How to Avoid Getting Hacked: Device and Online Security Must-Do’s
With the recent news about embarrassing celebrity photos getting leaked to the media after an alleged major hacking incident, the importance of device and online account security may need further emphasizing. This blog already had a couple of posts about various threats on devices and online accounts before, including the growing number of instances of smartphone hacking. A few essential reminders on how to avoid getting hacked should be useful to readers.
The following fundamental tips, pointers, and reminders are intended for general device and account privacy and security protection:
1. Be mindful of the information or content you save online. Encrypt, secure, or conceal important things you really need to save online.
Apple may have denied that it is the hacking of their servers that led to the celebrity nude leaks but it always pays to be cautious. If you want to avoid risks of online information or content theft, don’t put anything valuable online in the first place. You won’t suffer any loss or harm if you limit the things you save online and if you secure them properly. Your private photos or videos, for instance, don’t really have to be saved online, do they? Your passwords and account details don’t need to be stored on the web; they should be inside your head or cryptically stored as other forms of data. If you find it difficult to remember your login details, you can embed the details in your ordinary pictures by having them disguised as minute details in the shadows of your photos or inserted as codes within text files. Find creative ways to keep your critical data safe from quick
You can also get offline memory banks or have them stored in a laptop or tablet’s memory, or in removable flash cards that are not always connected online. If you can’t really avoid saving them online, have them encrypted in password protected files like zip or rar and rename the files into something that appear unimportant to hackers like a file with .ini or .dat extension.
Yes, this tip does not prevent hacking but it makes your data or digital assets relatively safe in case hackers succeed in compromising your login-protected accounts.
2. Know and use the necessary security and privacy protection techniques and software.
It pays to have your firewall and malware protection software installed on your devices, from your desktop to your laptop and mobile computers. If you are running blogs or websites, there are many methods and tools you can use. It’s not necessary to spend for these. You can find many freeware or open source solutions that can adequately serve the purpose. Also, be sure to have your software tools and operating system regularly updated. It is preferable if you can regularly connect online to be updated with the latest versions or patches for the software or operating system you use. There’s a reason why computer users worldwide are encouraged to update to latest Windows version and abandon the now unsupported Windows XP. If you can’t frequently go online, you have to exert some extra effort in ensuring that your operating system and software tools are updated.
3. Use long and complicated passwords. Avoid using the same passwords for multiple accounts. Secure your passwords properly.
This is a no brainer. If you want better security with your login details, you have to avoid being simplistic. Try not to be bound by the minimum number of password characters you are allowed. Choose different letter cases (uppercase or lowercase, capital letters or small letters). If allowed, use symbols or characters other than numbers and letters. Additionally, avoid having just one or a couple of passwords for your different accounts. If you find it difficult to remember passwords, you can use this technique: pick a word or alpha-numeric code you can easily remember and match it to a set of words you can quickly associate with a specific account. For example, if you need a password for Gmail, you can have an alphanumeric code like “mypword66” and match it with the numbers “46245” (which are the equivalent numbers for the letters G-M-A-I-L on a standard keypad). The new word that will be formed will become your password. Be creative and use different arrangements. You can even insert the numbers in between the letters to make the password even more difficult to predict. You can reuse “mypword66” for other accounts and come up with variations by using different account-associated words to match with it.
4. Beware of phishing and other similarly deceptive techniques.
It’s also very important to be wary of phishing attacks. Be cautious in clicking on links and logging in to your accounts. It is advisable to bookmark the specific websites you regularly open or memorizing the URLs you need to log in to your online accounts. Avoid logging in through links or pop-up screens. Don’t just click any link you can find. More importantly, don’t enter your usernames and passwords just because you are asked for them. Opt for a two-step account verification process.
5. Make it a habit to change your passwords every once in a while.
Don’t think that your passwords should be the same in your lifetime. For better security, make it a habit to occasionally change it.
These are basic but very useful reminders in ensuring that your devices and online accounts are safe from hacking or other compromises. Of course, these are under the assumption that you are securing your devices with passwords. Your smartphone, tablet computer, laptop, desktop computer, and other devices should be secured by passwords even if you’re the only one using them. You can even compress your important files and have them password protected for better security.