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7 Easy Tips to Avoid Getting Hacked

Cyber-crime, cyber-attacks, computer crime, hacking; call it what you might but the essence of it is still the same.

“Cyber-crime means any criminal or other offence that is facilitated by or involves the use of electronic communications or information systems, including any device or the Internet or any one or more of them.”Electronic Communications and Transactions Amendment Bill, 2012

Here are simple suggestions, which may be common sense, but are still useful all the same to help mitigate the risk of yourself and your data being hacked:

1)  Avoid bad links. Before you click on a link, be sure to figure out the real destination before you click it. The simplest way would be to hover your mouse cursor on the link without clicking it and examine the address. Another way would be to copy and paste the link address into a new browser to see what site URL appears before you enter. If the link is shortened, you can use tools such as URL X-ray that check where exactly the link is taking you before you click it.

 

2) Don’t visit questionable websites. Mysterious websites may be unsecure or infected with malware. Encrypted sites are the safest ones to surf on. A website is secure if it displays a lock icon on your browser, otherwise known as HTTPS (the “s” stands for “secure”). The HTTPS (as opposed to “http” or “www”) indicates that the site offers encryption on any data that passes from your device to the internet server, meaning any hackers can’t decipher your private information. Alternatively, you can install the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension, which is an add-on extension produced by The Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that ensures to use data encryption on any site you visit that offers it. This extension for Chrome, Firefox and Opera is downloadable for free from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

 

3) Don’t fall for phishing scams. Another reason to avoid those questionable websites is because they often masquerade as a popular site you may know and trust to trick you into a phishing scam. Phishing is an email fraud in which the perpetrator sends victims seemingly innocuous emails that will lead victims to fake websites in an attempt to gather personal and financial information from recipients. Victims fall prey to phishing scams by updating their information from fake emails mimicking your bank, email provider or social media sites. Be sure to check the email address to see if they match with the website you think it is from. Emails or messages with threats to “shut down your account” are highly questionable and more often than not phony. As an extra precaution, you can check the IP address of the sender by finding the source information from the email and looking for the IP address that follows the line “Received: from”.  Next, Google the IP address to trace the email’s source. To learn more in-depth on how to track IP addresses for your Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook, click here.

 

4) Use different & smarter passwords. It is a good practice to change all your passwords regularly and most importantly to not use the same passwords across various accounts. Having one password for everything is equivalent to having one master key for your home, car, computer and office, allowing for universal access to your communication, finances and health information. Make your password hard to crack. A strong password would preferably include uppercase, lowercase, numbers, punctuation, and gibberish.

worst-passwords-of-2014 Splash Data

Source: SplashData

Do not make the password a personal reference or something common such as the ones in the list of top popular passwords of 2014 above. Also, avoid writing down your passwords or storing them in a saved file. If you feel you absolutely must save your passwords somewhere, try tools like LastPass or 1Password that securely stores passwords using encryptions.

 

5) Use two-factor authentications. When you log on to many different computers (especially shared computers) to access your accounts, it leaves you more susceptible to hackers. When large companies become victims of hacking scandals, it is easier for hackers to access your personal accounts and passwords from your personal data. Hence, more services and websites such as Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and Gmail are moving towards two-factor authentications. Two-step verifications will require users to not only enter a password to log-in, but to also confirm entry with another item like a unique one-time code texted to your phone. It is advisable to opt for two-factor authentication for your accounts, if the website offers such a feature for that extra layer of security.

 

6) Use secure connections. Public Wi-Fi or unsecured Wi-Fi networks are a haven for cyber hackers. Wi-Fi networks are really easy entry points to your computer, accounts and network. If your business premises offers free Wi-Fi to patrons, be sure to password protect it as well as provide it on a separate network from your own office network as it is unadvisable to access highly sensitive data such as financial accounts when using a shared network. If you must use an open public Wi-Fi network, take caution to update your security software installed and ensure that it is activated as your wireless data would be vulnerable to cyber criminals. However, using a Virtual Private Network will help in solving that problem.

 

7) Subscribe to BolehVPN! VPNs act as an intermediary between your device (be it your mobile, tablet or computer) and the internet server. Using a VPN (such as BolehVPN) will route all your internet activity through a loop of the internet that is encrypted, making it harder for a potential intruder to detect your detailed information or know what you are doing.

 

Sources:

[1] The Telegraph

[2] Business Insider

[3] CNN Money

[4] Entrepreneur

[5] CNN Money

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