Today the internet is the primary means of which people communicate, share information and conduct business. This has led to a significant amount of people working from home, which is good, but the downside are the safety implications.
For many people, working from home may mean, going to the local restaurant and sitting down, headphones on; which is just about the scenario for most.
However, what a lot of people don’t imagine is that signing into a public Wi-Fi, for the most part has its risks. As there are always hackers on the prowl, looking for unsuspecting system users. In many instances they’ll even create fake Wi-Fi networks for people to log into. If you’re unfortunate enough to log into one of these networks, then it becomes very easy for the hacker to do whatever they want to you. Whether it’s steal your personal affix or acquire credit card details.
Creating fake networks is just one of several methods that hackers use to steal confidential information from their victims. That is why I have put together 6 tips that you can and should use, to help you avoid falling victim to these cybercriminals.
1. Update Your Software & Windows Regularly
Many people make the mistake of turning automatic updates off. While I can see why some may want to switch it off, as it can be quite distracting, and at times, can lead to your system rebooting, without even consulting you. In most instances this is essentially the easiest way for hackers to gain unauthorised access to your system. For this reason along, it’s in your best interest to have this feature on.
Another thing to consider is your software. When you only use legitimate licensed software, that is fully updated, you drastically reduce the risk for falling prey to malicious attacks. If you can recall the Petya ransomware attack that occurred in 2017. Security analysts discovered that the root cause of the hack was down to a security backdoor that was already fixed by a Windows update, more than 6 months prior.
Essentially, this was an issue that could have been stopped long before it started if users had just taken 10 minutes to download and install the latest updates for their operating system.
2. Invest in a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
When online, one of the best ways to protect yourself is to use a virtual private network (VPN). This is especially important when connected to public Wi-Fi networks. VPNs work by redirecting or routing your internet traffic through a private server, rather than the data just going directly to your system. All data sent and received is encrypted (by the VPN) during this process. This means your identity remains anonymous, making it virtually impossible for hackers to steal your personal affix.
A good start to online safety and security starts with something like this, investing in a good VPN service. There are a large assortment of VPNs, some are client software, while others are services. You will need to go through several to find one that meets your current needs and demands.
3. Enable Windows Firewall
A lot of Windows users are not too keen on the built-in firewall tool that has been with the OS for a considerable length of time. Despite that, it is a very useful and needful tool that is capable of blocking unauthorised access to your network, along with many other common (yet dangerous) attack types. When you enable the Windows Firewall, you may also need to configure it, depending on the types of things you like to do online. If you lack the required expertise, then it can be quite daunting, but do keep in mind, that it’s a one-time thing. Once you’ve done it once, you’ll be good to go for as long as your system is operational.
Of the various firewall tools out there, Windows Firewall is fairly decent, that is capable of protecting your system from the most widely known threats. If you’re still not sold on Microsoft’s security platforms, then there are always third party solutions that you can invest in, such as ZoneAlarm Firewall and Comodo Free Firewall.
4. Use Complex Passwords
This is probably something you’ve already heard before, but creating passwords that are both unique and strong, across all your different online accounts, is one of the easiest, yet most effective ways of keeping your confidential data safe. This is especially so today, where widespread hacks of organisations are a thing, where a single data breach can result in tens of thousands of user’s accounts being compromised. If you use the same password across multiple accounts, then your username and password need only be compromised once, as any hacker can now take that log in data and try it across multiple platforms. The best advice I can offer you is to use a password manager, as they can help you both store all your passwords while ensuring any passwords you do use are complex.
You also want to ensure that multi-factor authentication (MFA) is enabled on any account that you’re signed up to. MFA is when multiple modes of authentication are required to identify yourself. This may mean, entering your username and password, then having a code sent to your cell phone, which you will then enter in, to eventually gain access.
5. Protect Your Handheld Devices
For a lot of people, they tend to make the common mistake of looking at internet safety as something that only affects your laptop or desktop unit. However, your handheld devices such as tablets, mobile phones and other devices are equally at risk. Most people, when logging into a public Wi-Fi network, are more likely to do it on their mobile phone than their laptop computer.
Using a VPN for your tablet or phone should help protect your data no matter what you do, while on the internet. If you can, go with a VPN services that allows you to utilise more than one device type per subscription. That way you can have all your devices (PC, Laptop, Phone) utilising the same service.
6. Backup Your Data
Ensuring all your data is backed up is very important, regardless of the circumstances. This way you can avoid losing any sensitive data, such as family photos or a personal journal. You can use services like Google Drive to back up your data, or you can go with an external hard drive. When it comes to internet safety, stopping the hackers from doing what they do is only one part of it. The other part of it entails protecting your data, so you don’t accidentally lose everything.
Uchenna Ani-Okoye is a former IT Manager who now runs his own computer support website https://www.compuchenna.co.uk.