Staying Digitally Secure
Now that computers and phones are everyday tools for productivity, it is important they are kept secure and working in YOUR favor. If your information isn’t protected, malicious actors will find it and use it to their advantage. There are now over 100 Million hacks in the USA every year. It doesn’t matter if you are a celebrity or a college student, it is important to take active measures to protect yourself online.
1. The first and easiest step is to enable two factor authentication on your major accounts. With two factor authentication logins turned on, you will be prompted to enter a code sent to your phone, adding an extra layer of security. If a hacker has your username and password, they will also need access to your phone to login, which is almost always imposible. Be sure to use 2FA on your email, social platforms, and financial programs. Each platform is different but, the setting is usually found in the settings under security or account info. Everyone always has their phone on them so there is no excuse not to have this feature turned on.
A password manager such as Lastpass needs to be your best friend. Lastpass will keep track of and autofill all of your different passwords. Now that Lastpass remembers all of your passwords, they should be complex, completely random and at least 16 characters long. Unique passwords are extremely important because if a hacker where to obtain a password from Spotify, for example, they could use that same password on all other accounts. If your accounts have the same password, your entire digital life could be hacked because of 1 single breach. I know this sounds annoying to do for every single login but, Lastpass, Google, and Apple’s autofill feature will keep your logins quick and easy.
Another way to increase login security is by using biometric passwords such as your fingerprint or facial structure. Using biometrics to unlock your phone or log into an app is often faster and more secure than traditional passwords.
This next tip is half productivity hack and half digital security tool. An increasing number of breaches are due to phishing attacks via email. These types of hacks are executed by people or bots who send you a fake email posing as an actual business. For example, last year people began receiving emails which looked like an invitation to edit a google doc. When they clicked on it, they were prompted to login into their google accounts to access the document. Little did they know, the emails were fake, and the site they logged into was not actually Google. Who ever initially sent them the email now has their email and password. To protect from this, I use a personal email for high priority communications and a separate email for non essential accounts and receipts. My personal email is email@example.com and my separate non essential email is firstname.lastname@example.org . When I am asked for an email from a service or company I don’t care to hear from, I give them my .login email. You can leave it unorganized, messy, and untouched. If you ever need login info or a receipt, use the search function and be sure what you are clicking on is actually what you are looking for. This way I know that any suspicious emails on my personal email can immediately be addressed whether it means deleting it or flagging it as a spam. There is no guessing and it helps keeps my personal email tidy.
Finally, it’s important to be cautious of what information you post on social media. It’s obvious you shouldn’t post any info or images that include credit card numbers, personal info such as your address or any sort of financial information. Unbeknownst to some users, this sort of information sharing has been built into some social platforms, for example Venmo. It’s popularity makes it a wonderful and easy program to use however, it opts in each user to publicly share the recipient’s name and note of each transaction. Transactions sent as public are not only accessible to friends but to anyone who has a Venmo account. Even though it doesn’t share the amount of money per transaction, it still shares who your money is being transferred to. Random people on the internet shouldn’t be able to see who you send your money to. Anyone using Venmo can easily force all future transactions to be private via SETTINGS -> PRIVATE. You can also switch all previous transactions to private via Settings-> Past transactions -> Change to private. If you feel like the social aspect of Venmo is something you can’t live without, you can change your transaction settings to friends only, which allows only your friends to see your transactions. These sorts of protections help keep your online identity secure from bad actors.
If you think these precautions are a bit much, think about the measures you take to protect your physical belongings. You have a different keys to your house or car and you don’t leave either without locking them first. You also don’t let any random person into your house without first checking who they are and what they are doing there. Your online life should be treated with the same sense of security, if not more. I don’t want anyone to wake up to their entire savings account missing, wishing they had done more to protect themselves. If you take these actions now you will never have to worry about your online information again.