Basic Steps to Protect Yourself Online (Part – 1)

Malaika Naidu

There is no doubt that cybercrime is an ongoing and a very real threat. The first thing that comes to mind when most people read cybercrime is financial fraud and data leaks. However, cybercrime is constantly evolving and growing like a beast that seems untameable. Every time we think we have seen the worst or the most damaging internet crime, a new threat surfaces to take the digital world by storm.

Now let’s be brutally honest, if a hacker, or any other cyber-criminal, worth her salt decides to take on an average person, there is absolutely nothing that will actually stop them. However, you may deter the hacker and create obstacles that could potentially save you. Either she will go looking for an easier target or even if she persists your countermeasures will give you enough time to protect your data and save yourself from becoming a victim.

If it’s an ex or a disgruntled acquaintance with a personal agenda, well, let’s deal with that later.

So, how do you deter a cyber-criminal from coming after you? Much like in real life you would use a lock on your front door or an alarm in your car, there are simple measures and practices that can help protect you against at least the basic and most common cyber threats.

The Three-Step Plan is – (a) recognise cyberthreats, (b) take basic precautions to protect yourself, and (c) identify whom to ask for help if you become a victim of cybercrime. Let’s break down the precautions.

1) Go Beyond Just an Anti-Virus
First of all, get a paid package! Free versions are not up to date and CANNOT give you real time protection. Anti-virus softwares regularly update their algorithms and these are available only in the paid versions. Even though anti-viruses protect your online activity, they are not sufficient for complete protection.

2) Create Passwords Stronger than Hercules
Right off the top, do NOT use the same or similar passwords across websites. You can’t have Avengers123 for your email and Avengers456 for your Facebook. Figure out a system that allows you to create unique passwords for each login. Ideally, the pattern should have letters (LARGE and small caps) along with numbers and symbols.

Ex: Website Name – number of letters in website’s name – a symbol – end with ZXC (random string of characters – constant in every password).
So, you would get:
Gmail: gmail5@ZXC / Facebook: facebook8@ZXC / Quora: quora5@ZXC

TIP: Remember the logic and not the password!
Or use a good password generator.

3. Manage Social Media Settings
Clearly mark what information on your profiles is private and what is public. Always be mindful of the data you share. For instance, if you post your pet’s name or reveal your mother’s maiden name, you might expose the answers to two common security questions.

4. Make Your Wi-Fi Impenetrable as Fort Knox
A good starting point is to have a strong password and a virtual private network (VPN) when using public Wi-Fi. A VPN will encrypt data leaving your device till it reaches its destination. If anyone intercepts the data, it won’t be decipherable. Similarly, never leave your hotspot open without a sturdy password and share your hotspot only with those you trust.

5. Update Software Faster Than Seasons Change
Your operating systems (Windows, iOS, Linux, among others) and internet security softwares must be updated immediately when alerted. Cybercriminals often exploit these bugs and lapses to gain access to your computer or computer network. Patching these bugs makes you a less likely victim of cyber-crime.

These are just the tip of the iceberg and everyday doable precautions that will make you less vulnerable to cyber fraud and cyber-crime. Depending on the sensitivity of information you hold or the value you stake on your data, you will have to accordingly amp up your security systems.

To be honest, fighting cybercrime is everybody’s business. Think of it as an obligation to do your part in the fight against cybercrime. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. And comment below with other precautions you take. In part two of this article, we’ll incorporate some of your suggestions!

Simple precautions taken by you, can collectively make the internet a little safer.

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