Internet Security Tips for Everyone - Preparing for 2020Updated: November 13, 2020
Now, more than ever, it’s critical for everybody to know and understand as much as possible about Internet Security.
As we are stepping into a new year, technology, as well as its threats, will still be developing. There are threats that were present in 2019, but also threats that will start their path from 2020. Even if the security measures are developing, too, cyberattacks are still present, and increasing. Now, more than ever, it’s critical for everybody to know and understand as much as possible about Internet Security.
One of the most important parts when it comes to your online security is your own knowledge and responsible behaviour. You should feed your knowledge to be able to recognize possible threats, to know how to avoid being exposed to threats. The responsible behaviour comes along with this knowledge; knowing even the basic things about online security will make you more aware of how you act online. This will lead to a responsible behaviour, as you’ll know what comes with being reckless in the online world.
Simply defined, a hacker is anyone who poses the technical skills required to get into one's computer or even to get access to entire networks. Sure, nowadays, the term isn’t always used with a negative connotation. That is because the skills of a hacker are so good they can be used in good cases.
Hacking is mostly technical (such as infecting one's computer with malware or bypassing security filters). But hackers can also use psychological tricks to deceive people into providing personal information or to click on malicious links (such as social engineering attacks).
There are a lot of types of hackers - 10 types, to be more exact. Each category of hackers is defined by what hackers do. For example, white hat hackers are the good ones (they use their hacking skills to find flaws and vulnerabilities in computer systems so that the owners can improve their security); while black hat hackers are the ones you should be most scared of (they are the ones who hack the systems because they want something, such as monetary gain).
Hackers can access your computer through various malware (from viruses, to keyloggers, to spyware and so many more). They usually get to you because you’ve clicked on a suspicious email link or because you’ve visited a suspicious website. Or because you’ve downloaded a software from an unknown source. These can also be increased if you don’t have an updated firewall or if you don’t have an antivirus.
Here are all the details regarding hackers:
As online activities have increased in the past few years, there’s no wonder why banks started to implement online services for their customers. Now it’s super easy to add money to your accounts, send money, pay bills, even close your bank account if you want. There’s no need to go the the bank anymore.
Still, these online banking activities have been spotted by hackers. They found an opportunity in this, as they can trick you with some “schemes”. If you network connection isn’t secure, they can use this in their favor, and steal some of your data. In case you click on a suspicious email link (or SMS), they might be trying to get in the phishing trap - trick you that the bank sent you some information, and make a look-alike website where you’ll enter you credit card data; from this point, they’ll copy the data and can leave you with no money.
There are quite a few tips for online banking, but let me just mention a few:
- Make sure you don’t click on any link that the bank supposedly sent you. You bank will never ask you for your personal data, nor for money. If they really want to reach you, they will, and you can ask to go to the physical location. In case you’re nervous, you can directly call the bank to check if what they’re asking is legit.
- Try to use a card which is 3D secure. This means that if you have to make any online payments, you’d always be redirected to a bank’s landing page where you’d have to input a code (which is usually sent to you via SMS).
- If you can, make use of SMS notifications. In this way, you’ll constantly be aware of what is happening with your card.
- And in case you have to make a payment while abroad or while you’re connected to an unsecured WiFi, make sure you use a VPN.
Here are all the tips regarding online banking:
Because we’ve just talked about online banking, I should also mention online shopping. As this way of buying things is increasing year by year. It is much more comfortable to buy what you need from the comfort of your own house, isn’t it?
But here comes the tricky part. There can be e-commerce websites which are not secured, meaning that they do not have that required level of security (even though nowadays, Google will warn you straight away if a website doesn’t have the “https”).
Also, there are simply fake websites, who trick you to buy some stuff which are on a super offer. Why would someone sell a pair of headphones, for example, at the price of .99 cents?! Unfortunately, there are people who believe this offer, hence they try and buy it, inputting their credit card data and getting scammed eventually. Again, be responsible!
Some of the tips regarding a safe online shopping experience are these (one’s even subtly mentioned above):
- Buy only from known sources.
- Always check the method they are processing your online payments.
- Make sure both the website and the payment page are secured (have the “https”).
- Use a VPN in case you’re connected to a non-secured or poorly secured WiFi.
Here’s everything you should know about Online Shopping:
The next level regarding online banking and online shopping is formjacking - a threat that has much increased in 2019.
