If you ask someone about digital security, it’s no surprise if that person immediately relates it to hacking. Currently, with widely publicized cases such as the iCloud leak and the Heartbleed virus, hacking has then become the buzzword for digital security. However, though hacking is the more common threat nowadays, digital security is actually more encompassing than just a threat on our virtual selves.
To simplify such a comprehensive concept, digital security is basically having to protect three things simultaneously. These include your virtual self or the aggregate of all your online accounts, your device, and last but not the least, your files.
Sounds complicated? It’s not! To help keep your virtual self, your device and your files protected, here are some basic steps that you can take to help improve your overall digital security.
Protecting your Virtual Self
With each online service or social media account we consume, the more information about us will be found over the web. Mainly, these usually range from simple things such as basic information about us, but can grow to as sensitive as our addresses, phone numbers and even bank details! So, keeping the wrong people from gaining entry to these accounts should be your primary goal.
- Make your log in difficult –an easy suggestion that’s commonly shared is to provide different passwords for each account. But, if you’d like to take this a step further, you can also activate a 2-factor authentication system. This is an additional security detail, commonly a 6-digit code, that’s sent to your mobile and would be required during login. What makes this difficult is that the code changes every 30 seconds! So, regardless if somebody else gets a hold of your username and password, they'd still need to get a hold of your 2-factor authentication code to gain access to it.
Find all the websites that has a 2-factor authentication system here: https://twofactorauth.org/
- Review your Privacy Settings – a standard, yet commonly overlooked, step is to review and tighten up your social media privacy settings. Remember, whatever you post in your social media accounts can potentially be seen by generally anyone. And most of all, it stays there forever (unless you delete it, of course). So, to make sure that only the right people can view your memories, your information and so on, go ahead and visit your privacy settings and tighten those measures up!
- Don’t forget to D.I.L. – using a public computer? You’ll never know who’s going to be using that next so best to make sure that you’re not leaving any information there – most especially log in details! To do that, just remember to D.I.L. or Delete your browser history after, use Incognito mode to avoid the computer to keep track of any of your search/browser history, and most of all, to Log out of all of your accounts before leaving.
- Don’t fall for the bait – Ever saw a post on social media or an email asking you to sign up for a raffle, or to claim some particular reward? If you have, you better stop right there! It’s likely that these are just baiting you to be redirected to become victims of Phishing. Made easy, phishing is any attempt by cybercriminals to lure you into providing sensitive information such as login details, personal info, credit card details and more. More often than not, this is either to steal from you, SPAM you and worse, to install malicious software in your system!
Avoiding Phishing threats is basically anchored to your know-how on identifying them. To learn how to do so, kindly see these easy-to-spot red flags provided by Microsoft: Phishing Symptoms >>
Protecting your Devices
Our devices - whether mobile, laptops or desktops - are the initial gateway for anyone to access the most sensitive of digital information. From our files, our contacts to even our online accounts, remember that these are all conveniently compressed within our devices. Thus, to help protect our devices can roughly translate to helping tighten our overall digital security as well.
- Keep apps/software up-to-date – aside from cool new features, updates are also jampacked with new security patches all designed to defend your devices from the ever growing list of online threats. So, be consistent with your updates, most especially when it’s concerned with your overall operating system. In line with that, if your operating system has already been phased out, such as Windows XP, kindly update immediately! The longer you persist on using phased out operating systems, the more vulnerable you are to new and more vicious online threats!
TechSoup provides the latest version of Windows for a charity discount for all eligible nonprofits. Order today at: Discounted Windows Operating Systems >>
- Avoid pirated software – based on a Microsoft study conducted last 2012, 3 out of every 5 pirated software housed vicious malwares that can make you vulnerable to data theft and other forms of digital threats. Moreover, pirated software also tend to disable or reroute updates, disallowing you to gain access to new security patches that will protect your computer. Case in point, using pirated software, though initially cheap, will in fact cost you more when it comes to the security vulnerabilities that come with it.
Learn more about the hazards of pirated software here: Hazards of Pirated Software >>
- Check website certificates – Last year, Symantec released a report that highlighted over 496,000 web threats were blocked daily. To help avoid such threats, the easiest solution would be to check web certificates. Don’t worry as this is extremely simple! First thing to check is if the website has 'https://' before the ‘www’. If it has, then you can guarantee that all communications done online would be secure and encrypted. Another method is by checking color of the padlock symbol right beside ‘https://’. Take it as a traffic light, if the lock is green then you’re all good, yellow means it’s ok but may be littered with annoying ads and stuff, and red means stop and just turn around!
To learn more about the website certificate, browsers allow you to click on the lock symbol to get additional information about the degree of security your current website provides you with.
- Get an anti-virus – This is painfully obvious when it comes to desktops or laptops, but have you considered doing the same for your mobiles? More and more of our browsing is now done over our mobiles, which means it’s also subject to the same web threats we face when using our desktops/laptops. However, with an unprotected mobile device, this may spell a larger probability of becoming a victim of malware or worse, data theft. So, best get an Antivirus immediately, keep it up-to-date, and most of all, regularly scan for threats.
Need good free mobile antiviruses? Here’s a Tom’s Guide article to the best mobile antiviruses for Android: Best Mobile AntiViruses for your Android Device >>
Protecting your Files
We’ve talked so much about our devices and our accounts, but how about our files? Remember, our files are just as important, and are also as sensitive and susceptible to virtual threats. Whether it’s for our work, our memories in photos or videos, or basically anything that’s in your device, be sure to take the necessary steps to safeguard all of these.
- Keep both an online and offline backup – just like data theft and malware attacks, losing your devices (and subsequently your files) through whatever reason is just as scary – and probable! To keep yourself prepared for any scenario that can lead to the loss of your device/files, the best course of action to take is to keep an online and offline back up of it. Sounds like a hassle? Not necessarily! Through installing desktop clients of popular cloud storage devices (Dropbox and OneDrive has it), you’ll be provided with an offline folder that directly links to your online account. This way, you’ll be able to access your files stored online even if you don’t have internet. Any changes to the folder will automatically be synced as well once you get connection.
- Be wary of file transfers via Cloud – Cloud storages upload files exactly how they were when it was in your computer. Case in point, if that is an infected file, you’ll essentially be transferring an infected file to your online storage (and subsequently, spreading it as well through sharing it). The point of the matter is to always be wary when files are being transferred to and fro your computer. Best solution is to have an antivirus scan these documents for threats, allowing you to immediately resolve it if any.
Take note, as Cloud storages upload files as is, it also helps prevent files from getting further infected. So if you have a clean file, the best way to keep it clean is by uploading it to your Cloud storage.
‘Tools only compliment Behaviour’
So, there you have it, 10 simple steps to help you tighten up your digital security! It’s rather disappointingly simple, right? However, at the end of it all, a key takeaway I was able to get from RightsCon’s digital security panel was that relying too much on tools can be highly inefficient, not to mention unsustainable as well. The key, instead, was to educate yourself on how you can prevent any threat from occurring and compliment that with today’s best security software.
So, if you’re an eligible nonprofit, feel free to place orders today for Symantec Desktop solutions to help secure your individual devices, or for Symantec Enterprise products to protect your office’s networks.