Privacy is connected to security and we can not separate the two notions. We protect our privacy by preventing our systems from communicating with dangerous online locations, but protecting our privacy actually means that we increase our security.
Free Internet is a notion and a right we take for granted. Many times, we even prefer to connect to free wireless networks because it seems so natural to us, that we don’t think there are “dangers” out there. And the word “danger” brings to our minds words, such as: cyber-crime, online threats, phishing, scams, hackers and viruses!
But the recent years brought additional challenges for the Internet world. Being tracked by advertisers or social media networks, such as Facebook or Google, has become something normal and we don’t even question this anymore.
So, how do we improve and secure our systems from prying eyes in the cyber-criminal world?
1. Use strong passwords for your e-mail and social media accounts
There are a few things you need to pay attention to when dealing with setting good passwords for your online accounts. First of all, don’t use the same password in more than one online account. The reason is quite easy to guess: if one of your online accounts is hacked, then the others will soon follow. By using different passwords, you reduce the potential loss you could suffer in case this privacy breach takes place.
2. Stay safe from spyware threats with a specialised security solution
When we talk about spyware we refer to software which is capable of installing on your computer and starts opening pop-up windows, redirects your browser to malicious websites and monitors your browsing sessions affecting your private internet connections. There are a few signs which should trigger a sign of alarm:
– Computer is slow when opening programs or running some applications
– Pop-up windows appear all the time
– A new toolbar may appear in your web browser
– The Home page of your web browser has been modified
– The search engine in your web browser has been changed
– Error messages start to appear unexpectedly
To stay safe from spyware, simply follow these good security practices:
– Don’t click any suspicious links or pop-up windows
– Don’t answer to unexpected answers or simply choose No
– Be careful when downloading free applications
3. Keep your Windows operating system and your vulnerable applications up-to-date
Software vulnerabilities are not something you can ignore. Taking advantage of software vulnerabilities present in popular programs and applications, as it is revealed by this article, is a popular method used by online criminals.
So, if you know you use popular software, like Java, Adobe Flash, Adobe Shockwave, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Quicktime or popular web browsers like Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer, always make sure you have the latest available patches.
You need to understand that these types of software solutions are always under threat from criminal minds, so don’t rely on your memory and install a dedicated solution to perform these actions for you.
4. Use a standard user account in your Windows operating system to go online
Different levels of rights and privileges are available for the Windows user accounts. We recommend using a standard Windows user account to access Internet.
If you use a standard account in your Windows operating system, you make sure that a piece of malware which could infect your limited user account will not be capable of doing great damage to your system. Only an administrator account can make significant changes to your system, like deleting important Windows related files or installing malicious software.
If you use your standard account you will have to provide the credentials for the administrator account every time you make an important change.
5. Don’t turn OFF your UAC (User Account Control)
We must admit, many of us have the tendency to turn the UAC off as soon as we install/reinstall our Windows operating system.
But should we do it? Instead of completely turning it off, maybe we can only decrease the level of protection by using the provided slider.
The role of UAC is to monitor what changes occur to our system and when an important event appears, like installing or removing an application. The UAC makes sure you have administrator permissions and that you really want to take that action.
In case your Windows user account has been infected, UAC helps you by keeping suspicious software from making changes on the system.
6. Go online with a secure browser
Our web browsers are the main tools we use to access the Internet and we should pay a great deal of attention to secure them correctly. At the same time, the vulnerabilities from web browsers are like open invitations to hackers. By using these open doors, online criminals attempt to retrieve private data from our systems.
To secure our online privacy, make sure you follow these recommendations:
– Choose the latest version for your browser and make sure you have the latest security patches installed. This is important and keeps your system secure from online criminals’ attacks.
– Increase your privacy and security settings in your browser.
– Choose a private browsing session when you access a website you are not sure about. Choosing this navigation mode will prevent your browsing session details from being stored.
– Use secure websites for sensitive financial operations. To visit a secure website, make sure the web address starts with “https://”. The “s” comes from “secure socket layer” and it indicates you are connected to a website where data, which is sent and received, is encrypted.
7. Don’t trust public and free wireless networks
Be careful when connecting to public and free wireless networks. One of the favourite methods used by online criminals to retrieve your credentials is by using wireless sniffers to access data sent over unprotected networks.
One way to increase your security is by using a “private browsing” session, this way you make sure your credentials won’t be stored locally. Nevertheless, this won’t stop the Internet Service Provider or anyone else “listening” out there to catch your private communication.
Use a Virtual Private Network To Hide Your IP Address
With the increased danger of online theft and lack of privacy on popular social platforms, such as Facebook, we need to safeguard our freedom and protect our Internet activities. One way of keeping your browsing session private and secure is to use a VPN, that is a Virtual Private Network.
VPN means that you hide your IP address, encrypt your connection and surf in complete anonymity. This way you protect your online privacy and your sensitive data from online criminals, internet scams, identity theft, phishing attempts and malicious threats. To stay safe on public and free wireless networks, we recommend to use a popular VPN.
8. Check the link before you click it
Phishing threats are usually done by using e-mail messages that apparently come from financial institutions or well-known banking websites. These attempts to retrieve private information from an user provide links in the message that direct the victim to a fake web location, controlled by online criminals.
To make sure you won’t be infected by clicking on dangerous links, hover the mouse over the link to see if you are directed to a legitimate location. If you were supposed to reach your online banking website, but the link indicates “hfieo88.net“, then you should not click the link.
So, how can you know where you’ll arrive if you click it?
To make sure you are going to the right direction, use a free tool such as Redirect Detective. This tool will allow you to see the complete path of a redirected link.
9. Don’t forget to log out
Don’t simply close your browser when you are done with your business or when you exit your online account.
You need to remember that you have to log out from your online account. If you don’t do this, especially if you are in a public location, the next person who opens the Facebook account, for example, will access directly your Facebook profile.
We recommend you also use a virtual browser for your financial operations to keep your online banking secure. Private browsing sessions are also recommended if you want to prevent authentication credentials (or cookies) from being stored.
10. Don’t post private information on social media account
Exposing personal details may lead hackers into finding your financial information. For the same reason, check your children’s social media behaviour to make sure they won’t expose private information that may possibly be used against you, in phishing attacks.
11. Don’t access questionable web locations
Don’t access or download content from unknown or controversial locations. Access websites that proved to be safe and you know you can trust.
Nevertheless, this is not a guarantee that you won’t get infected. Nowadays, cyber-criminals exploit vulnerabilities in legitimate websites and inject malicious code, as to perform drive-by attacks on unsuspecting visitors.
It may be a free screen saver or a browser toolbar that may infect you with a key logger that can record and send your personal data to cyber-criminals. To make sure your system is protected and your credentials are not exposed, install a security product, which can detect and stop hackers from stealing valuable information from your system.
How much can be revealed from our online habits before we become subjects to online surveillance?