By George Bieber
Naval Information Forces Public Affairs
We are in the cyber fight 24/7. Ransomware attacks, identity theft and online credit card fraud can be devastating, and these are just a few of the many types of malicious software and network attacks. If you’ve never been the victim of a breach, consider yourself lucky, but don’t let your luck lead you to complacency.
Below are tips recommended by military and private sector computer experts to better protect your personal information online:
- Install an antivirus and update it.
Antivirus software and updates are automatically covered at our worksites by Naval Information Forces’ Information Technicians (IT) Sailors at numerous commands around the globe and Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) via Naval Network Warfare Command (NETWARCOM). For your computers at home, download antivirus software, which will help protect your computer against viruses and malware.
- Explore security tools you install.
Many excellent apps and settings help protect your devices and your identity, but they’re only valuable if you know how to use them properly. Ensure your antivirus is configured and working correctly.
- Use unique passwords for each account.
One of the easiest ways hackers steal information is by getting a batch of username and password combinations from one source and trying those same combinations elsewhere. The single best way to prevent one data breach from having a domino effect is to use strong, unique passwords for every online account, preferably featuring 14 characters that combine upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters.
- Get a VPN and use it.
Any time you connect to the nternet using a Wi-Fi network that you don’t recognize, use a virtual private network, or VPN. A VPN hides your IP address and encrypts your internet traffic, providing enhanced online security to the user.
- Use two-factor authentication.
Two-factor authentication means you need to pass another layer of authentication other than a password. This could include a fingerprint, facial recognition or a text. If the data or personal information in an account is sensitive or valuable, and the account offers two-factor authentication, you should enable it.
- Use passcodes.
Use a passcode lock on every smart device to protect your personal data. Many smartphones offer a four-digit PIN by default. Set a strong passcode, not an obvious four-digit PIN such as 1-4, last four digits of a Social Security Number, birthday or phone number.
- Use different email addresses for different accounts.
Consider maintaining one email address dedicated to signing up for apps that you want to try, but which might have questionable security, or which might spam you with promotional messages. After you’ve vetted a service or app, sign up using one of your permanent email accounts. If the dedicated account starts to get spam, close it and create a new one.
- Clear your cache.
To better protect that information that may be lurking in your web history, be sure to delete browser cookies and clear your browser history on a regular basis. To clear your cache, simply press Ctrl+Shift+Del to bring up a dialog that lets you choose which elements of browser data you want to clear.
- Turn off the ‘save password’ feature in browsers.
When you install a third-party password manager, it typically offers to import your password from the browser’s storage. If password managers can do that, you can be sure some malicious software can do the same.
- Don’t fall prey to click bait.
Click bait doesn’t just refer to cat compilation videos and catchy headlines. It can also include links in email, messaging apps and on social media sites. Phishing links masquerade as secure websites, hoping to trick you into giving them your credentials. Drive-by download pages can cause malware to automatically download and infect your device. Don’t click links in emails or text messages unless they come from a trusted source, and even then you should exercise caution.
- Protect your social media privacy.
Make sure you’ve configured each social media site so that your posts aren’t public. Think twice before revealing too much in a post, since your friends might share it with others. With care, you can retain your privacy without losing the entertainment and connections of social media.
Following these simple guidelines will help decrease your vulnerability in the cyber battlespace, and ensure that your personal data is better protected.