Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Protect Yourself Against Being Hacked, 8 Tips to Stay Safe Online

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson


Protect yourself against being hacked.
Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that you’ll never be hacked. Especially since, as writers today, this is where we spend so much of our time. But there are a LOT of things we can do to lower the odds of it happening.

This week I want to give you some tips on how to keep from being hacked online. This advice will continue to change because inevitably, the more wise we become at protecting ourselves, the more cunning those wishing us harm become.

The majority of times we get hacked it’s because we clicked a link that uploaded a virus which opened us up to hackers. 

This is the bad news, but there’s also good news. This kind of hacking is preventable, and here are some steps to take to stay safe online.

Be wise.
1. Be wise. This seems basic, but so many times we just ignore our better judgment. How many of us have been sucked in by direct messages like these? “Have you heard the rumors your fiend is spreading about you?” or “This is a hilarious video just uploaded about you.” Stop. Think. Then DON’T click that link!

2. Assume it’s a lie. Awhile back, I got an email from an online company confirming a large purchase with my credit card. I knew I hadn’t made any purchases, but still had to fight the urge to panic. My gut response was to reply to the email. Thankfully, I took a step back and looked more closely at the email. I noticed several things that made me suspicious. I immediately did an online search for scams involving that company and came up with pages of recent victims. I contacted the company directly (not through the info in their email) and confirmed the email was a ruse to steal my information.

3. Never give out sensitive information. Let me repeat, NEVER GIVE OUT SENSITIVE INFORMATION! Companies don’t ask for bank account info, passwords or other information over the internet. First, if you’re a customer, they already have all of your information they need. Keeping up with personal passwords is a liability for companies. 

Stop accepting friend requests from people you don't know.
4. Stop accepting friend requests on Facebook from people you don’t know. If you’ve read my blog for long, you know that I run my personal FB profile as a public forum. BUT I still don’t allow “FRIEND” access to strangers. There was a time when we could look at common friends as a sort of endorsement for accepting a connect. That time is GONE. The only time I might consider looking further at a possible friendship would be if we had HUNDREDS of friends in common.

5. Never share personal data while you’re on a public Wi-Fi. This includes logging into sites when you must type in a password. It’s okay to bring up a site you’re already logged into, but NEVER type a password in a public place. Not only is it a risk, but it’s so easy to counterfeit a public Wi-Fi and make it look legitimate.

6. Use two-level authentication whenever possible. For instance, when I log into my Google account from a new device or new location, I receive a text message with an additional code I must type in. This has saved me so many times. A lot of networks offer this option and I always sign up for it. It may seem frustrating when you’re in a hurry. The truth is, when we’re rushed is when we’re not paying attention and we’re often more vulnerable.

7. For PC users, invest in a good security program. And good programs don’t necessarily mean expensive programs. AVG is an excellent option and has free options.

8. Have a different password for EVERY site you’re on. And change your passwords every six months. I know you don’t want to hear it, but I cannot emphasize this strong enough. Your password must be different for every account you have. That can seem overwhelming. If you’re like me you probably have dozens of accounts, so how can we keep up with all those passwords? Trust me, it’s not with sticky notes or a file on your computer. Every single time I share this information, someone confesses that they have a file on their computer and no one will know it’s there because it’s labeled INFO or something similar.

Instead, take advantage of some wonderful programs. Some charge a small fee, others are free—all have the highest security rating available. And they all have apps so you can access your accounts from your mobile devices.
Keepass X (for Mac) and Keepass (for PC)

I’ve heard people suggest that these programs are a security risk. The experts disagree and so do I. Look for ones that have AES-256 encryption (and ideally two-factor authentication) to make certain your information stays safe.

There are also blank booklets available for those of you who are old school and want something you can hold in your hand. I’ve seen them at local discount stores, as well as high end specialty stores.

Now it’s your turn, what are some tricks you use to stay safe online? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

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27 comments:

  1. Edie, I have s list hidden on my computer, but it doesn't list the password. Rather, it lists a code number that for a password. Those aren't on my computer. However, I'm going to look into one of those password keepers. Thanks!

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    1. Ane, as long as there isn't anything to connect the code to the password, you should be fine. But I do LOVE my password app. I use 1Password because it has the option of sharing specific passwords with a team. Invaluable for all that I'm involved with! Blessings, E

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    2. I have a word file called Passwords to Remember and it's several pages long since my passwords are different for various sites. Is this dangerous and therefore I should use one of the sites you mentioned? Or is it just a matter of preference?

