Not everyone can outsmart a hacker, but most of us can certainly out-dumb the average guy. It’s statistics, duh.
Avoiding a hacker is like The Running of the Bulls—keeping safe is, for the most part, not being the slowest schmuck in the game. If there are a handful of less secure people around you, chances are the hacker will go for them instead of you.
On a more serious note, cybersecurity is among today’s most pressing concerns, especially as everything—including our most sensitive information (we’re looking at you, Facebook)—moves to the digital realm.
The FBI recently reported that ransomware attacks number 4,000 each day, and a study by cybersecurity firm PandaLabs estimated over 230,000 samples of malware produced in each day of 2015 (their prognosis said the number should be much larger today).
The situation being what it is, it’s about time most of us developed the skills needed to navigate life online. Here are six handy tips to make sure you don’t get hacked. Think of these as your very own digital rape whistle.
1. Know that everyone is a target
The very first step to being cyber-secure is the awareness that it can happen to anyone. Even the Amish have hackers among their ranks! But I digress.
Truth be told, most people won’t even bother with the necessary precautions unless they’ve already been compromised or someone close to them has. I implore everyone to be just a tad more paranoid, especially as today’s hackers try to penetrate anything and everything—smartphones, webcams, ATMs, oven toasters, nuclear power plants, you name it.
2. Your password is your life
Most men won’t even share their passwords to their wives and girlfriends. It baffles me that many of them don’t exercise the same vigilance against hackers, who, frankly, can do much, much worse. Remember Ashley Madison?
Three things to remember:
- Don’t use an easy password—especially not “password”
- Change your passwords regularly—as often as you change sheets
- Never use the same password repeatedly—keep threats contained
3. Watch your Wi-Fi
Treat public Wi-Fi the way you would public toilets–only go if you absolutely have to and use everything you can to stay clean.
Hackers love public Wi-Fi because, one, there’s a lot of information to steal, and, two, public networks have vulnerabilities they can exploit. Once a hacker is able to penetrate a public network, they can intercept the information flowing in and out of it, including browser activity, personal data, and passwords. This is what’s called a “Man in the Middle” or MITM approach.
The next level to a MITM attack is rogue Wi-Fi, also called an Evil Twin.
Hackers often set up rogue Wi-Fi in public places to steal information. They usually name the access point similar (e.g. Mall Wi-Fi Free) to the legitimate hotspot (hence, evil twin). Once you connect to a hacker’s network, they own you—your apps, emails, passwords, everything. They can even send out all kinds of filth from your device.
If you absolutely need to go online, at least have a VPN installed. A VPN is basically a service that encrypts your data (i.e. turns your data into jumbled up stuff that hackers can’t read) before it even reaches a Wi-Fi network or access point.
4. SSL or bust
If you continue to access a website that says “Not Secure”, you’re pretty much begging for it. An SSL (or Secure Sockets Layer) is a security technology used to encrypt data entered in browsers before it is sent out to servers, like a secure passageway to make sure the hackers can’t get to you. Sites with SSLs usually have an SSL certificate to prove that they have SSL installed.
Not much thinking involved here. Most modern browsers will alert you if a website isn’t secure, so what you need to do is really simple: don’t enter any information, especially not sensitive information, in a site without an SSL Certificate.
5. Share at your own risk
As much as we try to protect ourselves, hackers will always find new ways to exploit our data. The most important thing we need to acknowledge is that anything we put online is at risk (of course, to varying degrees).
Always be vigilant that your data can be stolen, and keep your eye out for any kind of harm that might come your way. You may not be an expert, but as long as you’re alert and aware, you’ve already solved 90-percent of the problem.
Remember, you don’t have to be a genius to keep yourself cyber-secure. You just need to be just a bit more difficult to hack than the average Internet user.