Simple tricks to improve your online security

2017 just started and it’s a great opportunity to remind you of ways to keep yourself and your devices (computers, smartphones and other connected devices) safe online:

  • Make sure you have security products installed (Antivirus, Firewall, …) and kept up-to-date constantly.
  • Stay updated, keep your operating system, drivers and software up-to-date since updates fix security vulnerabilities!
  • Don’t download from unknown sources or app stores (for smartphones and tablets, use AppStore / Google Play).
  • Don’t open strange emails and links even from people or businesses you know (Legitimate banks and businesses won’t ask for passwords and other sensitive details via emails, texts, etc…)
  • Use complex passwords that contain both small and capital letters, numbers and special characters. Manage passwords with KeePass, 1Password or other similar apps that generate strong passwords and save them encrypted.
  • Don’t just enable macros in Office documents, malware use social engineering to convince you to enable them in order to infect the machine so be vigilant, even from known and trustworthy sources.
  • Use 2 factor authentication on sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Look out for suspicious websites, make sure that for know sites, the URL contains HTTPS and that important sites (banks, shops, etc…) are identified by name in the browser’s address bar (known as extended validation certificate).

But it’s the new year, so it’s the best time to also learn new and less known tricks that can increase your safety:

  • A few known security companies released free Anti-ransomware tools: Cybereason’s RansomFree, Kaspersky’s tool (for businesses), BitDefender’s tool & Malware-Bytes’ tool.
  • Many short links services like bit.ly show additional information when adding “+” (plus sign) to the URL, can be used to verify the link leads to safe & known sites (example).
  • Use QR scanners with built in safety mechanism like Norton Snap (Android, iOS), Kaspersky’s QR Reader (Android, iOS), etc…
  • Use SUMo, Update Notifier, Hippo App Manager or the like to automatically keep you software up-do-date.
  • If you have to open unsafe files, use software like Sandboxie to keep them contained (not a replacement for a good security product).
  • When you hear of data breaches, use Have-I-Been-Pwned to check if your email/account got leaked.
  • When connecting to public USB charger ports, make sure you use power USB cable only, since data cable might be used to gain access to your device or steal information from it.
  • Some malware can encrypt or delete your cloud backup (DropBox, Google Drive and others), so if possible, don’t keep your account constantly connected to the device (mainly on Windows PCs) so your backups will stay intact if you get infected.
  • Also, make sure you have an additional backup on an external hard disk or disk-on-key that is not permanently connected to your computer (an offline backup).
  • Track lost or stolen smartphone or erase content remotely on your Android / Apple device.
  • On the latest versions of Android, you can use a Guest Account whenever you need to share your device.
  • Don’t connect to every free WiFi hot spot in unknown locations, they might be used to gain access to your device or steal information from it.
  • Use browser extensions to improve privacy and potentially block malvertisement (malicious ads) like AdBlock+, uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere.
  • If you like Chrome but want more security then consider using Opera web browser since it shares Chrome’s code but also contains a built-in ad-blocker and VPN for free.
  • Linux is known to be safer than Windows, if you mainly use your computer for simple tasks (internet browsing, Office, etc…), consider trying Ubuntu or other Linux distributions, they’re free and more user-friendly than ever.

We hope these tips and tricks will keep you safe so feel free to share them with others.

Happy & safe new year,

Deceptive Bytes team