Most modern computer users understand that the internet is a dangerous place. While the rough-and-tumble “wild west” days of the late 90s and early 00s are long gone, the internet still offers many opportunities for someone to have their life ruined. From the loss of privacy via Facebook to significant financial problems due to bank account hacking, there are a lot of opportunities for you to get hurt if you don’t take the proper privacy steps.
The first and most important is to choose good passwords for your favorite websites. Historically, this involved selecting random number/letter/symbol combinations that were hard for people to guess. But the technology of “brute force” attacks, in which a computer tries many thousands of passwords each second, makes this less important.
Computer programs will barely be slowed down by numbers and symbols, so instead you should try to make passwords long and easy to remember. For example, the password to your bank could be something you associate with the bank, like “redbrickbuildingon4th” or “thatonetimetheylentme$5.” These long, phrase-based passwords are very easy for you to remember, yet they are effectively impossible for a brute force attacker to penetrate – it would simply take too long.
However, even the most complex password can be useless if it doesn’t have to be guessed. Malware known as “keyloggers” can track your every keystroke and mouse click. Other viruses can root out saved passwords or simply remember what you did and imitate you, enabling hackers to log into your accounts from your own machine, and give money and access to them! Therefore it is important that you avoid malware proactively and defend against it reactively.
In order to avoid malware coming in, it’s necessary to stay out of the Internet’s “bad neighborhoods.” Don’t pirate software, MP3s or movies – not only is it illegal, but the sites and services that provide such illegal content often use it as a means of putting malware on your PC.
Additionally, make sure that the sites you go to have valid certificates and they are who they say they are. Good SSL certificate management ensures you aren’t going to rogue or copycat websites meant to imitate legitimate ones and steal your information. For more on this topic, go here: http://www.venafi.com/solutions/ssl-certificate-management/
Lastly make sure you have good anti-virus software installed on your computer. There are many companies that offer free anti-virus software, but be forewarned – not all anti-virus software is created equal, and many viruses pretend they are anti-virus software in order to get downloaded. Read reviews and download a program of your choice from a site that is highly trusted.