Bye bye cybercriminals - 10 tips to protect your privacy online

20-01-2017

Internet security is just like the security of your home. You can have the best lock on your door, but if you leave the keys lying around then burglars can still get in. This is why I am giving you some tips to protect yourself from pickpockets, fraudsters and criminals online.

Tip 1. Choose a strong password

Speaking about locks: maybe that sounds like an open door, but we see too many times the Smiths of this world choosing a password such as smith01. It's understandable but easy to crack. This password is also numerically not very strong. The strength of a password is related to the possible number of combinations you can make with your chosen characters. The longer the password and the greater the number of characters you use (letters, capitals, numbers and symbols), then the stronger your password. SM!t4)@! is a better alternative.

Tip 2. Manage more than one password

For every account choose a different password. If one account is cracked then at least the rest are still safe. However, the more passwords you have the more difficult it becomes to remember them. Many people write them up in a book, with pin codes and alarm codes. Risky. Leaving the book on the train? Rather choose an online password manager, which is a sort-of safe where you can save all of your passwords. Examples of these are 1Password or LastPass, where you need to only remember one password to open the safe. 1 Password LastPass

Tip 3. Choose another logging in method

At many banks you need to do extra things to log in. You may need to put your bank card in a card reader to retrieve a code, or you may receive a SMS to your mobile phone. These methods are called 2-step verification and it's gaining popularity. Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Idensys (the successor of DigiD) all support this - a secondary security step. A really handy solution for this is Yubikey: a key that has the appearance of a USB Stick. You insert it into your computer, press on it and then you are logged in. Yubico

Tip 4. Update your software

The simplest manner to remain secure when using the Internet is to update your software. This of course also counts for your security software. If there are hacks in software programs then software companies make new updates to fix the issue, sometimes within a few days. If you have a legally downloaded version of software, then these updates are free. You can also set your computer to update automatically, then you don't need to check and look for this.

Tip 5. Watch out for unsolicited emails

Emails which promise to make you a millionaire with a mouse click? Of course you won't fall for that. If you receive emails from your bank and it's full of spelling mistakes, you wouldn't fall for that either. However, these so-called 'phishing' emails are looking more legitimate and 'real' and making it harder to spot. The rule of thumb is never to open emails which make suspicious requests. Be careful with strange attachments which arrive from your friends also, it could be that these have been sent by a hacker using their email address to send viruses.

Tip 6. Always lock your computer screen

So, I am halfway through my list. Maybe you want to get a coffee or stretch your legs? Then don't just walk away from your desk, it's important to first lock your computer, and definitely if you are in a study area or a flexible workplace with strangers. At Digidentity it is the golden rule - or even a purple-pink one. Colleagues who forget to lock their screen and leave their desk win a disputable trophy - a My Little Pony on their desk.

Tip 7. Be careful using free WiFi

Maybe you are doing it now - enjoying your favourite bar and the free WiFi connection. Nothing wrong with that, but be aware that all of your data usage can be intercepted. Therefore, be careful with what you do. Hackers can see the password you type in.

Tip 8. Don't make an account on the local baker's site

The latest antivirus software, firewalls, complex passwords, 2-step verification - you can use the Internet so safely, but you are also dependent on others. Think about the local bookshop or the lovely hotel across border which are now offering online services. Handy, but are your personal details really in safe hands? All too often these small websites are a piece-of-cake for hackers to break open.

Tip 9. Double check the websites you visit

Needing to do a small online payment, after you have read this article? Take this last minute tip - check if the site you are visiting is really from a bank. This you do first by checking the website address (URL). Is the name of the bank correctly spelled? Do you see the closed padlock in the top left of the screen? That padlock shows that the website is secured with a certificate, and then you know you can do business with your bank safely.

Tip 10. Be careful with what you share

Lastly the most important tip - use the Internet alertly. Don't click on everything that moves, but think before using a specific link or website. If you visit a website think about if you find using cookies ok. Are you registering yourself somewhere? Check the terms and conditions and check what it means to your privacy. Maybe you find it ok that your details could be shared and used by 3rd parties, it is up to you. Don't do anything stupid but don't be paranoid. The majority of cyber criminals aren't that interested in you.