The sheer number of passwords and usernames required to live a normal online life mean that people often recycle. Cyber criminals can simply use Google to ‘join the dots’, connecting them across all the different online worlds they live in. Fewer usernames makes finding a ‘way in’ far easier.
2 DON'T RE-USE YOUR EMAIL PASSWORD
Your email password is the ‘key’ to all your accounts – if hackers want to access your Facebook account, say, they can reset it via your email. Even if you DO reuse passwords, the one that you should never reuse is your email password. If you do, you’re handing out the keys to be breached, giving hackers access to the information they’ll need to hack your bank account and other networks you use.
3 DON'T ADD STRANGERS AS FRIENDS ON FACEBOOK
Facebook is full of information that can be useful to hackers – including the names of family members, addresses and email details that can fill in crucial ‘blanks’ for identity theft. People still ‘friend’ people they don’t know – not realising they are handing over the ‘keys’ to their online life.
4 DON'T BE FOOLED BY 'CRIES FOR HELP'
Some of the most effective attacks are ‘cries for help’ from friends – such as emails saying that someone is stuck abroad and needs money sent by wire transfer. The emails are actually spam, sent by email from a compromised machine. If it’s someone who travels a lot and their email is hacked, it’s more convincing when you get an email saying that they are stranded abroad and need money. All the hackers need is one person to respond for it to have been worth their while.
5 BE WARY OF ‘FUNNY’ LINKS
Facebook links are often used by cyber criminals – with ‘funny’ videos designed to con people into clicking a link that will infect their machine. Often a ‘video’ link will try to fool people into visiting an infected site or downloading something in the guise of video software. Your only defence is to think, ‘Would my friend really post that?’ So be careful about people you only half-know.
6 BE CAREFUL ON PUBLIC WI-FI
Laptops and phones both ‘remember’ Wi-Fi networks they ‘know’ – so hackers can use this to break in. It can be hard to tell whether a network is real – or is being run by a hacker who wants to steal your details. If you’re going to use public networks for business, use a laptop because the browser will warn you of security breaches – your mobile won’t.
7 DON’T TRUST PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW
Security experts recommend doing an ‘offline test’ – ie, would you do the same thing if you were offline? If you are chatting to someone online and you tell them something, would you have handed the same information to someone you were chatting to in a bar? In a bar, you at least know who you are chatting to – online, you can never know whether someone is who they claim to be.
8 USE ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE
Antivirus software is not a Holy Grail but it helps you to deal with known problems – although machines can still fall victims to new attacks, and will be easy prey until the antivirus companies respond to the attack.
9 USE EXTRA PASSWORDS
‘Two-factor’ passwords, such as a password plus a secret code where you only hand over one or two letters at a time, offer an extra layer of security. Many sites offer this as an option, but people tend to resist except when they’re made to do it – eg, by their bank. Other banks provide customers with a device that uses your password to generate a random code number that allows access to your account.
10 SET EVERYTHING TO UPDATE AUTOMATICALLY
Messages such as ‘Windows is downloading updates’ can be irritating – but if you don’t set every piece of software to auto update, you’re leaving yourself open to attack. Attackers actively look for vulnerabilities not only in your operating system but also in your browser and other software.