Whether you live in West Island or elsewhere in Canada (or come to think of it anywhere the world), staying safe online is as important as it is in the “offline environment”. Indeed, in an age when we do shop, bank, and any number of other online activities, personal or work, you need to know how to protect yourself. Here are some handy pointers to help you stay safe.
An obvious one is to make sure your computer — PC or Mac — is running with some sort of anti-virus protection and with a decent firewall software in place.
There are many out there, with Norton, McAfee, and Kaspersky being the most well-known, although there are some good free options, too, from the likes of Avast and Panda. Windows Defender — which comes free with the latest versions of Windows, from version 8 on — is also pretty good. So be sure you switch it on, do a full system scan at least once a month, and download the latest updates.
Indeed, that applies to any form of software, especially if you are a PC user with Windows. If you are using an older system with Windows, you should seriously consider upgrading as the recent WannaCrypt/WannaCry and Petya malware scares have illustrated.
Yes, Microsoft did recently release updates for some older systems, but it has also stressed that this doesn’t mean that it will start supporting older systems again. So, don’t bank on anymore anytime soon.
Another important piece of advice is to make sure you don’t use the same passwords or passwords that are overly obvious. Always try to incorporate numbers and symbols, add a few upper and lowercase characters, and make sure they are at least 12-characters long in total (14-16, ideally).
If you want to make the process a lot simpler, opt for a password manager, which can help streamline passwords and some can even sync your information across a variety of devices. There are also a number of free ones out there, including those from LastPass and Dashline —listed last month as some of the best by TechRadar.
It is also important to watch what you put on social media and don’t give out loads of personal details. Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with people and share different experiences. However, it is important to think about what you want to put in the public domain and how it might be interrupted by others — be it friends, relatives, work colleagues, employers, and so on.
Sometimes, it is better to be prudent and only share information with certain people to retain some anonymity, as many professional gamers, sports personalities, and other famous figures will testify, it can be difficult to get anything removed once it is out there. So, think carefully before you post anything on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram etc., etc., and if in doubt, it is probably best not to click “share”.
You should always be mindful about scam emails as well, and never, ever, open attachments or click on links unless you are sure of the source of the email. If you get any phishing scam emails, report them and then delete.
Lastly, whenever you shop or make payments online, make sure that the URL at the top is displaying “https”, as that means any data transmitted is secure (hence the “s”). So, in short, be just as vigilant at home while online as you would while out and about. Because ultimately, because you can be targeted in just the same way — don’t let your guard down and above all else, stay safe.