8 Cyber Security Tips For Protecting Your Privacy & Staying Safe Online
With the number of services that we rely upon the internet for, such as banking, socializing, shopping, or accessing government websites like Student Aid Alberta, it can be easy for personal security to slip down the list of priorities when browsing, but that’s all the more reason to be proactive!
We’ve connected with Hong Wang, SAMRU’s IT Manager of more than 10 years, and compiled a few best practices and techniques to keep in mind in order to keep your online experience as secure as possible.
1) Set up multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication is an additional layer of identity confirmation after your username and password that is becoming increasingly popular. This extra layer comes in various forms, ranging from apps to numerical codes, push notifications, button confirmations, SMS, or emails. Though it will take a moment more, using these when offered will grant your accounts more security.
2) Use strong passwords
Do what you can to set a strong password. The first step is to use guidelines to your advantage – that is, if a given website requires a combination of uppercase and lowercase characters, numbers, and symbols, your password should be as complex a combination of these assets as possible. That being said, it is also advisable to keep your passwords within reason so you can remember them!
It is best practice not to use one password repeatedly/for all your accounts in order to increase security. In this instance, even if one account is compromised, you can prevent the rest of your accounts from being accessed by assigning them different passwords. Though the widespread use of multi-factor authentication has mitigated this issue somewhat, using only one password makes it easier for someone with ill intent to access your data.
3) Be weary of external links
Be careful with unsolicited links. To gain access to your personal information, someone may try to impersonate a company or another individual and present you with an unsolicited link. Phishing and malware attempts can come in all forms – in emails, on social media, and within chat & gaming applications. Look for grammatical or formatting errors that seem out of place, and hover over any links before you click them so that you can verify their destination.
4) Keep your data & personal information private
Be conscious of websites, apps, or emails that request personal information or excessive permissions. Your bank, MRU, or any government body will never ask for your password, PIN, or credit card information through an email or a text message. If something seems sus, it probably is.
Be discerning of the personal information you share online and the audiences you share with. Oversharing your personal information (such as your mailing address and social insurance number) can put you at higher risk for identity theft. Be selective with what you share on social media and what you send in confidence.
Much of your data can be aggregated and used to link you to your school, family, etc through the cookies your browser gathers. It is recommended to clear your browser’s cookies and cache regularly so that the least amount of data is available in the instance of a breach.
5) If you’re using an unsecured network or site…
Be careful using unsecured wifi networks when you are in public. It is best practice to log in and check secure information, such as bank balances, student loan information, and other government websites, when you are at home and connected to a secured network. Open networks (something like Starbucks) are particularly susceptible to interference from data thieves and hackers.
Another important distinction is the difference between encrypted and insecure websites: the URLs of encrypted, or secure, websites will always begin with https://, whereas URLs starting with http:// are insecure, and much more susceptible.
6) Keep your software up-to-date
It is a good idea to keep the software for your operating system and programs up to date. Ensuring you are using the latest software version will mean all the latest security features are working correctly. Consequently, the more out-of-date your software is, the more susceptible your devices become. Be mindful of updating your plugins and extensions regularly as well (or sign up for auto-updates!).
Paid Options (Optional, but recommended)
7) Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) ensures a more private and secure network connection. While specific features vary from product to product, VPNs encrypt your connection at all times and protect your personal information, like masking your IP address, for example. Typically offered as a monthly or yearly subscription model, a VPN is a great asset if it is within your budget. Many providers offer mobile applications to protect cellular devices and tablets too.
8) Use antivirus software
Antivirus programs work proactively to protect your devices by preventing, detecting, and removing threats. Modern antivirus programs can protect your privacy and defend your device from hostile software, fraud attempts, and phishing scams; but your antivirus can’t do it alone – using a combination of protection software and cybersecurity best practices is the top way to ensure a safe browsing experience.
Making use of these techniques, best practices and software will greatly improve the security of your devices, whether you’re browsing at home or on campus. Thanks for the tips, Hong!