You might be unaware of this factoid, but 10% of adults are affected by online fraud in their lifetime.
Globally, the cybercrime industry is valued at $100 billion and according to many this is an underestimate.
Worst of all, in most cases the money is never recovered, and you might even find that your bank won’t cover you losses and blame you in the process as well.
So, without further ado, let’s have a look at the Top 10 ways you can help protect yourself today.
We partnered with Hide.Me to develop the infographic you see below.
Infographic by http://bestvpn.com
Create Strong and Unique Passwords
Did you know that passwords like 12345, password, football, and many other common phrases are still the most popular passwords. This makes hacker’s and cyber-criminal’s jobs extremely easy.
Are you one of these people? Don’t worry, there is a simple solution!
A password manager not only helps you store existing passwords, but it will also generate new passwords for you to use when you sign-up to a new place. This means, that in the end you only have to remember one really strong password.
We have password managers covered in more detail in this post, and you can be setup within 5 minutes of reading this article. We’d recommend changing your old passwords as well, and while this will take more time, it’s definitely worth it in the long run.
Always Use a VPN
Are you one of those people that believes that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about? Well,you’d be totally wrong!
The NSA and governments around the world, track your internet usage and habits equally. Hackers are also coming up with new and innovative ways to steal your data, such as creating fake WiFi hotspots.
There is a simple way to overcome these troublesome menaces – using a VPN! A VPN encrypts your internet data, making it impossible for outsiders to access it. If you wish to find out more about them, then read our VPN buying guide.
Keep Security Software Updated
There is a reason for the existence of security software and backup solutions. They are here to protect your computer and you should embrace them with wide open arms.
Should you get a virus, you might be lucky and will just need to figure out how to remove it.
Should you have a bad day, you will only lose a few files that you will be able to restore easily.
However, there’s realistically an infinite potential number of nightmare scenarios, probably the worst one being is your data being held for ransom!
But it’s not enough to have the right tools (anti-virus, firewall, VPN and backup) but you need to keep them updated as well. There is no point to having an antivirus if it doesn’t detect the latest security threats, or keeping backups if you only do them once a year.
The easiest way to overcome this is to ensure that Automatic Updating is enabled in the software’ settings, but for long-term safety we’d recommend checking the refresh date at least once per month.
Free Software Comes With a Price
Ever heard the saying “Nothing comes for free?” – it’s especially true with software. Simply stated: you get what you pay for. While it may seem appealing to get what some people pay for free for yourself, there’s always more to the story.
Countless instances of so-called ‘Rogue Security Software‘, can expose vulnerabilities or leave gaps in your system, as opposed to the protection the software inherently promises. These offerings are often actually malware masquerading as something useful, or even holes in open-source software considered secure.
Just look at the Heartbleed virus, whose effects were so widespread, they affected tech and other industry-monoliths such as Google, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, (even WordPress which this site is powered by!) not to mention us laypeople. What’s more, a few weeks ago, several men were charged with running an international hacking ring based on the Heartbleed security flaw.
This cyber-crime conglomerate allegedly (warning: the indictment is 68 pages) manipulated US and global stock markets, not to mention stealing user information. If Google being compromised – albeit temporarily – doesn’t ring the alarm bells, nothing more I can say will.
Don’t Click On Every Link!
“Click here to get a great deal!”
“As if that’s not enough, tickets to the Europen Championships at half-price – two days only.”
Ever seen these types of click-bait before? Me too, but guess what? They’re often mental traps to get your traffic to a scammy site, at best.
On the other hand, the link might point to a site lying in wait to infect your computer with a harmless but pesky virus. That’s the best case scenario.
Even worse, your machine might be exposed to nasty malware that logs your every keystroke, leaving your data and possibly identity at the mercy of cybercriminals. That doesn’t sound like fun at all, so think before you click for that seemingly amazing deal.
2FA is a Great Addition
Two Factor Authentication (2FA) is just a ‘techie’ way of saying you need a second security check to log in to an online account, beyond just the usual username/password combo. Most often the second barrier to entry is the first thing we grab in the morning and the last thing we put down before bed – our smartphones, or just a simple USB drive.
So, you made the common mistake of clicking on a bad link and got your login credentials stolen. Uh-oh. Don’t fret though, with 2FA enabled, you’re safe, unless the person hacking you is also in close enough proximity to ‘borrow’ your cellphone unnoticed (in which case stop reading and reevaluate your choice in friends).
Sharing is not Caring
Social media is rapidly becoming a primary part of daily life while rearing its ugly head in equal measure. From spoofs to cat videos, to ramblings about why tipping is antiquated practice and more, everyone has an opinion to drop on their friends, acquaintances, and the abyss that is today’s internet.
On the other hand, an innocuous “Away for the weekend with my baby!” post, can be the recipe for thieves to loot your physical home, if they already know where you live.
In the digital sphere, it’s even more dicey. Over disclosing your habits, interests, and details about you, helps advertisers track you just as much as the crooks. No doubt about it, fraud protection starts at the source – you.
When an email pops into your inbox from your uncles, who doesn’t know how to boot a computer up, you know it’s fake, and likely a result of your pre-existing online data, stolen or given.
But what about when the email or promotion is from a trusted personal or institutional account, but looks just a tad off? Take a second and contact the sender to verify they haven’t been hacked, sending virus emails out to all their trusted contacts.
To make a point: be sure to evaluate the sender and the message, especially when dealing with email chain-letters. Blind faith is as good as leaving your computer unattended – while logged in to a personal account – in a coffee shop for the day.
Keep Your Eyes Open
There’s an old Sioux Indian proverb: even a surprised wolf running for his life will make one last pit-stop to look at his pursuer(s), before making the final escape.
No, you don’t need to smash your computer and run for the hills, but rather be constantly vigilant. Stay aware and also wary of your digital surroundings. Remember, international firms who’ve employed mini-IT armies are routinely compromised, with all those pairs of eyes looking out for threats.
Don’t be the complacent individual who thinks they’re too small to be targeted. Always stay on the lookout!
Don’t Store Your Credentials Online
So, you’ve followed all the steps listed thus far and are feeling pretty secure, as you should be. But there’s more to the story. Keeping your login credentials stored in an email draft, or cloud service file such as Google Drive leaves you fairly open to being taken for a ride.
Treat no one service as secure, and preferably keep your credentials stored in your head. What if my username and password is long and complicated? No sweat, remember that’s what password managers are for.
As a backup or last resort, it’s still preferable to keep your login details written down on a piece of paper, than online, where even deletion doesn’t guarantee your safety.
Now that we’ve gone through all the tips, let’s summarize. All points considered, protecting yourself from cybercrime is a holistic and constantly evolving process. I’m not advocating paranoia, but rather proactiveness by combining the steps above. Simply stated: once your information is out of your hands – intentionally or otherwise – it can be nigh on impossible to get it back. So don’t fall prey to complacency and the nefarious people looking to exploit it, implement these tips right now.