Formjacking is a type of cyberattack criminals use to steal victims' credit card information without needing to commit banking fraud, which makes it an easier and a more efficient way for cybercriminals to deploy their attacks and make money quicker. The users' information is stolen directly from e-commerce sites forms, so cybercriminals don't have to access your banking account.
This doesn’t sound fun, right?
You can avoid this type of attack by shopping only from well-known websites, along with using a 3D secure payment method (as the one mentioned above). If the bank offers you the mobile notifications, take it - in this way, you’ll be able to notice unusual payments immediately.
I wanted to mention this incognito mode because I feel there are a lot of people who think this will protect them from everybody, while they’re navigating online. It isn’t true! It’s even clearly written when you open a new incognito mode: “You’re activity might still be visible to the website you visit, your ISP, your workplace or your school”.
Incognito mode just doesn’t save the browsing history, so that other people who use the same computer as you do, won’t see what websites you’ve been to. Also, your cookies won’t be saved, meaning that if you log into a website, your credentials won’t be remembered; Nor information you enter in forms.
So don’t use incognito mode thinking you’re safe when you want to make an online payment, for example, or when you’re connected to a public WiFi. To keep your privacy complete, and to also be secure, it’s better to use a VPN.
As I said right from the beginning, nothing is 100% safe (especially when we talk about the Internet). Still, there are some major differences between these two technologies, making one of them a bit more secure than the other. Can you guess? Obviously, we are referring to browsing or surfing the Internet using one of these two. And we are pointing out the flaws that become great opportunities for hackers.
Regarding your own online behaviour, none of these technologies will "save" you. If you're browsing the Internet not caring about the possible threats out there such as malware or phishing, then it's on you if something happens. You online behaviour should be based on alertness and skeptical thinking at all times.
In terms of technology, thinking about which of these technologies can be more easily cracked by a hacker, the answer is WiFi. This is because a network connection needs a router and an antenna. These can be easily cracked, and the hacker can see what you’re doing online. Especially if the routers is poorly secured or not secured at all.
Regarding 4G (or 5G), there are no devices that are intermediating the connection; you’re asking for information directly to your ISP. This is why a 4G connection can be a bit more safer that a WiFi one.
We live in a day where most of our sensitive information is stored in at least one place online. As I just said above, we use online banking, we are shopping online, and we are using social media accounts.
Part of keeping our accounts safe in the online world is using strong passwords all over the place. But what happens if someone should find one of your passwords in case of a data breach?
This is where multi factor authentication comes into place by offering a second layer of security in addition to the standard password.
Multifactor authentication is a process through which if you want to access your account (whichever that is), you have a double layer of security:
The credentials with which you’re connecting (email/name and password). Inputting these will trigger the next step
Receiving an email or an SMS with a code. This code must be written in the form that’s being shown to you after you’ve entered the credentials.
It’s truly important to make use of this kind of authentication, especially on sensitive accounts. In this way, in case someone actually knows your credentials, they won’t be able to log into the account. And you’ll also know that someone is trying to get access to your account, because you’ll receive an email with a code or with a warning.
Nowadays, traveling is easy. Plenty of offers for flights and accommodation, almost no barrier between countries, and a world (online and offline) full of information. Technology also goes hand in hand with this ease of travel - you have Maps, Location, Cellular Data; you can't get lost, at least not in the civilized countries.
As technology is evolving, a part of it focuses on the network area: trying to bring Internet in every corner of the world. It's no surprise when you arrive at a hotel, even in a smaller country, and you have access to the Internet.
With this in mind, the cyber attacks have also increased, or spread, making you a full target wherever you are. And while you travel, you are not in the comfort of your own house, connected to your super secured WiFi network. You’ll need to connect to the hotel’s WiFi, to the restaurant’s and to the network available around you. You don’t know much about them, but it’s enough to know that if they are poorly secured (meaning that they have a weak password) or if they’re public, you shouldn’t use them without a VPN.
In this way, you’ll be able to stay private and secured; you’ll be able to use the networks as you like, of course, being cautious and responsible.
It’s not only you, the adult, that needs to be protected online. As there are so many children who use the Internet from a very young age, you are responsible for them, too (of course, you’re responsible for your own children).
They lack the ability to acquire the same amount of online security knowledge, but nonetheless, you should explain to them the best you can. Besides the fact that they can fall for the dangers adults fall for (scams, phishing, ransomware, malicious links, malware), there are other dangers that target children: cyberbullying, cyber predators, sharing private information, inappropriate posts etc.)
