ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

5 Practical Security Tips For 2016

Updated on February 15, 2016

If you surf for computer security advice, you’ll probably find a lot of the same statements being repeated.
Some of them have been repeated so many times that we don’t always stop to wonder whether they’re still actually useful given the modern ways computer systems are attacked.
With that in mind, we’ve re-examined the most common tips around and asked ourselves:
which are the ones that will actually help users in a practical sense? That way, you’ll come away with a small pool of advice that’ll keep you safe, instead of lots of things to do that might not make much of a difference in the long term. Because, after all, the best security advice is the stuff you can actually follow without too much effort.

1. Enable Two-Factor Authentication

The easiest way to gain access to your email (or other secure account) is to get hold of your password. Whether it’s stolen from a site’s database, intercepted over an unsecure connection, or phished from you directly, it’s usually enough.
However, two-factor authentication (2FA) means that anyone logging in on an unrecognised device has to also be verified through a second channel. This usually means sending a code through a previously agreed channel – it may be a text message, a phonecall, an alert through an app or even an email to a secondary account – without which, the login can’t be completed. You probably already do a similar thing for your online banking, where a login code is generated from your debit card. That’s the ‘second factor’ in the login.
Essentially, 2FA means that even a stolen username and password isn’t enough to access an account. Even if the password is weak and easily guessed, there’s an extra security measure in place. The method isn’t perfect – it can still be beaten if someone steals your phone, hacks your email or takes control of your PC, and if you haven’t got a verified channel available then accessing your own account get a little tricky (and frustrating) – but if you want to keep your email and social media accounts safe, it’s worth doing anywhere that supports it.

2. Keep Your Popular Software Patched

Security vulnerabilities exist in almost every program, but you don’t have to worry about obscure packages almost no-one uses. Hackers and malware writers concentrate on the software security holes that give them the best chance of infecting the most users, and that means exploiting programs that are on almost every PC.
Unpatched software is one of the leading security threats on a system, because as soon as a fix is released, hackers can begin reverse-engineering the update to find out what it was – and then writing software that’ll deliberately target the unpatched users.
Obviously, your operating system and browser should be kept up to date, but there are other programs that are as widespread which may not be as obvious. Java, for example, is on almost every PC – but because you don’t run it separately, you may not remember to keep it updated.

Similarly, Adobe Flash and Acrobat Reader are commonly installed but rarely attended to. It’s no surprise that all three of those programs have automatic update processes, and while it may seem irritating or inconvenient, allowing them to update as soon as they want to is the best way to remain secure

3. Don’t Re-Use Passwords

Although it’s important to use passwords that can’t be easily broken, it’s actually more important that you don’t use the same password everywhere.
I’d probably even advise using lots of weak passwords above a single very secure one, because you never know how and where companies are storing your information. If they haven’t encrypted your password securely enough and it gets stolen (as we’ve seen happen to so many huge sites and services in the last year or two) then everything you use will immediately be at risk, regardless of how secure you password is.
If you struggle to remember passwords, you may want to use a service like 1Password to
manage your logins. This will mean you only have to remember your 1Password master login but allows you to use a different password for every service, so you get the best of both worlds. It’ll even generate a password for you if you like.
Arguably, it does introduce a risk in that your password safe might be cracked, but it’s much easier to keep a password for one service secure than tens of them.
Besides which, most password safes will allow you to use 2FA to restrict access even further, so the chance of anyone getting in is very low even if you accidentally reveal the login credentials.

4. Lock Your Devices

One good habit to get into is to lock devices when you’re not sitting at them, and make sure you require a password or code to unlock them. This mostly applies when you are in communal situations – using your computer at work, at school/university or in an Internet café, perhaps – but it does also mean making sure your vital information can’t be accessed by anyone who may have broken into your house while you’re not in, wandered into your room during a party, or opened up your tablet without your knowledge .
Locking a device is important for two reasons: firstly it protects your files, and secondly it protects you from the bad online behaviour of others. Should a device be used for anything illegal in your absence, the authorities and/or owners only have your word that you weren’t the one responsible. Even if it’s your own system, an unauthorised user might take the opportunity to install malware so they can access your system remotely later on.
You don’t have to be a spy to have a computer worth protecting, and when it’s so easy to do – if you’re using Windows, just press Windows Key + L, for example – it’s worth getting into the habit of doing it.

5. Use A Secure Browser

If you’re anything like us, the vast majority of the time you spend on your computer is spent inside a browser window. That means keeping your browser secure is analogous to keeping your PC secure. While Internet Explorer has improved its security massively in the last few years, it’s still the slowest entry in a three-horse race. Unless you have accessibility needs or software requirements that can’t be met by browsers other than Internet Explorer, you should definitely consider switching to Firefox or Chrome, both of which are vastly superior to Microsoft’s browser – and typically faster and more standards-compliant too! Microsoft Edge is more secure than Internet Explorer, but the jury’s still out as to whether it’s better than the others. Certainly, it has fewer features, and that makes it hard to recommend.
As for which of the alternatives is best, it’s ultimately hard to say. Chrome is typically regarded as the most secure due to its high volume of security updates – they come nearly twice as often as most browsers – but Firefox is a close second and has a lot more features for both security and other uses.
Whichever you choose, you can always improve security using plug-ins and tools of anti-virus/anti-spam like Disconnect, Blur, DNSCrypt, Ghostery and Altospam, which help anonymise your traffic and prevent interception and tracking by third parties. Most malware gets in through malicious code that can be blocked, so it’s worth taking the opportunity.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)