Increasingly our lives are dictated and organized through digital services, with everything from work to personal finance, shopping, and even social interaction being impacted by technology.
With this comes unprecedented convenience and on-demand information retrieval, though these services are not without problems.
As we store more confidential information online we potentially open ourselves to the risk of exploitation and fraud by malicious hackers and spyware.
This is especially so if we do not take the necessary steps to educate and defend ourselves from these threats.
We would not leave the front door to our homes open while we’re on vacation, and yet many behave this way when it comes to our digital assets.
Below we take a run-down at some of the most straightforward and fundamental steps anybody can take in order to safeguard your data and privacy.
Many have heard of a VPN but do not know what it is, how it works, and how it can safeguard your confidential information while browsing online. Short for Virtual Private Network, VPNs are an incredibly reliable way to improve your data security.
They work by bouncing your IP address through a proxy network and onto the websites and services you’re accessing.
In essence, this works similarly to making your phone number private. It enables you to access services on the net without having malicious software or actors being able to trace your location.
As an IP is unique and specific to your physical location, if someone obtains it they can then easily find your home address.
A VPN protects against this risk and lets you browse anonymously. VPNs have further benefits in that they enable you to bypass region-locked content.
This means in certain circumstances you will be able to access country-specific content from platforms like Netflix by changing the region your proxy address is broadcasting from.
This ability also has more tangible real-world applications as it enables you to circumvent restrictions placed on your browsing by the local government, letting you access the regular internet while traveling or working in countries such as China.
Also known as two-factor verification, this is a means by which you can vastly increase the security around your personal accounts on websites and services. Most platforms offer this type of login, including all major social media networks.
These work by forcing a user to confirm their identity using multiple verification methods in order to gain access.
This means that if someone was able to discover your password, this alone would not be able to permit them entry to your account.
Two-factor verification comes in many forms to suit the needs and requirements of different situations.
This consists of a random number generator security key that users must employ in order to verify their login information.
Due to the compartmentalized nature of this technology, it is extremely difficult to falsify.
This one may be obvious, but a surprising amount of people do not bother with strong passwords, the most common passwords in use today still being “password”, “12345”, and “qwerty”. In many cases, people do not fully understand what this exactly entails.
Typically a strong password is defined as a sequence of numbers, lower and upper case letters, and symbols.
The longer this sequence is, the better. A password made from just 6 numbers has 720 possible combinations. While this may sound impressive, consider the fact that a password with 12 numbers has over 479 million possible combinations.
Naturally, this raises questions as to how one could possibly remember such sophisticated passwords. In reality, you don’t have to.
Instead, use a secure password vault such as LastPass, Apple’s iCloud keychain, or Google’s password manager. These are encrypted programs that automatically enter your passwords into the relevant text fields when you need them.