The recent Heartbleed bug was another reminder that we can’t rely on companies or our lucky stars to protect our data or ourselves.
There is even a great Ted talk about how things like a car–and a pacemaker–can be hacked. I don’t know much about how protecting those things, but here are some steps we all should take to protect ourselves from online hackers.
- Have strong passwords – So many services online require us to create an account and enter a password. But despite several high-profile security breaches, many people still use default passwords or repeat the same password. Try the Random Password Generator to help you create a secure password. For storing passwords there are services like LastPass or Dashlane. They not only remember your passwords, but also have auto fill options that save time so you don’t have to look for that elusive password or reset a password because you forgot it.
- Use a VPN on public Wi-Fi – I tend to be on the road a lot and take advantage of Wi-Fi in coffee shops or airports. However, you never know who else is also connecting to that Wi-Fi and possibly seeing the data you transmit. To be safe, consider using a VPN service that encrypts your data that is sent over public Wi-Fi. Some popular ones are the free HotspotShield and the paid VyprVPN. Using these services puts up some form of a barrier so that a hacker might not waste time and just move onto someone who is not encrypting their data.
- Run an antivirus program once in while – If you have a Windows PC, you are vulnerable to many viruses that target your operating system. The best way to prevent any attacks is to have an updated antivirus program like Norton Antivirus or Symantec. Mac users can’t be too lax, either, as Mac viruses do exist. Recent versions of Macs come with programs to detect and hopefully disable them. The general rule of thumb is to use common sense and take a cautious approach when dealing with email attachments, programs, and even websites.
- Use a private browser when accessing sensitive information on other computers – Whenever I’m using a someone else’s computer, and need to log in into a website, I open up an Incognito Window in Chrome. Most browsers have a similar privacy setting so that the computer does not remember the browsing session and also any potential passwords I may have put in. That way when you’re done, you can just close the browser and you don’t have to worry that you will remain logged in after you go away from that computer.