

AVG has proven to be a reliable antivirus software that is trusted by millions around the world. They even offer a free trial to test it out.

Be smart

No one wants to give you a free iPad. You don’t really need to give that shady company $300 to delete the supposed virus on your computer (they probably put it there!). And that email isn’t really going to make you $10,000 a month…

Some online scams are very believable, but many of them are far too obvious. If something you’re looking at just doesn’t look quite right, it’s probably because it isn’t. Question everything before you click on it.

If you do feel like you’ve happened on an online scam, do not download anything. Call your computer’s tech support line and have them walk you through what to do. In most cases, you can close the program you’re using by using task manager (ctl+alt+delete on Windows and command+option+esc on a Mac) and choosing ‘force quit’: this closes your entire session. After this, it’s always a good idea to go back and delete any cookies and browsing history to avoid running into the same scam.

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