Low-Tech Tips for Online Safety
Let’s face it; web security is a mine field. Couple that with the inherently risky Internet, constant data breaches and rife identity theft and you have the potential for a real mess. But with the ways for the bad guys to get your data becoming ever more devious; how is your average Internet user supposed to know right from wrong? In this post, we cut out the geek speak and get down to some basic low tech security practices which could help boost your online safety.
1) Be careful who you share with
Everybody wants your information these days — there is big money in it. But look at it this way — If someone on the street stopped you and asked for your name, date of birth, address, telephone number, email address, etc…would you give it to them? Probably not — so take the same approach online. We’re not talking about your bank or broadband provider here — but sometimes when you sign up for a service, web forum, etc, they ask for more information than is really needed. Just go with the bare minimum. This may just prove the right call if that service ends up being the victim of a data breach.
2) Not expecting that email? Does that link look suspect? Don’t open it!
This is arguably the most important bit of online safety advice to follow and yet this is still one of the most common ways to get infected. If I was to tell you that by opening a totally innocent looking email from a third party pretending to be your bank, well known online auction site or payment platform, that you could be giving that third party bad actor full access to your computer; including being able to see what’s on your screen and even view your webcam, would you believe me? You should, because it’s true. While not all threats are quite so sinister, you could still download malicious software which can steal passwords and track your online activity. Remember — your bank, energy company, auction site, etc will NEVER as you for any details over email. When in doubt, delete it.
3) Don’t use the same password everywhere
Data breaches are a very common occurrence these days. Make sure you don’t have the same password on every service you use. It’s convenient for hackers, as well as you! And please — ensure the password you do use is secure and avoids things like pets names, your name, etc. Using a password manager is strongly recommended, as this takes the pain out of different account passwords.
4) Use security features & services offered by your Internet Service Provider
ISP’s have responded well to the increase in online threats and many now offer free protection by default. This is geared towards your average user — it’s not overly complicated and allows additional control and protection over malicious or offensive content. Here are links to some of the main ISPs in the UK:
Sky — Broadband Shield
Virgin Media — Web Safe
Talk Talk — HomeSafe
BT — Protect
Another option is to change your DNS provider (eg to OpenDNS) however many ISPs make this intentionally difficult so unfortunately it is not always an option.
5) Use 2 Factor Authentication
2 Factor Authentication (or 2FA as it’s commonly known) can be a real boost for your security. This adds the ability to have an additional step when you log in to a service, such as needing to enter a code which is sent to you by SMS.
The benefit here is that if someone finds out your password, they would ALSO need the login code to get in to the service. If you do online banking, chances are you are familiar with the concept. Luckily, it’s not necessary to use a card reader for other services!
All popular services like Facebook and Google offer this — it is most definitely worth enabling on services with sensitive information.