To the Cyber-criminal, your browser is their gateway to your personnel information. There is a treasure trove of information available on your browser, be it credit card details, emails, browsing history, passwords, bank details etc. You can never be 100% secure when browsing the web. There are however several common-sense steps you can take to bolster your browsing security.
- MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE A GOOD ANTIVIRUS THAT’S UP-TO-DATE
If you’re using a work system, it will likely already have an antivirus installed. If this is the case, then make sure it’s enabled. If your work has a BYOD (bring your own device) policy, then you’ll need to have a good antivirus for your personal device not to infect or be infected by other devices connected to your work’s network. Once you’ve installed it, keep it up to date to avoid the latest threats. Most good antiviruses will do this automatically in the background. While antivirus software is a must for everyone, don’t be tricked into thinking that you’re 100% safe. Viruses and Malware can occasionally get past even the best antivirus software.
- MAKE SURE YOUR PASSWORDS ARE SECURE
It is vital that you create a strong password. Recent studies have shown that the two most commonly used passwords are ‘password’ and ‘123456’, both of which will be top of the list when someone tries to break into your accounts. Strong passwords should contain random upper and lower case letters and should also include random numerals (not dates of birthdays, anniversaries etc.). There are loads of tutorials that will show you how to make a strong password and some will tell you how secure yours is. If you’re a manager, you should ensure that your staff all have strong passwords. All it takes to breach the network is one careless employee.
Most people are guilty of using the same password for every website they visit. Using the same strong password over and over is as bad as having multiple weak passwords. If you’re compromised on one, you’re compromised on them all. Even if you have a password that will take years to hack, a venerability or data breach can leave you compromised. If you struggle to remember lots of different passwords, a tool like Lastpass can make setting secure passwords easy.
You might not be able to choose which web browser you use at work, but you can choose which you use on your own devices. Many stick with their default browser or install the quickest one without considering security. While there is some debate over which the most secure web browsers are, here at IT.ie we tend to stick with and recommend Google Chrome.
- STOP USING PIRATED CONTENT
Not only is downloading pirated content illegal, it is also highly likely that it contains viruses and malware. A recent study has shown that 1 in 3 downloaded pirated content was infected with a virus which often led to the device being unusable or having to be fixed, and 1 in 5 had personal information stolen. While downloading, pirated content is bad, installing pirated software is worse. You might get the latest software for free, but you won’t be able to download the latest security updates for it, leaving you and your information vulnerable.
- KEEP YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM UPDATED
You must update your internet connected devices on a regular basis to receive the latest security patches and updates. If you’re using a work system then it’s likely that this process has been set up to happen automatically in the background, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure.
When you’re not using, your internet connected device, turn it off. While this might not be possible if your work device updates overnight, you should turn off all your personal devices while not in use. Putting them in sleep mode doesn’t count! If your devices are off, then they aren’t connected to a network. When your devices are left on, an opportunistic hacker potentially has a constant connection to your machine.
This one is only applicable if you bring your own device to work, or routinely work from outside the office. If you surf the web while having a coffee at your favourite establishment then you should be aware of information being sent over the unencrypted connection. Anyone with the know-how could be reading your emails, logging your passwords or getting between your device and the network. When surfing on a public network stick to websites that use https (the S stands for secure) such as Facebook and Twitter for example, as they encrypt your data.
- MAKE SURE THAT YOUR FIREWALL IS TURNED ON
Most devices have an integrated firewall these days, (windows has the creatively titled ‘Windows Firewall’), it is however very easy to accidentally turn it off or for a programme to disable it. If you don’t know how to turn it on or off then here’s a guide to help you.
Pop-ups are not only infuriating, but also likely to contain malware that trick you into clicking by using social engineering. Most browsers have built in popup blockers and there are plenty of 3rd party add-ons also available.
- BLOCK THIRD-PARTY COOKIES
Though cookies are great, 3rd party cookies on your browser aren’t. While they don’t harm your device themselves, no one likes to be tracked. The cookies are a security risk as they are plain text files and therefore vulnerable to being harvested. Depending on what browser you use, there are plenty of tutorials available of the web showing you how to disable 3rd party cookies.
- BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR INFORMATION ONLINE
Be careful who you give your information to online. While a site may not be asking for your bank details, damage can still be done by getting you to input your email and a password (as said before, many people use the same login details for everything).
Long gone are the days when you could spot a spam email from a mile away. Spam emails are convincing these days which is why you need to be vigilant. Spam emails will often send you to a phishing site or contain some nasty attachment. While a good spam filter and antivirus goes some of the way to help, there is no simple way of telling, just a few hints you can look for. Read our article “RANSOMWARE: Common Bad Practices Are Your Biggest Threat” Here
While you wouldn’t and shouldn’t go on a risky site at work, you can accidentally click on a link and get a nasty surprised when you discover the website’s content. These types of sites are often infected with worms that modify the site with the intention of giving you a virus.
Don’t think that because you’ve implemented all the tips on this list or because you’ve got a mac that you’re safe. While its less feasible, Apple devices do get viruses. Similarly, while all these tips will make it less feasible to get infected, we’re all at risk when we’re online. Be vigilant!