If you didn’t know me in real life, you probably don’t know that I’ve spent about a decade in the Information Technology field, and a majority of that time working in Information Security. While we are all social distancing and staying inside, we are turning to the internet more than before to fulfill our social needs, make bulk purchases, learn new things and just kill boredom. With all of us spending so much extra time on the internet from our personal devices, let’s take a quick minute to brush up on the safety of your Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and how to keep your connection as secure as you can. Here’s a visual before we get right into it.
Let’s start with passwords. When I was actively supporting end users, I’ve seen horrifying practices like using “password” as a password and so many more. It is best to use a different password for every different login with an 8 character minimum using upper case, lower case, numbers, and symbols. My personal password practices are extensive, but there’s a way to simplify it while staying safe. A chrome plugin and mobile app called LastPass will help you create safe passwords and store them so you don’t have to keep all these wild passwords memorized or written down. Google Chrome will also generate strong passwords, store them for you and is a great simple and free solution.
Online shopping has been a normal activity long before the quarantine, but now it has become the primary form of commerce for a lot of us. With mass shortages, finding safe retailers to supply our regular needs is a struggle. I always advise using trusted retailers you know like Amazon, Uber, and your local stores with delivery services. At times like these, it’s even better to shop with your local small businesses online or via phone when you can too for delivery and curbside pickup. But how do you know when shopping online if the site is secure? One easy way is to make sure the site loads with the “https” prefix, and if you use antivirus software with website protection, make sure your plugin isn’t showing any errors. Web browsers such as google chrome will give you a warning when navigating to a site that has an obvious risk. In that case, always cancel, but that is not a feature I would risk my identity on. It’s best to stick with sites you know from people you trust. These are great practices to follow for all of your web browsings. Turn on your popup blocker and keep it enabled for another level of protection while websurfing.
I just mentioned Antivirus software, and this is vital! Whether you’re on a Mac, PC, Smartphone or tablet, strong antivirus software is crucial. For me, McAfee and Norton are the front runners. These both come with a subscription cost, usually yearly and is inexpensive given the service. While these are phenomenal products, I always double up with Malwarebytes on my computers (at least the free version), especially for my handheld devices. This also comes with a subscription that I highly recommend at least for your mobile devices, but the pc version with fewer features can be used for free to scan for and remove any malware you’ve already contracted.
Now, let’s talk about your operating system. This is your first line of defense for keeping your device safe. It needs to be updated regularly to ensure you have the latest version and no outdated, unsafe holes are in your safety net. Operating systems and applications send out updates regularly that you NEED to keep whatever it is operating properly, and safely. You’ll also get the latest tools and features. Continuing to use an app or operating system that is no longer receiving updates usually means there is no longer anyone monitoring it for security breaches and is a risk.
I could go on all day on keeping your devices safe, ESPECIALLY if you are a small business owner looking to ensure your transactions and customer information remain secure. If this is a topic you are interested in learning more from me on, leave me a comment down below, send me a tweet or an email with any specific questions.