To a newby, the internet can feel like a scary place – and to some extent, it is. About four new malicious software programs are created per second according to figures collected by IT security analysts AV-TEST.
The stats might sound daunting, but thankfully you don’t have to be a computer wizard to keep yourself safe online. In fact, with a little bit of preparation and the right tools at your disposal, everyone can learn how to navigate the internet without putting themselves at risk.
1. Create bulletproof passwords
Setting a strong password is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do to stop password hacks (an attack in which criminals use automated tools to systematically check all possible username and password combinations). The more secure the password, the more difficult it is for hackers to infect your system with malware and/or steal your personal data and financial information.
Given the sheer number of accounts and passwords the average person has, it’s tempting to default to simple passwords to take out the hassle of remembering them. Resist temptation and use a password manager instead. LastPass, Dashlane and Sticky Password are all reputable and intuitive products that allow you to store all your passwords safely without requiring you to remember complex character combinations.
Here are a few guidelines to help you create a bulletproof password:
Length: Your passwords should be at least 12 characters in length.
Complexity: Include a combination of numbers, special characters, and upper and lower case characters.
Randomize: Do not use words that are in the dictionary.
Unique: Do not use the same password across different websites.
2. Keep software up to date
Software security is an ongoing battle. As vulnerabilities arise and security flaws are exploited, developers deploy patches to update their software and provide users with better protection. Delaying these updates leaves your device more susceptible to an attack.
With this in mind, it’s vital that you keep your operating system, web browser, antivirus program and other software up to date to reduce the risk of a security breach. Enable automatic updates in your software settings for greater peace of mind.
3. Use reputable antivirus software
Antivirus software also plays a key role in helping you stay safe on the internet. A strong, reputable IT security solution can prevent malicious software from getting onto your machine and clean up any issues that may slip past your system’s defenses. Remember to enable auto updates and ensure your antivirus settings are suited to your needs and browsing habits.
4. Email with caution
One of the most common ways malware is distributed is through your emails. Hackers create sophisticated emails that typically contain an attractive sales offer or an official-looking message from an important institute (such as a bank, government, school and so on). Alternatively, you may receive an email from a friend or colleague whose computer has been compromised. These emails contain enticing links and/or attachments that, when clicked upon, may trigger malware downloads or take you to websites that try to steal your personal information.