With all these dangers comes from everywhere, it’s even more crucial for you to know as much as you can about online security. Regarding solely your children, you should know how to limit their access to various platforms, how to instruct them in not talking to strangers, no matter what, and to make them understand that it’s for their own safety (in terrible cases, the online world can intersect with the offline world - cyber predators).
The main tool you’re using to navigate on the Internet is a browser: Chrome, Firefox, Edge etc.
Each one of them has a set of features that can make it more or less secure. And all of them expose you to a level of browser fingerprint.
Browser fingerprinting is all the identification information collected about a device. Fingerprints are used to identify individual users even in scenarios when cookies aren't stored, the IP address is hidden, or multiple web browsers are used on the same device.
Its main purpose is to prevent credit card fraud and identity theft. Even so, the practice of creating detailed records about users' browsing histories without their knowledge and when they are trying to avoid being tracked, raises significant concerns for online privacy.
There are a lot of data that can be collected: from the screen resolution, to the presence of an ad blocker, to the timezone, and the platform you’re using.
Here’s the full list, along with all you need to know about browser fingerprinting:
Now how can you protect yourself from browser fingerprinting? First of all, you can use the incognito mode, as the cookies (all about cookies will be stored as temporary files, but be sure to check the previous paragraph.
You can start using Firefox, as this is one of the most secure browsers out there.
And, of course, you can use a VPN (not a free one, but a professional one).
In case you need extra protection, even if you’re using Firefox, then you should know that there are a lot of browser extensions which can make your life easier - private and secure.
You can use browser extensions to block the annoying ads; others are to keep your passwords safe and secure, with the possibility of accessing them whenever you want (through an app); others are there to delete the cookies.
Whatever browser extension you may need, here’s the full list, with details about what each does:
Not only your browser need protection, but your whole computer. After all, this is where you store all the data, and it would be a shame to lose it or to brick your whole computer.
The best way to protect your computer is to be aware of all those possible attacks and malware that can target you. Still, in the unfortunate case you somehow managed to “get” a spyware on your computer, there are tools (software) that you should have “near you”.
Spyware is a malicious file that hides on your device and records all kinds of data about your activity. It can be your personal information, your login credentials, credit card data. Spyware is able to record everything you type on your keyboard. Creepy, ha?
Luckily, there are tools like Panda, AVG antivirus Comodo Antivirus and others, which can help you detect and remove the unwanted spyware from your computer.
Here’s all of them:
People do start to ask around if an antivirus software is still useful. This is because firewalls and operating systems have come a long way and are more powerful. Still, an antivirus would be a great layer of security for your computer - better be safe than sorry, right? And nowadays, even the free ones are good enough for personal use.
There are a lot of malware around that can do you harm. Even if you’re skeptical and responsible while online, there comes the day when you use a USB from a colleague (whose computer has been infected and the virus got to the USB), and you can infect your computer. Having an antivirus software installed will keep you away from these situations.
Here are some articles related to this subject:
Of course, your smartphones should be neglected. Your online responsible behaviour should be kept here, too, as the smartphone is the main source of navigating online.
Yes, there are malicious apps that can harm you smartphone. Indeed, there are more in the Google Playstore (Android), than in the AppStore (iOS), but that doesn’t mean iOS users are safe.
The reason why there are more malicious apps in the Google PlayStore is because the platform is open source. This means that more people have access to it, and it is harder for Google to effectively filter all of the apps.
Luckily, since 2017, Google released the Play Protect app, which runs in the background; it scans all of your downloaded apps, and warn you if there is one which can be harmful.
As I slightly mentioned above, these two operating systems work differently, hence they are different when it comes to their level of security.
You might just want to protect more your Android device, as the fact that it is an open source, makes it more vulnerable. Still, even iOS users should be aware of the threats they’re exposed to.
Last, but not least, you should know that there are ways to protect your home WiFi. You should, because the bad news is that hackers can easily gain control over a computer through a weak WiFi network. Still, the good news is it's not hard to secure your WiFi network
You should start with changing the default password of the router. In case someone know what type of router you have and your ISP, they can easily steal your password, login and use the WiFi for themselves.
Not to mention that there are now YouTube videos which show exactly how to hack a WiFi network. So you have to be protected, the best you can.