The latest online threat and cyber scam is never far away it seems, with industry ‘insiders’ only too keen to tell us about the danger we are in and what we need to do to protect ourselves. Such is the bombardment of information, it can be difficult to stay on track with the fundamental security procedures we all need to adhere to.
Muddying the waters further is the fact that so much of the preaching and doom-mongering comes from security product vendors, that all too often simply want to scare us into buying their services -leaving many users over-compensating in some areas and underestimating more real dangers.
This is why Team Cymru, a completely independent security research firm, provides all Internet users with a top 10 ‘Golden List’ of basic but crucial tips to stay safe online. Stick to these, the group says, and you have the essentials in place to worry less about the constant flow of new threats, and the necessary awareness to avoid undue risk. Because Team Cymru is not trying to sell you anything, you can enjoy these tips free of agenda and without that tell-tale product plug at the end. Take note…
1. Regularly update your operating system and applications - especially Java, Adobe and Office products.
2. Use a modern browser and consider plug-ins that turn off scripts and other common ways to attack you while you’re online. Having an up-to-date browser matters far more than the type of browser you use - and there’s no real excuse for not updating when the installations are free.
3. Use different passwords for different areas of your life: one for email accounts, one for financial accounts, one for social media accounts and so on. This strikes the balance of being easier than having to remember dozens of different words, yet safer than using the same one for everything. Criminals often take advantage of the fact that people re-use passwords across the board, so don’t fall into that trap.
4. Watch your credit card and bank statements closely so you can spot if you've been targeted by a scam straight away. Vigilance away from your screen is just as important if you are to pick up on breaches.
5. Use regularly updated anti-virus.
6. Use a software or hardware firewall.
7. Consider a ‘banking only’ device that you use solely for financial transactions; avoiding email, browsing and social networking. Not everyone will be able to have this luxury, but separating your banking from general activity that puts you at risk is well worth doing if possible.
8. Beware of short, odd tweets and Facebook messages - even from friends - that provide a link. Accounts get hacked constantly and spreading malware by spamming contact lists with an infected link is very common. Just last month, a malware campaign proliferated on Twitter as dangerous links masqueraded as Facebook URLs posted by friends.
9. Don’t think that you are immune just because you use a Mac or iOS device. Android’s open source platform sees it attract the most attention for its security risks, but Apple’s huge market share makes it an extremely profitable target for criminals and the company is constantly fighting to weed out rogue apps from its App Store.
10. Use encryption and create lots of backups for everything - as often and as much as you can stand.
Article researched in collaboration with Team Cymru - a specialised Internet security research firm formed by a dedicated group of technologists passionate about making the Internet more secure.