How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet
Once upon a time, I was told that everything was important, and it all needed to be protected with equal measures of ferocity and mystery. Once I got away from that excessively paranoid person, I began to see that it’s not the end of the world if I don’t have a 50-foot-high concrete retaining wall, barbed-wire fencing and security guards with attack dogs. Now, I like dogs, but I’ve never had one successfully protect my computers from a software virus.
Somewhere right now, people are skydiving, hugging tigers, dancing, building and wearing highly inappropriate re-creations of 1970s disco outfits. There are a lot of dangerous and risky things happening even as I type this. None of that means I shouldn’t use the Internet.
Yes, yes, I know. It’s dangerous. Hackers will get me. Um. . . likely not. Stop worrying about super spies and devilishly Hugh-Jackman-handsome hackers stealing all your family vacation photos. The super spies and hackers that you hear about in the news are after bigger targets than you.
So, let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
Here is a short list of the digital security measures you should take that are completely reasonable, easy and espionage free.
First, like I mentioned in my previous post, use a password manager for all your online accounts. There are some great choices such as Dashlane, Keepass and Lastpass. All are lovely and delicious and some of these even let you change all your passwords at once. This way you have to remember only the password to open the password vault.
Along with your shiny new password manager, consider using an additional security feature available at online services like Gmail. Google, Apple and others that offers an additional step to protect your online accounts. This is called two-factor authentication.
It sounds fancy, but it really just means that you will get a separate bit of information, usually a five- or six-character code sent to your smartphone or an email account to use when logging in to those services. It’s very easy and will brighten your teeth. I swear. Really. OK, maybe not.
Anti-virus and Anti-malware Software
Next, make sure you have anti-virus and anti-malware software installed, set to update automatically and set to automatically remove malware. Malware, software designed to harm or steal your information, is prevalent on the Internet, but the simple action of using anti-virus and anti-malware software will keep you reasonably safe.
They are not a magic solution to all your problems, but they are like staying out of traffic. It’s not only a good idea, but all your favorite living people are doing it.
Regular Software Updates
No software is perfect, even though some are arrogant enough to believe they are. Security issues are discovered with frightening regularity. So, ensure your operating system is set up to automatically install vendor updates. On top of operating system updates, use Secunia PSI (Windows) or AppFresh (Apple) to track all of your installed apps and keep them updated. Use only the official source of updates and apps such as Windows Update, the Apple Store or Google Play.
Secure Web Connections
Make sure every website that stores your private or financial information uses a secure connection. Look for the padlock icon in your browser’s address bar or check to see that the web address begins with HTTPS. This ensures that your password, credit card number and other sensitive information are kept safe from prying eyes.
Any one of these will not prevent all security issues, but together they make a pretty good defensive strategy that will keep you and your information safe.
Stay safe and classy, random Internet citizens!