By Steven Castelletto
The Internet can be a scary place. With cases of cyber fraud and identity theft skyrocketing, here’s 5 tips to help you stay safe.
1. Don't click without thinking.
Don't let your default behavior be to trust a link or attachment. Treat every link you click with skepticism and seek to verify the legitimacy of the link. If you have received an email from someone you know without context, seek to verify the email directly with the person that sent it before clicking any links. Hackers will often try to take advantage of the trust that exists between two parties by masquerading as one of the users to drop the other's guard.
Trust your gut and remember the following mantra; When in doubt, get me out. If you encounter an email or web page that seems off, close it and let someone know about it.
2. Avoid using shared devices for sensitive information.
You can be the most vigilant user in the world and still get caught out because you assumed another user was just as vigilant as you. When using someone else's computer, avoid accessing sensitive accounts or information if you can avoid it, unless you can verify whether the computer is safe. This also goes for when you have other people accessing your computer when you are not able to directly supervise. Run regular virus scans to minimise risk if these scenarios are unavoidable.
3. Keep track of your digital footprint.
You know that old saying of everything you have put on the internet is there forever? That's not just true for photos and social media posts. Every online account you have ever created, every subscribe link you have ever clicked, has left a digital footprint. In each of those footprints, there is likely sensitive information that can be used for identity theft or fraud.
Just think how many websites have asked for your date of birth, your email and physical address, or asked if you want to store your credit card details for a faster checkout experience. Do a lot of those accounts share the same password? If so, you may be at a higher risk. If one account is breached, your others may also be at risk of being breached using the same password and email combination.
To minimise risk:
4. Ensure you are updating your computer regularly.
Those nagging notifications to update your software aren't there for the pure purpose of annoying you. Most updates are there to enhance the security, and fix security holes in the programs you use. By updating your computer, and closing these holes, you are minimizing the risk of them being exploited by hackers and malware.
5. Remember that you’re not immune.
One of the most dangerous things for cyber security is complacency. If you’re the type to think or say to yourself “it won’t happen to me”, or “I only visit safe websites”, you’re actually more likely to become a victim, as you’re less likely to be proactive in managing your risk.
Criminals don’t discriminate with targets, and there are more sources of virus infection than just visiting bad websites. You will find that the more you learn about cyber security, the more you’ll realise just how scary the online world is, and the more aware you’ll be of future attempts targeted at you. Aim to continually improve and maintain knowledge on cyber security, as it’s your biggest line of self-defense.