[Must Read] Keeping your Details Safe from Online Hackers

It’s an online world today. And, as we do more and more things online – from sending work emails to buying all kinds of items from holidays to computer hardware – the more of our personal data we potentially make available to hackers. They aim to take advantage of this with the intention of either using it for their own purposes or simply to sell on to others who could then go on to use it for fraudulent ends.

Safe from Online Hackers

It can hardly have escaped anyone’s attention that there are now more hackers than ever before who are committed trying to break into company websites to get access to customer information. It’s also by no means certain that large companies are doing all they can to keep your data safe and there have been a number of instances in which heavy fines have been imposed for lapses in data security. For example, in January 2018 the UK company Carphone Warehouse had to pay £400,000 for accidentally giving hackers access to the records of millions of their customers. Whether this was a system failure or their fault for not employing IT professionals who were highly qualified enough to ensure they had sufficient security protection isn’t known.

But while we can’t always be sure that the organisations that we deal with online have the correct measures in place to keep us safe there are some definite steps that we can take ourselves. So by just following this advice and using a little common sense protecting yourself online will be easy.

Best Recommendations to Stay Safe from Online Hackers

Use the strongest passwords you can

The single most important way to keep your information secure is by protecting yourself with a strong password. The longer it is, the better and it should include a mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols like $, % and £.

Strong Password

You should also avoid using the same password for a number of different sites and accounts and you should also change all your passwords regularly.

And remember, no bank or any other financial institution will ever ask you for your full password although they may ask you for two or three letters from it.

Don’t use the obvious answers to security questions

It’s surprising how many sites have security questions whose answers are easy to find online, particularly through social media. For example, it could be relatively straightforward to find many people’s mother’s maiden name, first school or childhood pet by trawling through their social media account. So choose the sort of question whose answer would be hard to find in this way

Keep your Anti-virus protection up to date

You should always have the very best antivirus software and keep it up to date. This will check for computer programmes that could cause harm and check files before you open them. Once it’s installed you will receive frequent updates to deal with new threats as they are detected and it’s important to install these.

Best Anti Virus Image

It’s also very important to understand what software you are installing on your computer or phone and make sure you are using a secure site when you buy software for your computer, tablet or smartphone. You’ll be able to see how to check this in the next section called “Safe websites”.

You must also make sure you always leave your firewall switched on. This is the essential security shield that stops scammers from getting into your computer. Operating systems like Windows come with built in-firewall settings which can warn you when someone’s trying to access your computer.

Always keep your operating system up to date

You don’t need to be an IT professional using the perfect laptop for hacking, and its prevention, to keep your hardware safe. But it is essential that you keep your operating system up to date as hackers are always looking for the bugs that can let them in. You should also think twice about using Java or Flash as both have proved to include vulnerabilities in the past.

Never use open wireless networks

These are simply too easy for hackers to infiltrate and some are even set up by them simply to entrap the unwary. So always use networks that are encrypted or, for an extra level of security, use a virtual private network instead. This will have the added advantage of keeping your IP address secret too.

Only use safe websites

Before you enter your payment card details on a website, always make sure the link is secure.

You can do this in two main ways:

  • Check there’s a padlock symbol in the browser window frame which appears when you start to log in or register. Make sure the padlock isn’t on the page itself – if it is you should be suspicious.
  • Check the web address begins with ‘https://’ (the ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’).

So, what do sites do to reassure you? Trusted online gaming sites will display their terms in plain sight, by doing this, they reassure their players that they are in the right place and they can deposit their money without the worry it is going into the wrong hands. Online gaming sites that do not have these features in place should not be trusted.

Beware of suspicious emails

The art of phishing has become gradually more and more sophisticated over the years so even the most computer savvy can be tricked from time to time. Never open suspicious or unknown emails, email attachments, texts or pop up messages. If an email has an unusually worded subject heading or one with spelling mistakes in it then it could well be a scam.

So if you are ever tricked into opening a suspicious email

then it’s vital that you don’t:

  • Reply to it
  • Click on any links in the email or open any attachments
  • Give any personal information out.

Final Note

These are the key points if you want to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters and it’s also important to remember that if an online offer or message sounds too good to be true – for example that you’ve won $2 million in the Canadian lottery – then it’s almost certainly a trick to be sent straight to your online trash bin.

But don’t worry too much. As long as you’re sensible and follow some fairly straightforward practices your online safety should be assured. After all, hackers are looking for the line of least resistance.  So they’ll be most likely to pass you by and home in on a far easier, and more unsuspecting, the target instead.

Dinesh is the founder of Sysprobs and written more than 400 articles. Enthusiast in Microsoft and cloud technologies with more than 15 years of IT experience.