Easy steps that you can take in order to stay safe online
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
If you have not heard of it, this is a celebration that was started in 2004 in the US when government and industry would work together to help people protect themselves from cyberthreats.
Whether you are an American or not, whether it is October or not, it is always important to keep safe online to continue to stay online without having to worry about the dangers that might be lurking at the next click. Or tap.
Before the month is over, I would like to contribute by sharing this collection of advice that I have received from financial institutions and various podcasts that I listen to:
Use strong passwords.
You might have heard of the tip to use a mix of small letters, capitals letters, numbers, and symbols in your passwords. But that’s not enough. “aA1#” just won’t cut it. If attacked and your account has this password, it will be breached instantly. This infographic from Response IT shows an estimate of how long passwords take to crack depending on their composition.
You can use this chart to decide how strong you want your password to be.
Do not reuse passwords.
This is the most common account security mistake that I hear from my colleagues. One of them even uses one single password for all accounts. This could prove fatal to your online assets if even one of your accounts is hacked. The hackers can simply reuse the password and access the rest of your accounts. Instead, use a different password for every different account.
Thinking up passwords could be a difficult task. Use a good system for generating passwords. You can use Diceware or the Bitwarden Strong Password Generator.
Now, the previous two advice could make you think: How could I possibly remember all that? That is proper concern. After all, you could have hundreds of accounts. Which brings us to the next tip:
Use a password vault.
This keeps you from having to memorize hundreds of passwords while also being able to use different and strong passwords for all of your accounts. My recommendation is Bitwarden. It is safe and secure, but also easy to setup and convenient to use.
(I swear Bitwarden did not pay me to write this.)
Monitor your email.
Monitor all of your emails. This not just means checking in on all your email accounts regularly. This also means checking to see if your email address has been involved in a breach. There is no easy way to do that manually, but you can use the Firefox Monitor to check if your account has been involved in a data breach. Then, you can register so that the app will notify you in case you get involved in the future.
Be aware of every click, tap, or swipe that you make. In everything you do online, do not be hasty. Instead, be careful when you’re online. As the saying goes, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”
Above all, do not panic.
Your bank will never try and pressure you into doing something urgently. If some caller is urging you to act this way, STOP and take a breath before you do anything else. Your next action could be the one that undoes all your online security.
These are just some of the advice I have received in the past. I hope it helps you become safer online.
If you have more tips, feel free to share them in the comments.
(This article may be updated in the future for more advice or a follow up article may be written on this topic.)
Originally posted on October 27, 2022 at Substack.