Stay Safe Online

Online.  Who isn’t these days? Our world is now internet connected. Our computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and even TVs are now permanently connected to the world. This opens us all up to many forms of malicious attacks. Viruses, Spyware, Adware, spying, and leaked information, can all leave you vulnerable. Here are some great general tips that will help you stay safe online.

Strong Passwords

We all know we should have them. Most current systems insist on making you choose a strong password. Don’t fight it. You’ll only create grief for yourself and end up picking a password that is different from the rest, or one you’ll forget. My suggestion is to pick a password that will work for many online services, that is strong without being overly complicated. The general rule with most systems in order to stay safe online, is that it needs to be at least 8 characters long, and include 3 of these 4 items: lowercase letters, UPPERCASE letters, numbers, or special characters. Avoid using your first or last name. Here are some good examples: Mexico2009! 74fluffy# or M3x1c012.

Don’t save your passwords

Once you have established a good password, commit it to memory and you’ll get used to typing it in. Saving your passwords in your browser is a terrible idea. Many forms of attack allow remote users access to your computer. If a ‘hacker’ gains this control and all he needs to do is open your browser for your history or favorites where your email and banking info is saved, identity theft becomes a breeze. Besides, if your password is saved in the browser, You’ll Likely Forget It!!

Be wary of attachments

Thankfully, PDF files are generally safe. However, Word Documents, Excel Spreadsheets, Zip files and many other forms of attachments can contain malicious code that can infect your computer or even smartphone. Be vigilant in assessing who sent you this information and why. Be extra cautious if the program that opens the attachment is asking you for permission to do so. This is usually your last warning before getting infected

Phishing emails

What are they? They are junk mail that attempts to get your login credentials or other passwords and information by way of clicking a link and entering it through a web browser. Most of these emails claim to be from banks. However, an increasing amount are claiming to be from other online services. Hotmail, Google Facebook, etc. They can look very legitimate. These online service suppliers will never ask you to enter your information through an email. If not convinced, contact the host directly, not using any information provided in the phishing email. Here is a good read on Phishing from Wikipedia.

Pop-Ups

This old trick is making a resurgence. Innocently surfing the internet and have a noisy, flashing site pop-up telling you that you are infected and what to do about it?? You can be sure it’s a malicious attack. You probably won’t be able to close it, but don’t panic (Hint: turn your volume down). The safest bet is to close your other programs and choose to restart your computer. If it doesn’t pop-up when your computer comes back online, no harm done. If it does, contact a professional.

 
I have personally seen and dealt with all the above issues. Some merely annoying, some getting away with criminal activity or getting very close. The RCMP even has it’s own guidelines.  Stay vigilant and follow the rules. If you spread and encourage the use of these simple rules, ‘they’ will have little chance of getting you.