Protecting yourself digitally has never been more important. According to Risk IQ, an incredible $2,900,000 was lost to cybercrime in 2019.
By that estimation, by the time you finish reading this post, individuals and businesses worldwide may have lost around $15 million. You, however, will have invested time into valuable knowledge and skills to make your life – and the lives of those around you – safer and more secure.
Protecting your digital self doesn’t need to take a long time. By reading this post, you have already started. And you can continue to improve your security in only a few minutes a day.
Read through the following seven ways to protect your digital self and then take one or more of those actions every day. This will result in safer communications, peace of mind, and less chance of cybercriminals or opportunists taking advantage of you.
7 Ways to Protect Your Digital Self in 3 Minutes or Less:
1. Report spam
Spam refers to those unsolicited messages that try to sell you products or services or offer you time-limited opportunities. Typically, because they are untargeted, they are way off the mark. Once you’ve identified spam, don’t just delete it. Report it.
Many email services come with an option to mark an email as spam or report it with one click. Do so to reduce future spam and lessen the chances of responding to a marginal spam email later down the line. Reporting spam also protects others, since it helps the email service providers block spammers for you and all their users.
Things get darker when we get into the territory of phishing (attempts to gather confidential, personal information for identity theft) and other fraudulent activities. If you’re not sure of the identity of someone writing to you online, check them out with Nuwber. This will tell you whether the person is who they claim to be.
Note that this also applies to people you meet offline. Verifying identities can put your mind at rest. It can also save you time and money in the long run and only takes a few minutes to do.
Bur remember to never reveal your personal information before you are absolutely sure the person is being honest about themselves and their intentions. A phone number given to the wrong person may lead to consequences as serious as identity theft.
Perform a virus scan
When was the last time you checked your computer or other devices for nasties such as spyware, malware, and trojans? If you can’t answer this or it’s been more than a few weeks, go to your virus checking app and click “scan now.”
If you don’t have a virus checker, install one. Then it will take no more than a few minutes a day to quick-scan your storage device and confirm the integrity of your files. Discovering a threat can be alarming, but a good virus checker will be able to remove or quarantine the dangerous file to protect your machine.
4. Update software
Your antivirus software is only as good as your last update. Hackers are constantly coming up with new ways to exploit vulnerabilities and cause havoc. Antivirus developers work hard to stay ahead of them, but you need to do your part by ensuring that your virus checker and is up to date.
The same goes for other software on your computer or phone. When a company releases an updated version of one of your apps and asks you to update it, it’s often because they’ve fixed a security issue. By updating as requested, you close the door on potential attacks. Out of date software puts you at risk. Take the time to hit update, then download and install the fixes.
5. Improve your password
You’ve probably noticed that password strength requirements increase consistently. You can improve your security by updating any weak passwords you’ve been using for months or years. IT security experts recommend that you update your password regularly anyway.
When you update, think about the following:
* A strong password is at least nine characters long, has a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols, and is not a recognizable name or word.
* If you can’t remember seemingly random letters, taking the first letter from each word of a meaningful sentence can be helpful.
* A full sentence in its entirety, punctuation included, can also make an excellent password.
Sign out of applications; log out of your device
Our applications require so many passwords, usernames, and authentication techniques that logging out of each one can be off-putting. Still, logging out when you’ve finished using an app or website can make your digital life much more secure.
Someone sitting down at your device and accidentally finding your email inbox open is much more likely than the stereotypical image of a kid in a baseball cap accessing computers remotely. Some security breaches are simple, accidental, or opportunistic. Someone opens up a browser or hits the “back” button and finds themselves in your account.
To help avoid data breaches, take a few seconds to sign out of apps on your gadget and log out of the gadget itself or shut it down when you are no longer using it.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A virtual private network (VPN) masks your location and your device’s IP address while you are online. While active, a VPN makes you almost untraceable. This means that your browsing history – which is ordinarily visible to and can be stored by internet service providers (ISPs) – remains private.
Sometimes the government will demand that an ISP reveals customers’ browsing histories. Sometimes ISPs are hacked, just like other businesses. A VPN helps keep your data private and secure.
Now you know seven ways to improve your digital security. Apply at least one of these actions every time you use your devices. A few wise actions per day will enhance your protection online without taking a chunk out of your day.