We’ve all done it. You walk into a coffee shop, sit down, order your coffee and request the WiFi password. No harm in taking a little Facebook or Instagram time while you’re on your break, right? Unfortunately, you could be wrong. How secure is that free WiFi connection?
These days the information that you share over any connection is detailed, personal and can give hackers everything they need to access every aspect of your life. How exposed are you in an age where everything is stored digitally and accessible from all of your devices?
What Is A Hacker, And Why Do They Do What They Do?
In short, a hacker is a tech criminal who uses their skills to access personal information and records for personal gain illegally. Any data that a hacker can get about you is potentially valuable, from your data and browsing information to your login details and banking information. The information can be sold, used to get unauthorised access to systems or to steal your identity. The motivation for most is financial gain.
How Can You Protect Yourself Against Hackers?
Fortunately, there are solutions to the scourge of hackers, and while no solution is fool proof, you can make it much harder for them to do what they do. We’ve gathered this list of top ways to protect yourself from online hackers so that you can rest easy when going about your daily digital business.
1. Employ two-factor authentication wherever possible
Not every application implements two-factor authentication (2FA), or multifactor authentication (MFA). But most big companies like Facebook and Twitter, your bank and even your cryptocurrency exchange will allow you this functionality. If you check in the settings section of your selected app, you’ll probably find that you can enable 2FA.
It means you will have to present two or more ‘factors’ to securely sign into your account. This can include your password along with an OTP received via SMS, or your password along with your fingerprint, for example. There are also apps you can download to generate app-specific login codes for authentication. Even though 2FA is not completely failproof since it’s still vulnerable to man-in-the-middle and phishing attacks, it’s way better than a single-factor system of logging in.
2. Vary your passwords
Ok, so this one can be tough as it means remembering which password you’ve used and where, but not doing it is one of the easiest ways hackers use to break in. Think about it; you could be in big trouble if you use the same password on a less secure site as you do for your banking login. If you’re running out of ideas for your passwords, you can use a password generator to help you out.
3. Stick to secure and trusted websites
Websites that use SSL encryption to protect communications between you and them are much harder to hack. If you think about it, it makes sense to enter your information on secure sites only. For example, if you enjoy playing casino games online, you’ll know how much information you have to enter to set up your account. Just because an online casino offers a huge selection of online slots and games, for example, it does not mean you should give up your information blindly. Well-secured portals that process payments or require you to set up an account with personally identifying information will be running encrypted connections to protect your data. Make sure the URL starts with an HTTPS. If you provide your payment information to a non-secure website, you can expect that someone out there will get their hands on it at some point.
4. Don’t trust random links or attachments
One of the most significant security weak points on the internet today is you. Phishing is a scam where hackers dupe unsuspecting individuals into giving them their personal information by sending would-be victims an email or message which looks like it originates from a known and reputable entity such as a bank.
If you think about it logically, your bank would never send you a request for your ID or bank details since they have that already. In fact, you can’t even interact with a banking-related service as basic as customer care without them taking you through a detailed and comprehensive security check first! So why would they be asking for your details over email?
Auto-installing malware that steals data is also plaguing instant messaging apps at a higher rate nowadays. It might be tempting to click a link or attachment sent by family or friends without thinking twice. But you could be putting yours as well as other people’s information at risk by doing so. Do not open a link or attachment sent by a stranger. And if someone you know sends you one that looks suspicious, your first move should be to contact them and find out if they sent it with full knowledge of the contents.
5. Run a reliable security app and keep up to date
There is a reason why antivirus software is big business. Security apps will scan your computer or smartphone for malware and ensure that your device is as safe as possible. You should run a search for the top-rated and most recommended security software around before choosing the one that suits your needs and budget. Once you have it installed, you must keep your security app updated as hackers are developing new tools daily, and these updates help your system identify and detect new and evolving threats.
The internet can be a scary place, and with the world moving more and more towards digital formats, going online is becoming something we can’t avoid. As long as there is information online, there will always be hackers looking for ways to use and abuse it for personal gain. While it is unlikely we’ll ever be completely rid of hackers, using the tools and knowledge above will reduce your chances of falling victim to internet fraudsters.