We’ve been asked a lot how to protect yourself from scams and hackers. It’s an ongoing problem that is constantly changing and evolving, so there is no true way to completely protect yourself on the internet. But, there are some good tips to go by so we decided to write them up to help people do the basic things to protect themselves. Here goes…
Antivirus and Firewall – Make sure you have a security software on your computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone… Leaving yourself open without any Antivirus or Firewall is like asking for trouble. Once you have it, then make sure you regularly keep it up-to-date. There are new security updates almost daily for these as they work hard to protect you from any new problems they find. It’s their job to protect you because you bought the software, but if you don’t keep it up-to-date then you aren’t really protected.
Public Hotspots – When in a public hotspot it is always a good idea to stay away from using any passwords. Obviously, if you want to check something like your email, you can. But, think twice before you put in key passwords like ones that give access to your website, your bank account, PayPal accounts, or anything else that has a financial element to it. If you do need to check these sorts of things, try your best to make sure your computer has a Firewall on it that is completely up-to-date so that you have one level of protection. Typically if you have a Firewall running, it will prompt you when you log into the hotspot asking you if you are in a Trusted Place or a Public Place. Make sure to tell it that you are in a Public Place because it adds another level of protection because it now knows you are not on an internet connection that can be trusted.
Saving Passwords – It is not a good idea to use the “password saving” options in the standard web browsers (especially Internet Explorer) including the “remember me” check box option on most sites. Although these browsers are constantly working and updating themselves to afford you some protection, they are clear targets for hackers. You are much better off either remembering your passwords or using software that is specifically designed to save passwords. I recommend using software called Roboform, but there also others on the market that are widely used. It saves all of your passwords, profiles, and anything else you might need to regularly fill out on websites. This allows you to log into sites with a single click. This software even has an option to password protect your passwords, so they are double protected and all you need to remember is the one “master password” to unlock all the rest.
Unique Passwords – Lots of people make the mistake of re-using the same password over and over again. If you do this, then you are literally giving one website the password to all of the other ones you use. You are just asking some low paid employee of a website to grab your password and start poking around at other sites you might be using (like your bank account). Make sure to use “unique passwords” as much as you can. This especially applies to passwords for things like your Bank Account and PayPal account. If you think that using different passwords for everything will be confusing, use a password handler (like I mentioned above). This will allow you to literally make up something new for every site and you never have to remember it.
Always Logout – Another big mistake that almost everyone does is forgetting to logout after using a website. If you just “close the browser window” you are leaving that connection open. If someone has hacked you while you are say “sitting at a coffee shop” then after you leave they may still have access. The simple act of going to the Logout link and making sure you really leave a site can save you. This is something you should get yourself to do no matter where you are.
Social Media Scams – More and more people are using sites like FaceBook and the scams are starting to hit social media as well. There are certain links that go out within social media that hackers have embedded viruses in. If you open it, then you get it too and they start using your account to send out the same links. And it spreads… So, make sure when you open something that it is a real link (which is sometimes hard to tell). A good tip is that if you see a lot of your friends posting the same set of information, it’s a good chance that they didn’t post it and that they have been hacked. Seeing the same posting four or five times on other accounts is a good sign that something is wrong. When in doubt, if you feel like something might have happened then change your passwords immediately and make sure all of your privacy settings are good.
Email Scams – This has been going on for a long time now. Most of us recognize the real scams like the money laundering from Nigeria or some Prince who needs help moving his money to the US. But, there are still tons and tons of scams out there going out via email that are different and don’t look like scams. A good rule of thumb is never open an email that isn’t from someone you really know – just delete it without opening it. If there is no “subject” in the email, then don’t open it either. The other really big thing to do is if there are links in “any email” then don’t click on them. Never ever, ever, ever click on a link in an email no matter who it’s from. Always open a web browser and type in the link directly. This especially applies for sites like PayPal. There are tons and tons of scams for PayPal and if you just go to www.PayPal.com and log in direct, they will tell you if there’s something you need to do or know. Clicking on a PayPal link in an email is a very, very bad idea because it’s likely it isn’t actually them (no matter how much it may look like them) and someone is trying to steal your information. So, a good rule of thumb is to only read emails that are from people you know and never click on links in an email.