The internet can be a daunting place these days. While it can often be used for good, such as providing people with remote work and rescuing people with disabilities who find themselves at home, it can also reveal the worst in society who choose to take advantage of people’s good nature.
Whether it’s trying to hack your online accounts, sending you an email with a phishing link to get your credit card details, or shutting down your computer by ransomware, going online is risky.
But, just like with offline security, you can also protect yourself from online hackers by taking reasonable precautions. Obviously, this is not a guarantee that nothing will happen, but it will significantly complicate the task of the opportunistic “travel” hacker.
Strengthen your passwords and use a password manager
The first lesson in computer security is ALWAYS good passwords. Unfortunately, a lot of people hear this, but then disconnect and return to watching Netflix. Internet users with password 12345 or password.
You must have a password:
- which is not associated with you in any way. This means that you do not have to include your date of birth, spouse, pet, parents, siblings, etc.
- This is a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters (exclamation character, underscore, square brackets, etc.). 12345 is clearly awful, but @ X @ 3SqlH #
- Make sure your account will notify you via email or SMS if your password is changed. Look in your account settings. If the password has been changed without your knowledge or consent, take action immediately. Don’t tell yourself you will do it later.
- Do not use the same password for all online accounts. Also try opening multiple disposable email accounts and not using the same email address for all accounts. The main thing is to keep the accounts separate from each other in case of massive data breaches.
- In the password recovery options, add fake answers to recovery questions. So when asked where you were born, say “in the hospital.” If he asks for your first address, say “nice big house.” Just memorize the fake responses so you can access your account later if needed.
- The main tip is to use a password manager. We recommend KeePass, but here are some more solid guidelines for using a password manager.
Use the 2-Factor Authenticator app, not SMS codes
Apart from a secure password, you also need to enable two-factor authentication (if the website in question supports it – more appears all the time).
However, I would not recommend using the default SMS. Simply because some hackers can spoof your mobile phone number and intercept the SMS message. You can reduce the risk to a certain extent by not publishing your mobile number on the Internet.
Use a VPN and force all URLs to be encrypted
Try not to use public Wi-Fi unless absolutely necessary. They are very insecure and you can easily get your account login details using a network analysis tool. But if you absolutely must connect to Starbucks Wi-Fi, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk.
- Use a cross-browser extension developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation called HTTPS Everywhere As the name suggests, it forces all sites you visit to switch to an encrypted version of HTTPS. This makes it impossible for a network sniffer like Wireshark to view the login details you enter into the site.
- The second thing to do is to use a virtual private network (VPN). This hides your IP address and redirects all your web traffic through the VPN company’s servers, giving the impression that you are in a different country.
Set up a firewall, virus checker, and malware checker
Firewalls can be quite tricky to set up because all incoming and outgoing web traffic is stopped and you have to set up “rules” for each one. But in the end it’s worth it.
MacOS users have a firewall installed automatically on their system (go to Settings Security & Privacy Firewall to enable it). Windows users also have built-in Windows Firewall. There are also various third-party options available, each with varying degrees of reputation.
Constantly scan your computer with a virus and malware scanner and always make sure you download the latest updates. There are several virus and malware scanners for Windows and Mac users can take a look at this list
Check the URLs and files before clicking on them
How many emails do you receive each day claiming they came from your bank, Paypal, or Amazon? They will all try to look like real emails from these places (typos notwithstanding), and ALL of them will tell you that your data has been compromised, and since they are such nice responsive people, here is a password reset link you can click on
But obviously, the password reset link leads to a fake site, and as soon as you enter your old password, they will understand you. So
- Do not, under any circumstances, click links in emails. Instead, open your browser, go directly to the site by typing in the site url, and log in as usual. Don’t assume the email is safe, even if it came from a friend. Their email address could have been spoofed by someone else.
- Do not click on short URLs (like TinyURLURL expander first. It will tell you the actual destination of the link.
- Before clicking a link, hover over the link and then look in the lower left corner of the browser where the link is displayed. Do both URLs match? I bet they won’t.
- Be extremely careful with files in exe, zip, rar, iso or other operating system scripts. But other formats are not protected either. First run all files and download links via VirusTotal
- Make sure Windows autorun and autorun are disabled so that viruses from USB drives do not start automatically.
Close all inactive and unnecessary online accounts
When a hacker has your login credentials for one site, they’ll start seeing which other sites you are on to see if the same credentials work there as well. Therefore, you should not only not reuse passwords, but also close all online accounts that you no longer need.
In many places, it is extremely difficult to close an account, and in some it is even impossible. But you can get direct links to account closure options by searching for Account Killer
Use disposable credit and gift cards
One of the most common ways a hacker can attack people is by stealing credit card information through data breaches. New e-commerce stores are popping up all the time, so the more often you use your credit card to shop online, the more likely it is that your credit card number will end up being compromised.
Make sure there is an HTTPS link on the website you are purchasing from, you should also consider using one-time disposable credit cards and gift cards. Gift cards can be found at local stores and can be used for something like top-up iTunes balances or paying Netflix bills.
Saphia recently introduced 5 reputable single-use credit card services, among which Revolut is one of the best.
The above list is not exhaustive, but if you are just starting out looking to improve the security of your online presence and protect yourself from online hackers, these suggestions are the best place to start.