If hacking takes only a few minutes on a criminal’s end, protecting your online presence also just takes a few minutes of building safety habits consistently every day. The world as we know it revolves around the use of the Internet and technology, both being very fragile and exploitable if you have the right knowledge.
There’s ethical hacking and there’s cybercriminal hacking. The difference between the two is ethical hacking is used to exploit a system with the owner’s consent so that the loophole or vulnerability might be fixed and any future threats can be averted.
Black-hat hacking, on the other hand, is performed to achieve criminal ends. You know how in movies there are scripts and scripts of green data lines running down a computer with a hooded man sitting behind the screen? Yeah, that’s more or less a black hat hacker.
Their existence is why you need to start protecting your digital self every few minutes a day and understand how you can create a sturdy online barrier around your devices and your network so that your family and you are safe.
Let’s discuss the importance of online security.
Why is protecting your digital self important?
Just one word: information.
Information is the ruling entity when it comes to the digital realm. Everything you see online is made up of small bits, scraps, pieces, and bytes of information that’s collected, stored, scrambled, parcelled and restructured for the consumer’s benefit.
Did you just read ‘benefit’? Can you think of some benefits of using the Internet that makes your life much easier?
Let’s see. You store contact information on platforms so that communication becomes easier. You store financial information on shopping websites so that commercial exchanges are made easier for you. Let’s also count all the addresses (home and work), phone numbers, names, emails, sensitive records, and a number of daily clicks on your preferences that’s gathered on the Internet as you use different avenues, services, apps, software, and websites every day.
Don’t you think that this much information literally makes up what defines you as a person?
It’s a big problem if a random data collector knows about your likes and dislikes more than your spouse, or if the Internet is better at predicting your child’s next location than you, or if you spend more time organizing your files on laptops and phones than you spend with your family.
These are modern problems that every household faces. Besides personal issues, there’s also the threat of identity theft, financial fraud, phishing, and information leaks. How can you protect yourself against these?
How to protect yourself online in just a few minutes a day
These are best practices that provide you with digital safety if you start implementing them every single day. And you’ll be giving every data thief that comes across you a nightmare that keeps them awake. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but check these out; they are still great to protect your digital self.
- Keep all your devices, apps, and software up to date.
The laptop’s been used for more than 5 years? Maybe it’s time you buy a new one. The phone’s been acting up lately? Get it repaired. The operating system hasn’t been updated even when your system supports it? That’s an open invitation for exploiters to breach your system, so update it.
The same goes for device drivers, apps, and any software you have. Weekly and monthly updates make sure that any bug in the system that could have exposed your sensitive information to a hacker is fixed and no longer a threat to the user’s safety. So, update everything.
- Identify your contacts
First, don’t go around interacting with strangers online. Second, if there’s a need, be smart enough to verify them. Most services that require professional exchanges with strangers have now implemented a KYC policy that requires them to identify themselves using government-authenticated documents. It’s an excellent system that prevents many unforeseen frauds and scams. Another way is to use a website like Nuwber. On such websites, you can look up information on individuals using filters like name, number, or address. They’ll show you all the information about that person available online: contact details, social media links, workplace, etc.
An additional method is to use caller ID apps on your mobile devices to verify the identity of the numbers that contact you.
- Don’t store sensitive information
Remember: if it’s convenient for you as a consumer, it’s convenient for them as hackers. While logging into websites is much easier with the built-in storage feature of web browsers, it’s also quite dangerous. Anyways, hackers are not your only concern. A colleague might need to use your device and they may accidentally come across your login credentials while using the Internet. We cannot rely on human curiosity, can we? It’s best not to store any sensitive information while using the Internet.
- Don’t disable Firewall if you don’t know what you are doing
A firewall is a safeguard built in your device so that in case you accidentally allow something malicious to enter your system, the firewall defense can block it and eliminate the threat. Some apps and software require firewall access because the firewall can perceive them as a threat and block their services from functioning smoothly. You should only download verified software that’s from a trustworthy developer. Allowing such software access minimizes the threat a great deal. Plus, they are safe to use.
Keep clearing web browser history, search history and cookies every few days so that trackers are eliminated and your device’s activities are not recorded by data collectors.
A few small steps at a time can make a big difference in the long run. Make these best practices a part of your Internet and technology routine and it will help you a great deal when it comes to protecting your digital self from hackers, cybercriminals, data collectors, and every other entity who wishes to steal your data and misuse it.