In my opinion, privacy is dead! However, there are things that you can do online to protect your privacy even while it is at the morgue.
Here are a few things that you can do to protect what is left of your online privacy before it is buried.
Develop a Strong Password
Let’s face it, you may have already been hacked–for your contact list. Most hackers are out looking for money, revenge or bragging rights. Therefore, it is imperative that you try to make it harder for yourself to be hacked. Below, I will outline different things (simple things) that you can do to protect your privacy while online.
How to Develop a Strong Password Manually
If you can remember your password it is probably too weak. Google has a few suggestions for you when it comes to making a strong password if you really must remember your password:
• Include punctuation marks and/or numbers.
• Mix capital and lowercase letters.
• Include similar looking substitutions, such as the number zero for the letter ‘O’ or ‘$’ for the letter ‘S’.
• Create a unique acronym.
• Include phonetic replacements, such as ‘Luv 2 Laf’ for ‘Love to Laugh’.
Things to avoid:
• Don’t reuse passwords for multiple important accounts, such as Gmail and online banking.
• Don’t use a password that is listed as an example of how to pick a good password.
• Don’t use a password that contains personal information (name, birth date, etc.)
• Don’t use words or acronyms that can be found in a dictionary.
• Don’t use keyboard patterns (asdf) or sequential numbers (1234).
• Don’t make your password all numbers, uppercase letters or lowercase letters.
• Don’t use repeating characters (aa11).
Tips for keeping your password secure:
• Never tell your password to anyone (this includes significant others, roommates, parrots, etc.).
• Never write your password down.
• Never send your password by email.
• Periodically test your current password and change it to a new one.
Use Software to Manage Your Password/s
Google will not recommend software to manage your password, but I can. At your own risk, you can use software like LastPass to manage your passwords. There will be no need to memorize or repeat your passwords. For a full review of LastPass, check our previous post here.
Use Two Step Authentication
Google offers an awesome tool called Two Step Verification; if you have a Gmail account you should definitely get Two Step Verification set up. By the way, we recommend Gmail as a good free email service, and it is way more secure than Yahoo so far. It is important to note that Yahoo recently rolled out a two step verification service of their own to protect Yahoomail. Basically, two step verification, as the name suggests, means that Google places an obstacle between you and your account (usually a phone) to make sure that the person logging on is actually you.
Avoid Showcasing Your Email Online
Scammers and Hackers have software (bots) that they use to scour the internet looking for email addresses. If they find your email, then you are a potential target. If they get into your account they then have a way to potentially get into your other accounts-usually they use brute force attacks. How many people do you know who use the same email and password for every account they open online? If you know someone like this, you are obligated to send them this post.
Signup for a Domain Name and Create a Personal Email Address
This method is a good way to spread out your email addresses, or pretend as though you are spreading out your email addresses. Google offers a nifty service that allows you to send emails from your various email accounts. For example, our original email is “firstname.lastname@example.org.” What you can do is purchase a domain with a domain name registrar. Here is a list of Domain Name Registrars that I currently work with.
For Domain name Registration I use 1and1.
For My hosting accounts I use Hostgator, West Host and Bluehost. However, my first blog was hosted at Justhost-it is really cheap. After you have set up your domain name, you will then need to set Gmail to handle communication between your personal email account with your hosting company and your free Gmail account. Doing this will allow you to have a second layer of defense and not just shackle yourself to one email account. In many cases you may be able to create as many email address as you can and forward them all to your Gmail account. Therefore, when you send or receive emails from your “email@example.com” you can just use Google to handle that mail for you. Super cool!
Do Not Click on Links That You do Not Know
The reality is that people are more connected today than any time in history. As humans, we like to share. However, if you cannot recognize the full URL of the site, do NOT click on that link. Instead, this is what you can do with that link. Open up Google.com, and in the search form enter the “site: URL” that you were sent.
