A recent study shows that we handle our cell phone 2,617 times a day, on average. Canadians, among the world’s most avid Internet users, visit more websites and spend more time online than residents of any other country. In the last 24 hours, how many times have you checked your bank account balance using a mobile app? How many times have you accessed Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites? How often did you pick up your emails, download a file or make online purchases? We use the Internet for all these purposes on a daily basis without paying attention to it. Everything we do online increases our risk of being the target of a cyberattack. The majority of us do not really pay attention to cyber threats until we are personally affected by this scourge.
Given the amount of time we spend on computers and smartphones, a few simple precautions can go a long way to keeping us and our loved ones safe online. To protect yourself from hackers, follow the five tips below.
Don’t Use Birthday-passwords
Your birthday is impossible to forget, but makes a very bad password (the same goes for your dog’s name). The most important measure of online protection is simple: create unique passwords for each website and change them frequently. This may seem like a boring and complex task, but with a few basic strategies, you can increase your online security level without too much effort. Follow the suggestions below to create effective and secure passwords.
- Make sure your passwords have at least eight characters.
- Use a combination of capital letters and lower case, numbers and symbols.
- Technically, you can use your pet’s name, your lucky numbers or the name of the street you grew up on. But for greater efficiency, combine these different elements, always keeping in mind the two previous basic rules.
- If you prefer to write down your passwords so you don’t forget them, keep them in a safe place. Never write down a password next to the username it is associated with, and change it slightly when you transcribe it (for example, you could omit the third character or add a letter at the beginning of each password). Another interesting option is to subscribe to an online password manager, a service that keeps your codes in a digital safe.
Provide only the bare necessities
As a consumer, your personal information is stored by the companies you do business with, while the majority of websites you visit, for purchases or otherwise, require you to share a wealth of personal details. In any case, provide only the essentials. When you make an online transaction, give only your postal address and credit card number (better yet: use an online payment system, which will prevent you from having to share your credit card number on multiple sites). A good rule to follow is to fill out only the mandatory fields (usually marked by an asterisk) and omit any optional information.
Protect all your devices
Phone, tablet and computer. You wouldn’t leave your home without locking the door. Why do you leave your electronic devices unprotected? The inconvenience of having to unlock your devices using a verification method (entering a password, scanning your fingerprint, making a finger pattern, etc.) with each use seems minor alongside the threat of your personal information — photos and credit card number, for example – falling into the wrong hands.
Don’t get hooked by Phishing
Phishing is a fraudulent scheme by which a hacker personifies a legitimate organization to trick its targets into sharing their personal information. Your best protection against phishing is to always be critical and to be wary of any email that asks you to share personal information. If in doubt, leave your email inbox and log in directly to the company’s website. To get a clear picture, you can even call it. And remember: never click on a link in an email that you think is suspicious.
The impact of the majority of cyberattacks is relatively minor (such as cancelling your credit card and ordering a new one). However, there are some serious virtual threats. It is therefore essential to know the best practices to use online and the safeguards that exist against potential risks.