Easy ways to protect yourself online
In the digital age, few things are more important than online security. We store everything from our vital documents to our credit histories in the cloud and on our personal devices now, and keeping all of that information safe is more urgent than ever.
Unfortunately, keeping your online accounts and data secure can be confusing, and it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between legitimate security products and services and dangerous malware.
Thankfully, there are some simple ways that you can protect yourself, no matter what your cyber skill level. If you've been meaning to learn more about keeping your data and devices safe, don't put it off any longer: now is the time to integrate the security practices and products that will minimize your risk of data or identity theft.
Protect your accounts with two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication (sometimes called 2FA) is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent unauthorized logins to an account. Two-factor authentication means that once you've logged in with a username and password, a signal or numeric code is sent to a separate device for further validation. Once you enter the code or validate the signal from the secondary device, you're granted access.
The idea behind multi-factor authentication is that a password isn't enough to get in, and a second validation step prevents any third parties with your password from gaining access. If you've ever tried to log in to a website and you've been sent a numeric code on your phone, you've participated in a two-factor authentication transaction.
Most of the big online names support two-factor authentication, so now is the time to properly enable your accounts with Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Amazon -- along with any other services you use that support it. To learn more, search the web for instructions on how to set up two-factor authentication for each of your most important accounts.
There are several different ways to go about using 2FA. Most involve either a smartphone or a physical security key like a Yubikey. Refer to each account's security policies to learn more about the multi-factor authentication options they offer.
Use a password manager
Using the same password for multiple sites has never been a good idea because it allows anyone else who knows it to access more than one account. Even if you have clever passwords for each of your accounts that you never forget, it's still a better idea to use a password manager that will create randomized passwords for you and eliminate the risk of anything being guessed.
Most password managers work on the same general principles: you create a master password, and it tracks every other password for you. A good password manager will also let you know when it's time to update your passwords and help you identify accounts where you've used the same password.
The most common password managers are LastPass, Dashlane, and Keeper. Most password manager services work across multiple devices, so you can have access from your smartphone or tablet as well.
Adopt strong security behaviors
In addition to taking steps like enabling 2FA and using a password manager, it's important to learn the ongoing behaviors you'll need to stay safe. Here are the ones to adopt immediately.
Never write down a password. Don't create a physical record of your passwords; this opens you up to threats from anyone else who sees the data.
Update your passwords at least twice a year. This may sound like a long and tedious process, but with a good password manager, it should take only a few hours. Keeping your passwords updated and using good password practices (like creating long passwords with special characters) will help reduce the risk of a data breach affecting your personal data.
Enable a passcode on your smartphone. If you don't have a lock-screen passcode on your smartphone, enable it immediately. Locking your phone can prevent thieves from gaining access to your data or accounts if they steal it; it's also good for keeping prying eyes out of your business.
Your best defense: self-awareness
Web security is a bit of a cat-and-mouse game, so staying safe means staying vigilant about new threats and new best practices as the internet evolves. Your best bet will always be self-awareness: understanding the areas where you need to protect yourself and adopting the right corresponding security measures. Don't put it off!
Jaime Vazquez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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