It is just about that time of the year when people undertake various spring cleaning exercise. You know change oil in your car, wax the car paint, redo the house painting, fix some lose screws around the house, mow the lawn, this list could go on and on.
However, when it comes to spring cleaning few people ever think of reevaluating their online presence. Ironically, most things nowadays are done over the internet; we shop online, make friends online, do our banking online, tell our secrets online, and there are telltale evidence of our infidelity online. This list could also go on and on.
At this point, it should be clear that your peace of mind could be totally ruined if a hacker decided to take a swing at you. So do some spring cleaning also on your online presence.
Rule of thumb, never use guessable passwords like your middle name, kids’ name, spouse’s name, birthday or anything of the sort. Diligent hackers troll your social media activities to come up with possible passwords based on your connections on Facebook or Twitter.
To be on the safe side, always use long and complicated passwords – a random combination of letters, numbers and characters – makes it very hard for hackers to guess the right password.
The longer you use the same password, the higher the chances it will fall into the wrong hands, or a hacker might have figured it out. It is better to change your password after some few months. When you change your password, be sure not to repeat an old password.
Never use the same password for multiple sites, if someone gets access to your password. The damage could be widespread. Whenever possible, always opt for the multi-factor authentication; where after entering your password, a code is either texted to your phone or sent to your email. This provides an extra layer of security.
Software are never perfect in as far as privacy and security is concerned, and developers are continually checking for these flaws and bugs. Whenever they find a vulnerability (which they often do), they send out updates to users.
As a user, you are obliged to keep all your software updated; the sooner, the better. Even when you are using a new iPhone or a new computer, the software might be outdated. You should always be proactive in checking for new updates before using a particular software.
Another thing most users forget to update is their routers and the assortments of ‘Internet of Things’ devices like the smart TVs. Some of these devices automatically update themselves, but you should not rely on that. Be proactive in checking that they are running the latest software from their manufacturer’s websites.
Hackers are increasingly using ransomware to lock up users’ computers and threatened to wipe clean your hard disk if you don’t pay them. Such attacks are often the result of users unknowingly clicking on links sent in phishing emails or fake ads online.
When you are locked out of your computer, there is very little you can do other than pay up the ransom or write off you data. Sometimes, that second option is not an option, so you end up paying the high ransoms.
Had you backed up your data, you could easily write off the data on your hard disk and format it and install a new operating system. Then from your backed up data, you should be back to where you were before the ransomware attack.
You can set up an automatic system for backing up your data, on Windows PCs, say Windows 10. Under the ‘Update & Security’ section in ‘Settings,’ you can instruct the Windows to back up your files to an external hard disk. Once the backup is successful, ensure you unplug it from your computer; don’t leave it connected to the computer unnecessarily, as the ransomware could also creep into your hard disk.
On Mac OS X, you get ‘Time Machine’ for automatic backups. Earlier Windows versions also have built-in backup systems.
As much as you have the option of locking down your social media posts to just a few select groups of ‘friends.’ Always assume that the entire world is scrutinizing what you are posting with the intention of finding fault they can use against you. So never share too much of personal things or things that can be used to indict you.
Like mentioned above, hacker troll social media accounts to guess their way into figuring your actual passwords. Don’t also forget that employers are increasingly checking out social media activities of the people applying for jobs at their companies. So don’t let that carefree posts you make while drunk deny you that good job at that reputable company.
The above are some of the very basic spring cleaning exercises you should undertake to ensure you are in good shape as far as cyber hygiene is concerned.
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