You will see a little arrow appear beside the search result, click on it and select Cache. This basically allows you to have Google stand between you and that website, and Google will give you a preview of that page. Then, you can choose whether or not you want to visit that page. Sometimes Google may alert you if that page or website is not safe. Google has software, called bots, that are patrolling the internet. When that bot comes across malicious software that it recognizes, it will automatically add that bug to Google’s database. Additionally, you may help Google become the god of the internet and keep us all “safe” by reporting spam websites and Phishing websites. Hackers may install software on your computer to record your keystrokes through a process called KeyLogging if you visit certain websites and install their software unknowingly. Be especially on the lookout for links from your friends showing pictures of pets, or that “leaked” celebrity crotch link, they are potential poison.
Check the Strength of Your Current Passwords
If you are saying to yourself, “I wonder if my password is safe”, there are applications for that. These applications will try to calculate the strength of your password and how long it would take to gain entry into your account illegally. You will see that some of the websites that you join, like Facebook, will try to indicate to you the strength of your password.
Have and Use More Than One Browser on your Computer
The personal computer is still the most popular device used to access the internet. By default, they only have Internet Explorer installed. Because of the shear number of people using the PC, they are a huge target for hackers and scammers. Use at least 2 different browsers. If you have kids who may be playing games on your computer, make certain to block ads from displaying on your computer. You know kids; they will click on anything that has their favorite characters or colors. Use a browser specifically for your banking and other personal needs that may have very sensitive information. And as often as necessary, use your browser in privacy mode. This mode will sometimes prevent some websites from adding cookies to your browser and computer.
Clear Cookies From Your Computer and Browser
It has been widely reported that hackers can take advantage of the cookies stored in your browser. The cookie is basically a piece of software that makes your session with that site sweet. You will notice that when you go to Facebook you may navigate away from Facebook, for example, without logging out. This is true especially if you check that “keep me logged in” box. When you type facebook.com in your browser you are automatically logged in. This is because Facebook places scripts on your computer. So, if you are using a public computer. I would suggest that you not only logout but you also delete your cookie sessions from that browser. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have gone to the library at my old school and people were still logged into websites even after days had passed. Some websites, such as Yahoo, will automatically close other sessions when you log on from a different device.
Install an AntiVirus Software
Caution, that free antivirus software will only protect you from known infections. Therefore, you have to be proactive by following the steps outlined above. Whether or not the antivirus software is free or not, there is no guarantee you will be protected from Zero Day attacks. Consequently, it is even more imperative that you are extremely cautious if you are a public person or company- you are being watched.
Never Choose Default Selections-Even on Those Free Security Softwares
When you are downloading software from the internet, particularly free ones, never select the default install. They will bloat your computer and your browser with many add-ons and extensions. And in some cases they will try to hijack your browser and your search engine settings. You have no idea what you are getting if you do not look in the bag.
Install the Awesome TOR Browser
If you want to keep hackers and snoopers at bay, this is the tool for you. This tool will allow you to browse the web anonymously. TOR is unlike services such as Anonymouse, because it comes with its very own browser and search engine. They promise to not track you, and it is used by many organizations including the media, the military and researchers, just to name a few. If you want to drive websites such as Facebook crazy, which wants to know where you are at all times to serve you ads, you should give TOR a spin. Facebook however, may lock your account thinking you have been hacked. Please note, this service should not be used to carry out illegal activities. TOR will run even on your flash drives and does not need to be installed on your computer to be functional-you can install the TOR browser on your storage devices and cloud storage devices. People monitoring your network will have a hard time figuring out what websites you are visiting. The good part is that nothing will be stored to the browser on your computer because there is no need to use it. Also, if you are using your computer on a public network, I would strongly recommend that you use TOR.
Never Ever Post Too Much Information on Social Networks or Anywhere Online
Really, if someone does not know where you were born, where you have lived and blah blah, they are not really your friend. My belief is that people usually share or give away more than what is taken from them. Check out my previous entry on how to protect your credit. Always check important accounts to see what questions they ask for security reasons. Those are types of things you should never share online. For more on that check this out.
Again, if you have a friend, make certain to share this post with them if you think this article is potentially beneficial. Also, If you have any questions you can post them in the comments section or here.
What do you think? If I have left something off this list that you think is critical, add it to the comments section below.