Tips to help protect yourself online
There are hackers and hijackers galore online, and there are ways to protect yourself that go beyond simply keeping your social security number secure. Have you considered that if someone gets access to your email they have not only personal information about you, but possibly your customers as well? That’s not a good day.
Getting started with safeguarding your identity
Dmitri Leonov, Sanebox VP of Growth notes five basic methods to protect yourself online:
- Be Unhackable: EVERYTHING lives in your email, so it’s critical to have a strong password for it. Here’s how to make one. Think of a phrase (like a refrain from a song, or some sentence you remember by heart) and make the first letters your password. Yes a personal acronym. Example: “Billy Jean is not my lover, she’s just a girl who claims that I am the one” becomes bjinmlsjagwctiato – a 17 character password that’s impossible to break but ridiculously easy for you to remember. If you’re really smart, replace the O in the end with a 1 (one=1, get it?).
- Create Unique Passwords: Having one password for each of your services is not enough. If one site’s database gets hacked, all of your logins will be at risk. You have to add a couple characters unique to each of your services somewhere in the password. For example, add the first vowel followed by the last consonant of the name of the site at the end of the password. So for Gmail, you’d add “al”. Capitalize them if you want to go crazy. Seem excessive? It’s not.
- Power Tools: If your appetite for security is still unsatisfied, use 1Password or LastPass. These services generate and securely store truly random, strong and unique passwords for each of your logins. Since this info is stored locally, they are nearly impossible for hackers to access. If you use multiple devices, you can sync the file via Dropbox. (Just make sure to have a really strong password for your Dropbox, using steps 1 and 2 above.)
- The Poor Man’s Backup: This tip is specific to the safety of your email and is still very important! Forward your email to another account. If you somehow lose your main email (whether your provider goes down or your account gets compromised), you’ll always have a copy of all your emails in another account.
- Be Smart, Just Be Smart: Another email based tip, but equally as important. Sending passwords or credit card information through email is NOT smart. You’ll notice that developers (i.e. people who know how the Internet works) never do it. Send part of it via SMS or Skype (you can delete a message on Skype after the recipient has read it). Please understand that none of the emails you send are private -just ask David Petraeus. Think of it this way, don’t send anything through email that you would not want displayed at the Super Bowl halftime show… oh awkward, does that still sting, Janet?
Lesser known tips
Many people haven’t come close to mastering the tips offered by Leonov, but there are other, lesser known ways to help protect yourself online.
Steve Thomas, CEO and Co-Founder of PwnedList adds the following tips:
- Don’t use a password memory formula, such as website + date of birth. Hackers are smart and figured out how to guess the rest of your passwords a long time ago. Use computer generated passwords and save them in a secure location.
- Use a unique strong password for every website. Password management tools are a great way to take the headache out of doing this. Most tools these days give you the option to sync between devices. This is a huge time saver.
- Assume your e-mail will one day be broken into. Make sure you can get control of it back with another e-mail account. Never save personal information in your e-mail account, such as credit card numbers, bank account usernames, pins. Hackers love to take over an e-mail account, find bank account information, and have a shopping spree.
- Minimize the damage that a hacker could cause: Delete, delete, delete. Destroy everything that you do not need to have a record of. If you need to have a record of it, save it to your computer and encrypt it. This goes for everything ever stored on the Internet. The Internet is forever.
- Use different e-mails for different parts of your life. One for banking, one for random websites, one for personal, one for business. Personal/random websites are more likely to be broken into and if your e-mail account is stolen from one of those, make sure that only a part of your life is vulnerable.
- Monitor for your e-mail address. PwnedList is a free service to do this. Periodically search the internet for your e-mail address. Setup a google alert for your e-mail address. You will want to know how much exposure you have. The e-mail address that can’t be found is the one that can’t be targeted.
- Change e-mail addresses every few years. Update only the websites you still use. Delete the old account if possible.