The Malta Independent on Sunday
How do you stay safe online?
matter is still not imprinted in our minds and the most popular passwords in use are still the word ‘password’ or ‘1232456’. Another good practice is to use Two-Step Authentication. Many popular sites offer this service, such as Facebook and Gmail, where in addition to the usual password, users will receive a code on their mobile when trying to login to their account. Without this code, login is not possible.
As well as being very careful of which sites to browse, we must also keep an eye out on websites we trust as even trustworthy sites can be hacked and infected. If you see anything strange, such as file download request when clicking in any part of the site, do not accept the download or open the file, and close the site immediately. When shopping online, always look for secure sites which can be identified as they have a green padlock next to the web address. The web address also has “https” instead of “http”. Https websites secure the data that is sent over the internet thus making communication safer as no clear text data is transmitted.
Since we are still in the happy clicking era, e-mail is one of the biggest sources of malware infections or security breaches. We must be very careful of which emails to open and which links or attachments to open from within an email. If we receive an email stating that we have won something, we would be better off calling the company that sent us the email and confirm that the content of the email is true. Banks and other reputable com- panies will never send us emails requesting personal data. So if we receive anything like this we should ignore it immediately. Links in emails can be very dangerous too and it is safer to type any web address link directly in a browser rather than clicking on a link in an email. Attachments can also be very dangerous. If we receive an unexpected email with an attachment from someone we know, it would be a good idea to confirm with the sender to see if they sent the email. If the attachment is in an email from an unknown sender, then it is wiser to delete it than putting ourselves at risk by letting curiosity get the better of us.
The availability of an internet connection has become critical to most of us and this can lead users to falling prey for open Wi- Fi hotspots. These public Wi-Fi spots can be very dangerous, since anyone can connect to them and it is quite incredible what hackers can do with their tools. We must be very careful what we do while connected to public Wi-Fi hotspots, ideally we should stick to activities which are anonymous and never use them for services that ask us to input passwords or to conduct online transactions such as online shopping or online banking.
Sites like Facebook can be a can of worms if we are not careful. We must never share more than we need and remember the probable truth that what you post onto the internet will always remain there. Hence, it is of utmost importance that one is extremely careful before posting anything on social media. We must also look for privacy settings which allow us to choose what we share and with whom to share. Social media sites can also contain dangerous links even from posts apparently created by our ‘friends’. If one of your connections account is hacked, anything can be posted in their name; so keep on the lookout for strange posts.
Generally speaking, we are not really yet fully aware of the risks we take while being connected online. We only notice how dangerous it can be if we are hacked or infected by malware. Staying safe online is an ongoing process that every user should be mindful of and do their best to adhere to since security products are not enough to protect us completely and it is therefore up to us to bridge the gap. Ryan Mintoff works at Deloitte Malta in Information Technology and Security. For more information, please visit http://www.deloitte.com/mt