Drew shares his top five common-sense security tips to keep your personal information secure.
Use multiple e-mail addresses
Emails are one of the best ways for information to be collated and sent to internet users. Over the space of five years you will sign up to potentially hundreds of services which require you to enter your email address, leading to a mountain of spam emails.
One of the smartest things I have ever done online was to create a secondary email account. This has allowed me to segment my mail subscriptions and personal emails into different addresses. This also prevents my email address from falling into the hands of spammers. I currently collate my emails into my Microsoft Outlook account with emails from different email accounts falling into different folders. If you are not currently using a program such as Microsoft Outlook, you can set up a forwarding rule from one of your email accounts to the other.
Create strong passwords
We all know that we should be creating strong passwords which are almost impossible for a hacker to crack, but how many of us are actually doing this? I will admit that I have one or two passwords which don’t meet the following requirements, but this article is certainly a wake-up call to fix them.
Did you know that it would take a hacker with a complicated hacking program only two seconds to crack a six character password which is a word, but not in the top 10,000 most used passwords? The word I used is a suburb near where I live called malvern typed out with no capital letters. Even if I add a capital letter to the beginning of the password, it would take the hacking program two minutes to crack. What really makes a difference in encryption is adding digits to a password. By adding my home address number 64 to the end of the password, I have increased the time required to hack the password to 39 days. This still isn’t strong enough for my liking so I have decided to make the digits at the end of the password into the year I moved into my current suburb of residence which is 2010. The resulting password is Malvern2010 and it would now take an estimated 412 years for a program to crack this password.
You should update your passwords every six months and have a unique password for your most critical accounts such as your email address and then a generic password you use for other websites. The reason for this is that many high-profile websites in recent years have been hacked and the email addresses and passwords of those users were stolen. Just imagine how many of those accounts use the same password for that email address. Don’t be one of them!
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Lock your mobile device
Smartphone and tablet thefts are rising in Australia with thieves targeting users due to the easy resale of the devices. What should be of concern to mobile device users is the personal information which can be stolen from an unsecured device including contact details, text messages, emails and even bank details.
A thief could send a text message and email to your entire contacts list asking for $1000 to be transferred to you via an untraceable resource such as Western Union before you even realise your device has been stolen. It isn’t just your information you are protecting, it is your contacts as well.
To find out how to lock your mobile device, type ‘How to lock my (name of phone device and model)” into Google.
Be prepared for a computer emergency
If you have been a regular reader of YOURLifeChoices then you will have been advised numerous times in our articles to download an anti-virus software program. If I was to post a poll on how many readers currently have an active anti-virus program in place, I suspect at least 85 per cent of readers would answer yes. The next most important thing you can do is to backup your information files. A poll on how many people have backed up their files in the past six months would reveal a poor result of less than 10 per cent of readers having secured their information.
There are a few ways that you can ensure that, if you have a computer emergency, you don’t lose your most important information. The easiest way is to use an external backup device such as a USB. The issue with backing up to a USB is that if there is a fire, you will lose both your computer and backup device.
The latest craze to take the internet by storm has been cloud computing. If you are happy to backup your files in a non-encrypted environment then a Google Drive account is all you need. If you are looking for something more secure, then you can set-up 2GB of encrypted storage with SpiderOak for free.
Turn your device OFF
While turning off your devices has the added benefit of saving electricity, the main reason you should be looking to switch them off is security. Whether you have a laptop, desktop, tablet or even smartphone, the longer it is turned on, the higher the possibility of a security breach.
This threat is made even greater for computers which are left on 24-hours a day. Hackers are constantly looking for computers which are never turned off to break into and use with thousands of other hacked computers under their control. These networks of hacked computers are called botnets and have been responsible for crashing some of the largest websites in the world. Users whose computers have been compromised and are part of a botnet don’t even realise it is happening.