The key to a secure online experience often means introducing digital security habits to your way of cyber-existence. Below are a few precautions that go a long away to banish the dark forces that exist to troll the net.
A strong password
If you are an avid internet-user or on your way to becoming one you are bound to have multiple accounts on social media sites, forums and blogs etc. Given how unreliable the human memory is it would be easier to use the same username and password for various sites, especially when it comes to sites such as Google+, Facebook and/or Twitter. Yet this is one of the worst possible strategies you could use. Because if one of your social media accounts gets hacked unfortunately – all of your accounts can be hacked too. Therefore it is important to create strong and unique passwords whilst keeping in mind that the checklist below can be helpful in creating a strong password:
- At least One UpperCase Letter
- At least One LowerCase Letter
- At least One special character
- At least One Number
- Eight characters minimum
Furthermore you can also use our recommended password checkers (howsecureismypassword.net, password.kaspersky.com) to test the strength of your passwords just to be extra careful. Once you have a strong password, make sure you don’t share this information with anyone else. And if you do find yourself in circumstances that mean having to share your password then make sure you change this information shortly after. And just as you wouldn’t want anyone accessing your private journal or your going through your belongings without permission – the same mindset should apply when it comes to matters online.
Finally in case of being hacked the best course of action is to notify all your contacts on whatever platform you have been affected. This can be done through emails, text messages, tweets, facebook posts and even asking your friends online to notify others. Another option is to ask your contacts to report the hacked account to the site developers
Use OTR App for Encrypted Chat
When in fear of having your online communications monitored one solution is to use an ‘Off the Record’ (OTR) App. An OTR is a messaging platform that allows you to have encrypted conversations with the ones you wish, without having your conversations tracked. This was the very same method used by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, when he leaked top secret documents to Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who subsequently published them. Thankfully there are numerous free applications available like Cryptocat, Adium for Mac OS X and IM+ for Android and iPhone, that you can use to avoid your conversation being tracked.
Remove your mobile phone’s battery
One easy way to avoid being physically located through your phone, is to take out your mobile phone’s battery when needed. This is because when the battery is taken out, your telecommunication provider can’t reach your phone to provide mobile and data services.
Use browser plug-ins to avoid being tracked online
To avoid being tracked online, use a plug-in called Ghostery, which shows the number of trackers detected which you then can manually block one by one. If you wish that all your internet browser searches are not saved or stored then choose the search engine DuckDuckGo. Also make sure you regularly delete your browser’s accumulated ‘cookies’. To do this just choose the ‘delete cookies’ in your browser’s settings after you are done using the internet for the given time period.
Beware of the hardware
Webcams and microphones are often a very controversial piece of hardware when it comes to PCs and Laptops. One method to avoid your privacy being violated is to turn off the webcams and microphones when not in use. Another handy method is to simply cover the camera with a piece of tape or a piece of Bandaid.
Re-configure Privacy Settings
Most PCs that come fresh out of the factory do not come optimized for privacy. There are a few settings that we have to do manually in order to protect our digital privacy. If the computer you are using is a shared one i.e. you are using a public or work computer, all user accounts should be protected by a password and all guest accounts should be disabled because they can be easily hacked. Make sure administrative access is not granted to all accounts. Limited privileges should be the order of the day. It’s also better to automatically enable a screensaver after 5 minutes of user inactivity that requires a password to use the computer again after disabling the screensaver.
Beware of Nefarious App Invites on Facebook
Unknown or doubtful app invites on Facebook should be blocked right away, as these when accepted can install malware or compromise your accounts. . They can also install malware or compromise our accounts.
Be wary of the Auto Backup
Nowadays both Apple and Android phones come with a default setting of backing up all your data online onto your ‘Cloud’ account. This at first sight seems like a beneficial idea as you clear space on your device while having backup. But because these features are constantly being worked upon and improved, they aren’t as secure as one might think. Therefore if you use an Android phone and have a Google account, all your data might me uploaded and saved online. This data then might be posted on connected accounts such as Google+ – as the default setting on the Google+ accounts are that of everything to be public. This can be changed by changing the settings by either switching off the auto-backup, the Google+ account itself or even choosing not to backup any data. Instead one can backup on an external hard drive and keep it physically safe.