6 must-do things to protect yourself online

What you'll get from this guide

6 easy things we should all be doing to connect safely

Most of which are free and you can do right now

Recommendations for password managers

And why you should use one to begin with

01   Didn't initiate?  Don't reciprocate

02   Secure your network

03   Use two-factor authentication

04   Look for encryption

05   Use a password manager

06   Backup your data

According to Leonard Snipes, the former director of information services for the National Crime Prevention Counsil, "The overwhelming majority of burglars enter through an open unlocked door or window."

For the most part, cyber burglars are no different.  And in most cases, victims unknowingly hand over all the tools that cybercriminals need to conduct their schemes.  The dominant strategy of scammers and hackers is virtually the same as their home burglary counterparts:  to knock on enough doors until eventually finding one that is unlocked.

Are you leaving any doors unlocked?  Here are 6 easy things you can do right now to make sure you're locking the doors to your online privacy.

01   Didn't initiate?  Don't reciprocate

Phishing is what scammers commonly use to trick you into handing over your personal information.  A report from the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center determined that people lost $57 million to phishing schemes in one year alone.

Often times phishing takes the form of an email or text disguised as being sent from a company you know and trust.  Frequently the scammer will ask you to click on a link or download an attachment, perhaps to resolve a billing issue or some other seemingly urgent concern.  The scammer's message might even use a legitimate company header and logo, and to the naked eye might appear trustworthy.

If the message contains poorly written, misspelled language, or if it doesn't address you by name while trying to instill panic upon you by trying to get you to "act immediately,", then it's likely phishing.  But if the message doesn't have those signs, don't assume it's safe.  Instead, contact the company directly through your own means.

02   Secure your network

Your understanding of network security correlates to your understanding of how data moves.  To help, here's an analogy.  Using a network internet connection is actually quite similar to using the mail.  When you send a birthday card to a friend through the post office, it leaves your hands, goes to the post office, and arrives at its destination, having changed hands a few times on different vehicles.

When you're connected to the internet, you're sending and receiving letters (i.e., data) through your post office (i.e., your Wi-Fi network).  If a bad actor intercepts the birthday card (i.e., watching cat videos online), it's probably not a big deal.  But if it was your tax return (i.e., entering a password to your bank account), it absolutely would be.​  Here are a few things you can do:

Change your admin credentials

This isn't your Wi-Fi password—this is completely separate, and incredibly important.

 

Most manufactures ship their routers with the same default username and password to control the admin portal, and if you've never changed it then it doesn't matter if you locked the gate with a strong Wi-Fi password because you're leaving the front door wide open with default admin credentials.  Some routers allow you to change the username, while others just let you change the password.

Your router provides instructions for how to do this, but join the herd and we'll walk you through it.

03   Use two-factor authentication

You might give up some convenience by having to open two gates every time you leave your house, but that's essentially what two-factor authentication is.

Having a strong password should go without saying, but two-factor authentication recognizes that passwords alone aren't strong enough.  This collection of 1.4 billion stolen passwords proves that.  The embarrassingly mild password "123456" was found 9.2 million times.

2FA works by confirming your login by checking another device, using your fingerprint, or by adding a personal question.

04   Look for encryption

 

Validating a website's SSL (secure sockets layer) certification sounds complicated, but it's the easiest thing you can do to protect yourself online.

The next time you're shopping online or entering personal information, or even right now on our site, take a peek at the URL at the top of your browser.  If it starts with "https://", then it's encrypted.  If there's no "s" following "http", then we do not recommend sharing any personal or financial information with that website.

 

Today's browsers have made this process easier by adding a padlock icon to the URL bar.  If it's closed, you're good.  If it's open, be cautious.

Authentication.png

05   Use a password manager

According to research by the password manager NordPass, the average person has between 70 and 80 passwords.  If they're all unique, strong passwords, there's no way anybody can remember all of them.  So most passwords are either weak enough to remember, or strong enough to need an encrypted password manager in which case you only need to remember one password.

A password manager is going to allow you to securely access your passwords on any device, but it's usually not free—we don't get paid to recommend any of these, but these popular options offer a limited, free option and then start at a few bucks per month:

NordPass

No extra bells or whistles, but incredibly easy to use.

Most

simple

Keeper

All kinds of advanced stuff you may not use, but  good to have.

Most sophisticated

Bitwarden

The only open-source option, but it's been audited by 3rd parties.

Best free 

option

Dashlane

The only one that offers a free VPN if you use public Wi-Fi a lot.

Best

Value

06   Backup your data

Many victims of cyber attacks don't realize that recovering financial losses often becomes the least of concern.  In many cases, victims embark on a long journey of trying to recover their identity, and are unable to recover their data from a device infected with malware.  So if you value your digital assets like your files, photos, videos, documents and emails, we suggest backing up your data regularly.

We dedicated a how-to backup guide for how to do that, but at HelpHerd we follow the 3-2-1 backup rule.  It's quite simple: keep at least three (3) copies of your data stored on two (2) different types of media with one (1) copy stored off-site.  How often you do this depends on the importance of your data, but a good rule of thumb is to backup your data as often as you're comfortable losing it.

 

It's also just good practice in case of a natural disaster, a malfunctioning fire sprinkler, human error or overall device failure.

To have us walk you through how to protect your digital life,

join the herd.

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