Back during the late 90’s and early 2000’s, computer technology was a lot simpler than it was now, and being proficient with Paint or that old pinball game qualified you to be considered “skilled” with computers. In 2020 things are infinitely more advanced and complicated than many probably thought possible, and as things get more complicated, so to do attempts to steal information from others. But there are several tips you can follow to help minimize your risk of being targeted or taken advantage of online.
These days everyone has a smart phone, and while smart phones have their own security tools such as facial ID and finger print scanners to unlock said phone, computers and online accounts do not use these. But there is one thing you can do with your phone to help tighten your security online. Mobile Authenticators are becoming much more commonplace, and their purpose is simple; to tie your phone number to an account and allow to phone to verify certain details about your account. Linking your phone to your accounts can grant you the ability to get text notifications about security codes, or if a possible breach attempt has been detected. Phone’s linked can also help you to reset your password should you forget it. You can also download mobile authenticator apps that allow you to generate various security codes for different app accounts. A similar type of authentication is known as Dual Authentication, aka two-factor authentication. (2FA) This is similar to using a mobile device but it is not always tied to a mobile device, it can be tied to an email account or other method of verifying your account info. This is commonly used with banks but it is being quickly adapted by other services.
This is far from the only way to help secure an account however, a much more commonly used; as well as older method, is security questions. Security questions are commonly associated with bank accounts, but they are often used as a method of getting into your account if you forget your password. Common ones you may see would be questions that ask for a pet’s name or a city you would like to visit. It is recommended that you do not provide answers that many people know. For example, if you have a pet and love to talk about it on social media, it would be ill-advised to have one your questions be said pet’s name. You should pick questions and answers that only you would know, thus limiting the risk of someone getting into your account by reading your social media history.
Speaking of social media, let’s take a moment to consider the information you may post online. Identity thieves will often look on social media accounts that are not secure or set to private. The more information that you make publicly available, the more you put yourself at risk to be taken advantage of. So, make sure you set your accounts to private as much as you can, make sure information you post is only visible to friends, and some scrutiny to the friends you add on social media can be advised as well.
When it comes to passwords you may be tempted to reuse the same one multiple times to help you remember it easier. DO NOT DO THIS. If just one of these accounts are compromised, then very other account with that password will be just as vulnerable. Furthermore, do not make your passwords simple to guess, no matter how funny or clever you think you are; 1,2,3,4,5 is not a good password and is the kind of thing an idiot would put on his luggage lock. Have lowercase and capital letters in it, as well as numbers and special characters as well. Avoid birthdays and loved one’s names because they will be some of the first guesses some people try.
Above all else, use common sense online, as I have said previously, common sense is your biggest ally online. Use two factor or mobile authentication, don’t store sensitive info online, do not react to things immediately, take a moment and consider things before reacting. Don’t click on suspicious links, don’t give money to the old executive prince in Saudi Arabia, don’t put your passwords online, and don’t panic everything will be fine!