Technology has made modern life easier in so many ways. From routine banking to grocery shopping, many daily chores can be done quickly and easily online, and in this age of mobile devices, physical location has become almost irrelevant. However, there is a distinct downside to this: with so many aspects of life being conducted digitally, if a fraudster manages to seize control of your online identity, the potential for damage is huge.
Luckily, most hackers will concentrate on easy targets, and taking a few simple precautions will help to keep your online identity secure. Here are seven simple ways of keeping digital fraudsters at bay.
- Choose Strong Passwords
- Be Careful on Public Networks
- Secure Your Own Wi-Fi Network
- Be Suspicious of Emails
- Never Reveal Your Password By Email
- Password Protect Your Mobile Devices
- Keep Vital Software Updated
Passwords are a fundamental aspect of online security, yet even the most careful of people can become complacent about their password habits. It’s essential to choose strong, hard-to-guess passwords for all your sensitive accounts, and to use a different one for each website you use. This can quickly become difficult to handle, so consider using password management software to generate and securely store unlimited numbers of unique passwords.
Free examples of password manager programs include Lastpass and Dashlane, both of which work across desktops and mobile devices, and can optionally synchronize your passwords across devices for a small fee.
Smartphones, tablets, and lightweight laptops make it easy to manage your life while on the move. However, you should be extremely careful about logging in to sensitive accounts over public connections. Access using your cellphone’s data connection is usually fairly safe, but your local coffee shop’s wi-fi network may not be as secure as it could be. There’s no need to be paranoid, but it makes sense to only use important services such as online banking through your home internet connection, using only your own devices.
However, restricting sensitive activities to your home network is pointless if your domestic wi-fi connection isn’t properly secured. At the very least, make sure you have password protection turned on, using the WPA2 mode which all modern devices support. However, you should also consider turning off SSID broadcasting so that your network is somewhat hidden from prying eyes.
Both of these options can be set up through the admin section of your wi-fi router, and you should make sure this device is also properly password protected. Many routers come with default passwords which are easy to guess, potentially leaving your entire network wide open to an attacker.
Be extremely wary of any email that asks you to log into your bank account or other sensitive service, and which provides a direct link to do so. Always check that any such link leads to the correct destination, not to a clever fake, and ask yourself if you’ve been given a good enough reason to log in in the first place.
If the email says that your account has a problem and you need to log in to fix it, take that as a strong warning sign of a malicious attempt to obtain your details by trickery. The safest option is to bookmark your correct login page and always access the website via this route rather than clicking on any email link.
However, if an email asks you to reveal your password, you should be far more than simply suspicious. No reputable organisation will ever ask for such important information by email, and it’s certain to be either a scam attempt or a sign of extreme incompetence. Either ignore the email completely or forward a copy to your bank’s customer services section so that their security team can investigate.
This is a simple tip but a vital one. Make sure that all your computing devices require a password or PIN for any user to log in with. This is especially important on smartphones and other mobile devices, which can be easily lost or stolen. A huge amount of sensitive information about your digital life is stored on your phone, and if it falls into the wrong hands, you want to make it as difficult as possible for a fraudster to gain access to this data.
No software is immune from security flaws, so whether you’re using Windows, iOS, Android, or another operating system, ensure that your device is kept up-to-date with any new security fixes that are released. The same goes for any antivirus software you have installed: new malware is discovered constantly, and if your protection is outdated, your system not be as secure as you think.
The consequences of online fraud can be enormous and take many years to completely clear up. Thankfully, taking only a few common-sense measures will greatly reduce the risk of it happening to you, without causing any great inconvenience in your daily digital life.