This isn’t a fully comprehensive list, of course, but these tips will get you a long way towards
being safe(r) online. By the way, these tips are all relevant to all of your devices. It
doesn’t matter if you’re on a laptop, mobile phone, Android, Windows, or iOS. All of these
systems are just as susceptible. Some are just attacked more often than others.
Are You A Target? Uh… Yep. You Are.
Do you think this doesn’t apply to you because no one wants to hack you? Think again. Hackers
only target specific people when there’s a reason to. If you’re a billionaire, for example,
you’ll want to have additional layers of security. If you’re just a “normal” person, you’ll be
attacked for sure. It will just be automated. The hackers will never know your
name. A “bot” will simply scour the web and you’ll be on the list. This is because every
day there are new easy-to-find lists of personal details posted to what’s called the “dark web” that
power these bots.
Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. Run your name in the infamous Have I Been Pwned website. Don’t
worry. That website is not run by the bad guys.
Keep Your Software Updated
I know it’s a pain, but it’s well worth the benefit. Run and install all available updates for
your computer, phone, and apps on a regular basis. This alone can save you tons of potential
nightmares. Whether it’s Windows Updates or otherwise, software vendors are regularly adding
security related updates, in addition to that new widget feature that you were waiting for. This is the preventable root cause for the ransomeware exploit that’s exploited the City of Baltimore.
Never Trust Links or Downloads in E-Mails
This sounds like old news, but it really isn’t. To this day, one of the most common and
successful ways that hackers compromise people online is through their e-mail. Just ask Anthem Health Insurance, who allowed nearly 80 million personal records to be
breached by a single phishing e-mail. You need to be always on the look-out for
attempts to trick you into clicking a link or downloading a file that will be used to steal your
information or infect your computer with a virus, rootkit, or other malware. How do you
protect yourself? It’s actually quite easy.
Always be suspicious of any link or file in an e-mail if you’re not expecting it. It goes
without saying that you should guard against those whom you don’t know, but people and brands you
trust in you network and contact list are the most common source of these kinds of attacks. Attackers know that you’ll be less cautious of e-mails from your loved ones, as an example, so
they’ll infect their computer and send e-mails on their behalf without them even knowing it.
If you’re not expecting the link or attachment and it seems out of place in any way, simply do this
as a habit…
- Reply and ask them if they meant to send it. (And that’s usually all you need to
- Manually type the URL into your web browser. (Especially if it’s from a brand.)
- Unsubscribe from ALL newsletters that you don’t regularly read. (Yes. All of them. That coupon that you’ll end up using in 4 years isn’t worth your
Use Different Logins on All Websites/Service
We’ve written about this before. It’s super easy to never have to remember your log in again. This
means that you can have different login names and passwords across all of your websites and apps of
choice. Doing this keeps you so much safer. Simply put, no website or app is safe from
hacks. Not every hack is directly code-related, even. So it’s inevitable that data will
be breached for one or many of your favorite software vendors. The key here is that is Website
A is hacked and they grab your login, you don’t have to worry about websites B through Z because
they have different login details. This is a huge win for you!
Install Antivirus Software
Don’t shake your head… Yes. There are people who actually do run their computers and other
devices without antivirus software. Just don’t do this. Don’t. Go right now and
make sure you have antivirus installed on all of your devices. It’s 100% worth paying
for. I’ll wait…
Awesome. Well done!
Now, make sure your antivirus program stays updated and it runs regularly. You can probably let
it run 1-4 times a month, but I’d prefer overnight every day. Most often, you may not even
know your computer has been infected. This will help you recover faster, should a virus
actually make it into your computer.
Oh, and if you do download something from any website or e-mail, be sure to use this antivirus
software to scan it before you open it (unless it scans it automatically for you).
Use a VPN
A VPN is a virtual private network. They’ve recently become more popular in our global economy
with businesspeople traveling to places like China. When overseas, the VPN allows you to still
access US-based websites that would otherwise be blocked, such as Gmail.
This technology is pretty much what it sounds like. When it’s turned on, your internet
connection is protected in a way that prevents evil-doers from intercepting and changing your
internet traffic. Without this enabled, every single piece of information flowing to and from
your devices in a coffee shop is easily accessed and changed when you’re logged into the wifi at
your favorite coffee shop. This kind of danger was originally made really famous with the firesheep hack that scared social network website owners to immediately
There really isn’t any work to do here. Most VPN’s are super cheap, install on all of your
devices, and can be configured to automatically connect whenever you connect to a wifi
hotspot. I got mine from PureVPN for $5/month, but it’s even cheaper now. That’s the price of a
cup of coffee at Peet’s Coffee, as a trade for peace of mind whenever checking the balance on my
credit card or bank accounts.
Monitor Your Credit
Lastly, and this is an important one… Sign up for at least one credit monitoring service. This
is equally as important even if you don’t have a pleasant credit score. Why, you ask? Simple. Credit monitoring services like Credit Karma and Experian will notify you when any events
happen to your credit profile. This includes credit inquiries, arrest record, new accounts
opening, and many other activities. So, if someone steals your personal details from one of
those online repositories (or tricks you into giving it up), you’ll know instantly and you can
dispute the activity before you get arrested due to a stolen identity. Sadly, if you don’t catch
it fast enough, a stolen identity can last you a lifetime. (By the way, this tip has the
added benefit of improving your credit, if you’re not already focusing on it.)
That’s it for now. What did you think about our list? Do you have any tips of your
own? Leave a comment below.