Did you know that a whopping 47% of people in America have their personal information compromised or stolen by hackers each year? If you answered no, then you could be at risk.
Unfortunately, there is no security strategy that is an absolute sure thing. But don’t worry; we’ve got some tips that will help you feel and stay more secure.
1. Install and Maintain Antivirus Software
Thanks to Microsoft, the lives of internet users are made a little easier with a built-in internet security software like Windows Defender on PC’s. Unfortunately, Defender doesn’t catch everything. For precaution you should have a second antivirus suite like Norton Antivirus Basic installed. Virus and anti-malware scans can be scheduled to run automatically, preferably when you’re not using your computer. The most important thing is to make sure every computer in the house is protected. All it takes is one vulnerable entry point to compromise your entire home network.
Apple is an entirely different situation. Its closed ecosystem makes their products less likely to be attacked by viruses and malware, but they are still not immune. Establish best practices when using the Internet like, staying away from dodgy websites, being vigilant with your passwords, and always keeping your internet security software up to date.
2. Do Not Accept the Defaults
When buying a wireless router, many users stick with the default network name. Hackers can find a way to break into your network just by knowing the brand and type of router you own… which is much easier when your network name is on public display.
What’s even worse is when users don’t change the default admin password on their router. Admin passwords are set by the manufacturer and aren’t unique. Anyone who knows the default password (accessible with a simple Google search) can access your wireless router, and thus your network. Change you router admin password and your network name and you’ll be that much closer to a secure network. (Don’t change your n etwork name to your family name. That’s just looking for trouble.)
3. Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor (or multifactor) authentication is a security precaution that requires a second avenue of verifying your identity when logging onto a website. Usually, this includes a cell phone number or a second email. For example, when you login to Gmail and two-factor authentication is activated, Google will send you a text message with a code you must enter before completing login. Thus, a third party will not be able to access your account without access to your phone, even if they have your password. Facebook does this as well as many bank and insurance websites. Not every website offers two-factor authentication, but you should take advantage of it whenever you can.
I have not personally been a victim of hackers, but I do have a friend who has had someone get a hold of her credentials to her email account. They ultimately couldn’t get into the account though because she had two-step authentication set-up and the culprit didn’t have access to her phone. Learn from er experience!
4. Change How You Think about Security
How do you keep track of your passwords? Memorizing a different password for each site is unlikely, and having one password for many sites is bad practice and could get you in real trouble.
It might be time to rethink how you choose and save your passwords. Password managers like Keeper allow you to centralize your passwords, automatically creating and storing strong passwords for all your websites. You only need to remember your credentials to the password manager.
Even if a password manager isn’t your speed, you should 14 Ways to Create a Secure Password to help protect your information. You should also be wary of sending sensitive information (like banking info) across public wi-fi. Keep the physical safety of your data in mind, too — the best passwords in the world won’t save you if a thief steals your laptop and it has no encryption or login protection and all your passwords are saved in your browser. Some key essentials to keep in mind are; password-protect your laptop, always log out when you’re done using it, and install a locator app in case it’s stolen.
Wondering how secure your passwords really are? Check out How Secure is My Password, a site that will estimate how long your credentials would take to crack with a brute force attack. If you balk at the idea of typing your password into a website… good! That’s exactly the sort of thing you should think twice about.
Don’t think a great password makes you safe, though. Personal information is most often lost through third-party data breaches and social engineering tricks that get you to give away your personal info. You know those Facebook memes that encourage you to post your birthday and mother’s maiden name to find out which Harry Potter character you are? Don’t participate in those. Stop taking those online quizzes, too.
5. Install Software and Hardware Firewalls
Many home users settle for just plugging their computer directly into the wireless modem, and never bother with a software firewall at all. A software firewall can supplement your operating system’s built-in firewall, usually for less than $50. If you can get a good deal on a hardware firewall, an investment of a few hundred dollars is one of the most effective home security upgrades you can make.
“Stealth mode,” which will hide your network name from public view, is often a feature offered by many hardware and software firewalls. It also boosts your internet security. If hackers don’t know (and can’t see) your network name, it makes it that much more difficult for them to break through it.
If you’re really serious about amplifying your network security, you can set up a virtual private network, or VPN. It’s a bit more work than the options above, but if you really want to protect your privacy and anonymity, it’s worth learning and implementing.
This may sound like a lot, but a large part of safeguarding yourself against hacking is remaining vigilant. Watch your bank account for signs of fraud or identity theft. Don’t freely give away your personal information where it’s not necessary. Practice good security habits when shopping online. Increasing your home internet security doesn’t have to be complicated or scary.
Taking just one of these steps today can help keep your network and data safe. Have any other tips to share? Let me know in the comments!