With so many of our daily tasks increasingly reliant on internet access, we should all be more vigilant about protecting our online identities and our computers. Here are a few handy tips to help you stay safe.
1. Shut down your computer when you're not around or away for extended periods of time. Alternately, you can also lock your system and then enter a password when you're back.
2. Resist the temptation of leaving email and social networking sites signed in. This is asking for trouble, especially when using shared computers, public and university cyber cafes. Clearing cache and cookies after each browsing session is also recommended.
3. Install a robust anti-virus and anti-malware software with a real-time scanner that will promptly detect and deal with unwanted intrusions. This is a must if you forget to run a manual scan. While downloading attachments via email or connecting a USB, always run the scan.
4. If you frequent torrent sites to download music, TV series and films, you are more likely to be vulnerable to hackers. These sites are also a smooth passage for malicious malware such as viruses, worms and Trojan horses to make their way in. You can read up on how to recognize fake torrents created by scammers and P2P file sharers, but, honestly, it’s probably best to avoid these sites altogether.
5. As a student, you may often access the Internet through Wifi from cafes or other public places. Regardless of whether it is a password-protected or public, shared network, switch on your firewall as it will block hostile connection attempts. Ensure that your email browsers have an https and not just an http connection. Better still, just use Wifi for general browsing!
6. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but in this case, clicking on attractive-looking links will do the trick just fine. Free software, fake download buttons, fake security alerts, political propaganda and so on are frequently loaded with spyware, malware and phishing scams -- easy ways to lure unwary students.
7. Never repeat your password across accounts, and avoid setting your birthday, last name, or easily accessible information as your password (yes, we know it’s easier to remember). Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a secure password that even your friends won't be able to guess.
8. As most of your projects and documents are saved online, consider using a cloud computing tool that invisibly backs up your files and folders in case of a hardware crash. Follow the necessary steps required to safeguard your data in the cloud.
9. The physical security of your laptop is just as important as everything else, so never leave it unattended in public. If you have one, secure it with a steel cable lock or install a laptop security and tracking software. In case it is stolen, contact the authorities and set about changing the passwords to personal accounts and banking information. Identity theft is a real threat, as the thief now has your personal files, documents, photos and other sensitive data.
10. And finally, educate yourself and read up regularly on cyber protection. Remember that hackers are constantly finding ways to beat the system, so don't get too cozy with what you already know. Sharing knowledge is doubling power, so go on and spread the word!