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    3. Ellen, not having a file on your computer isn't just a preference. It's very dangerous and is a real risk for being hacked. You should either use a physical book or one of the sites I recommend. Blessings, E

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  2. Edie, Thanks for the great tips. #4 is so pertinent to writers and speakers. We want to have a great Social Media following. In the last 2 months I have had at least 10 bogus friend requests. I almost accepted their request because they were "friends" of other writers. I took the time to check their page. BOGUS. I notified the other writers. It only takes a minute to check. I do have a question, Can a "friend" access private information from a Facebook account even if it is not publicly posted to FB?

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    1. Cherrilynn, I get approximated 3 a day. It's soooooo frustrating! As far as who can access your info - that depends on your settings. If you have things set up on FB where a FRIEND can see them, then they can. There is no PRIVATE on FB. There are levels, from ONLY ME to PUBLIC.

      The main problem though, is identity theft. Hackers can steal your image, your name, any personal info you post online, etc. As friends, they can post offensive things on your wall and tag you in inappropriate posts. I've had both those happen and it's very disturbing. Now, I've got FB set up that not even friends can tag me in a post without my permission.

      I'm very careful with what I share publicly. I hope this helps, Blessings, E

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  3. I use Dashlane to keep track of passwords. Good customer service.

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    1. Maureen, I've heard good things about them! Great choice, thanks for sharing the info, Blessings, E

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  4. i'm like Ane, i have a spot on my Grande Excel Doc with clues to my passwords. i use Scripture (which i've done for years) and i can reference the book OR the chapter, and *I* know what i am referring to but it's highly unlikely that some hacker would know that without knowing me! and peeps who know me, well i trust they're not gonna hack my account! ;-)
    but yes, i do need to be more diligent to change them regularly....

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    1. Robin, do your passwords include numbers, capital letters and symbols? If not, you'll need to make sure they do, whatever system you choose to keep track of them. Blessings, E

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  5. Edie, how about when Google asks if you want Google to remember your password?

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    1. Pat, I do allow this on my computer because it's password protected and encrypted. It's risk I'm willing to take. I've had security experts advice me that it is a risk. Blessings, E

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    2. Also, I have my google account set up with two-level authentication. I wouldn't even consider the risk otherwise.

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  6. Be careful of predators on Google+. !!! They are taking identities of other people and asking people to connect with them! When I get a request, I always click on the person's name or picture and check out their page. If there is very little information, and there is a notification that the person has changed his profile picture, and the others who joined in that network are all females, BEWARE! And most of them claim to be military. It took three times for me to realize how these creeps were able to contact me through IM. Now, I check and DOUBLE-CHECK.

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    1. Carole, those predators are on every site, you're right! It's not just FB, but every social media/connection platform out there. Be wise! Blessings, E

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    2. Excellent advice, Carole. We're not safe anywhere these days. Thanks to you, I avoid the "military men."

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  7. Great post, as usual. I'm old school and keep my passwords in an old fashioned wooden alphabetical card file. It's worked for me for more than 10 years. I admit, I don't change my passwords every 6 months. I may start adding 16 to the beginning or end of my passwords and change them to 17's next year. Anyone think this is not a good idea?

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    1. Not a good idea now you've shared it!

      Perhaps pick other numbers that change each year - e.g. ages of you and your husband or mother or oldest children or grandchildren. That way you'll know which is the current number, but it will be harder for others to guess.

      My personal bugbear is websites which assign me a password I can't remember and can't even read properly to write down. Was that a one, an el or a capital i? Was it a zero or a capital o?

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  8. Edie, thanks for this reminder. I've definitely gotten lazy in changing my passwords. And I probably need to look into one of the password managers. Thanks for another helpful post.

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  9. Thank you for the good information. I had heard about last pass a while ago and have been looking for something online. I have been doing it old school in a notebook but that's not always convenient. Thank you for the great tips. People always tell me I'm nuts for having so many passwords, so thank you for reinforcing that it's a good thing. Even if a bit frustrating at times. :) Have a great day. :)

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  10. Excellent post, Lindsa. Another method of protection is to hoover your mouse over whatever link there is (the URL address will appear) and see if it is an exact link to the company, or an address is not direct, an address that may have the right name in it, like american express but does not have the full americanexpress.com part of the address. one I've gotten is similar to - http://americanexpresss/security/Amxsecurity.com which would not american express but to a page that would insert a virus into your browser, or if may look like an american express page, and as soon asd you long in, they've got you! n Oh, and LastPass is a fabulous program which has both free and paid versions.

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  11. Sorry, Edie, for some reason I thought I was on Linda Williams's page.

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  12. What are your thoughts on Norton? And storing passwords with them?
    I am like Glenna, I have a small notebook--that is getting thicker--and I write down passwords.

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  13. Thank you, Edie, for the great tips!
    I'm going to save this article.

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