In 2016, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center processed 298,728 complaints with internet users reporting losses over $1.3 billion. And when we see the results for 2017, the year that saw the two biggest ransomware attacks ever, expect those numbers to be even larger.
Given the rise of cyber crime and increasingly sophisticated attacks, the risks of unsafe internet use are severe. And if you’re already aware that February 6 is Safer Internet Day, chances are you already take care of your internet security basics. You keep your system and your security software like F-Secure TOTAL updated. And you never, ever use the same strong password on more than one of your key accounts.
If this describes you, chances are you are doing what you can to stay safe online and you’re eager to do more. So here are five more ways to keep your private data private. If they aren’t new to you, share them with someone who needs them.
- Learn some basic OPSEC.
“People are trying to protect themselves against evil hackers – but you’re going to leave your phone and laptop on a bus or a taxi,” F-Secure principal security consultant Tom Van de Wiele says. The human brain isn’t great at assessing risks, Tom explains. We obsess on sensational risks while ignoring the basics — like locking our devices and not leaving them out for a little one or a maid to find. OPSEC, or Operations Security, is the art of not making yourself an easy target. Given that billions of us travel around with computers that allow access to most of our lives, everyone should learn a little OPSEC.
- Use smart software.
F-Secure’s chief research officer Mikko Hypponen has his own list for the things we can all do to protect our online privacy. Of the four things he recommends, two involve using software to protect your data. He recommends a password manager. “This will solve tons of other problems for you, as you will automatically have a unique strong password on every site,” he says. You can use our F-Secure KEY password locker for free on one device. Mikko also always uses a VPN because without one, “it’s trivial for anyone else using the same wi-fi to see big parts of your traffic.” You can try our FREEDOME VPN, which is included in F-Secure TOTAL, for free.
- Assume other people aren’t protecting your data.
Anyone who uses the web can be a target for online criminals and anyone who is storing large amounts of data is definitely a target. Data breaches are now considered one of the largest risks in the world and chances are you have already been affected by one, or will be eventually. You can check if your email has already been breached at a site like HaveIBeenPwnd.com. Checking out the list of breaches on the site is a good reminder that you need to choose who you trust wisely and do everything you can to minimize your risks, which includes not making email address public, avoiding signing up for online spam lists and making sure each of your important accounts has a unique password, a point worth repeating because people haven’t learned this lesson yet!
- Have one browser where you do all your shopping and banking.
Keeping a clear focus helps us to avoid many risks online. Unfortunately, the web is designed to grab your mind and send it in a billion different directions. That’s why F-Secure security advisor Sean Sullivan recommends installing one browser — Firefox, for instance — that you use exclusively for anything that involves money, like shopping or banking. Leave all your surfing and social media on your other browsers. This is both a smart security tactic and a good reminder that when your private financial data is out, it’s serious business.
- Don’t invite crooks into your life through email.
After all these years, email still offers criminals one of the simplest ways to intrude into our PCs. F-Secure Labs continues to find that most of the attachments in spam emails contain trojans. And links in spam email can send us to compromised sites or phishing scams. Do whatever you can to avoid opening spam. But since no one can perfect, consider doing what Sean does and use plain text email, especially when you’re communicating with people you don’t know well. And never click on a strange attachment.