Technology is a regular part of our everyday lives and when you consider how much information about ourselves we transmit everyday it can be scary to think that it could end up in the hands of the wrong person. This is why it is important that you take the measures necessary to protect yourself on all devices—yes even on your cell phone. How many of the following 12 tips do you already use? Little time is required to implement the following tips and secure your personal information and doing so could save you from a potential breach or hack in the future. Worth it, right!?
- Let’s start with your router. Out of the box your router will have a default name and password. As soon as you can access your routers settings change the name (SSID) to something that is unique—have fun with it. Next, change the password to something cryptic that cannot be guessed and that definitely does not appear in any “commonly used passwords” list. If your router gives you an option to choose the level of security you will want to select WPA2 or WPA as they are much more secure than WEP. You may also want to consider setting up a second SSID as a guest network if you have people over and connecting to your Wi-Fi frequently. Now let’s talk a bit more about passwords…
- Always use a strong password. Avoid words or combinations that someone could guess such as your first and last name, or my favourite PA55WORD. If thinking up a strong password is quite a challenge for you try Password Generator. You can get more information about building a strong password in our blog post “In Pursuit of the Perfect Password”.
- Set up, at a minimum, 2 factor identification. This means that there will be an extra line of defense beyond your password. An example of this is Google Authenticator. The app can be downloaded to your mobile device and will generate a random access code that changes every 30 seconds. When you attempt to log in to an account that is registered with your Google Authenticator it will then prompt you for the Authenticator code. Some websites have their own versions of this such as Facebook which you can setup to text you a code at the time of login that will need to be entered before you can access the account and gaming engine Steam also offers a mobile authenticator through the steam mobile app.
- Security questions aren’t necessarily protecting you. Standard security questions such as “Name of your first pet?” or “Mother’s maiden name?” can be very easy to get past—especially if the person attempting to access your account is someone who knows you personally. So although Mr. Fluffy may have been the centre of your childhood, he isn’t going to help with protecting your personal data. If at all possible write your own security questions based on obscure information that isn’t common knowledge. Alternatively, create answer sets for the questions that are random and cannot be guessed.
- Do not click on links in emails to access your bank or other accounts, and do not open attachments—sometimes even trusted sources can be the cause of a breach due to an infection on their operating system. I know it won’t be possible to avoid this in every instance, so…
- Be sure that you have up-to-date antivirus and security software on your devices as well as a firewall and check that it is enabled. A number of security software packages will allow you to scan email attachments prior to opening, thus catching a possible infection before it can be spread. Install updates and security patches as soon as possible when they are made available. If there is a patch or an update that means that they have identified the hole and someone else could too. Always make sure your operating system and programs are current and updated regularly on all devices including your mobile.
- Some apps will put your personal information at risk. We all love free apps that make life more organized and free games for our phones that can entertain us, are the apps really free though? You may not be required to pay in the traditional sense with a recognized currency; however, often times you pay with information. When downloading and installing an application, take a moment to read and analyze what the application is requesting access to and alter its permissions accordingly. Often times apps will ask for access to:Phone Contacts;Facebook and Twitter (contacts and authority to post on your behalf);
Camera Roll/ Pictures on your device; and/or
Location Services.Does the application really need access to this much information about who you are? Usually not, instead you are providing them with tons of market research which is sometimes then sold to third parties. Say “NO!” when the app is requesting way too much personal information.
- How do you browse? Some browsers are more highly targeted than others; you may want to consider changing t one of the lesser targeted which are Chrome and Firefox. Third party applications can also be a point of weakness in your cyber security defense. Disable Java, and set Flash to “Play on click” in your settings.
- This last tip is as easy as taking a moment to notice where on the web you are. If you are transmitting information via a website or doing some online shopping check in the address bar and see that there is a green lock, or that the address begins with either “https://” or “shttp://”. This will signify that the site has taken precautions to secure the connection. The regular http:// is not a secure option.
There are a number of other things that can be done to protect and secure your personal information as well—but the tips listed above are easy to implement and will get you well on your way. If you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments sections.