Browsing on the Internet is not safe. News such as the data theft of 500 million user accounts from the popular email server Yahoo! are increasingly frequent; services such as the AV-Test warn us of the exponential growth of so-called malware (to the point that today, there are 390,000 new malware programs everyday); and Eurostat estimated that in 2015 a quarter of European citizens experienced security problems due to their Internet activity.
However, on a daily basis our Internet habits and actions make us vulnerable to becoming part of this statistics. How can you protect yourself from cybercrime when browsing the Internet?
This post is also available in Spanish.
How to minimize the risk of becoming a cyber attack victim
In order to put a stop to the enormous risks involved with Internet browsing, without needing any basic knowledge on how to protect our personal data, some organizations have worked to create useful events to provide information for consumers. In Spain, one example is the Live in a safe Internet campaign, promoted by the Spanish Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU), Google and The Spanish Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition or the Spanish Agency for Data Protection. An additional educational initiative is the International Safer Internet Day, which will be on February 7 in 2017.
Nevertheless, it is also necessary to remember from time to time, however obvious they may seem, some safety measures to ensure a safe and smooth Internet experience.
For this reason, in Signaturit we want to highlight eight recommendations to browse the Internet safely:
1. Frequently update your operating system
And not only your operating system, but also your apps and the programs that you use regularly. We often avoid these updates because they seem annoying, or because we think they somehow only serve to monetize these products in some way. Still, the reality is that they are used to incorporate patches to cover small security breaches that hackers are capable of opening daily.
2. Install a good antivirus and keep it updated
An antivirus is a type of software that we often view as outdated, but it still provides a guarantee to fight around 90% of harmful software that circulates on the Internet and can infiltrate our most mundane transactions.
3. Don't fall for any phishing traps
Don't open nor interact with emails that promise cures or miracle get-rich schemes, especially when they ask very specific questions… In case you open one of these fraud emails, never click on the links embedded in them. And if you notice in time, directly mark these emails as spam.
What is phishing?
It is a method used to fraudulently obtain confidential information - passwords, bank data, credit card numbers - and with that data commit a crime or scam.
The cyber criminal that uses this method is called a phisher. To steal this confidential information, a phisher will use a seemingly trustworthy person or company, communicating through an email, SMS/MMS or even through telephone calls.
Those who trust the message and click on one of the links will access a fake website and probably enter their personal data. The cyber criminals then use this data to commit a crime. Some possibilities include:
4. Avoid opening suspicious attachments
Correspondingly, avoid opening any suspicious attachments in your email correspondence, especially those that promise to update a software that you did not request.
5. Do not trust unknown wifi networks
When our 3G and 4G networks fail, desperation can lead us to enter questionable free wifis. These fraudulent networks can open the doors to your devices, and for that reason you should avoid them, especially if you are purchasing something online or making online banking transactions.
6. Browse URLs with the prefix HTTPS
Even wifis that are clearly identified as public and secure - such as those often available in hotels or restaurants - are especially vulnerable to attacks. Therefore, when using them you should assure that you are using URLs with the HTTPS prefix. Take advantage of private virtual networks (VPN) whenever you can.
7. At the end of the day, log off!
Whether you are using wifi in public, your home or workplace, make sure you always log off after having accessed and used different services. Even a computer in standby with open sessions could be enough of a loophole for a hacker to attack.
8. Choose safe passwords
Lastly, as much as possible, choose safe passwords - minimum 16 characters - and change them frequently. We highly recommend that you use a password manager, that will allow you to store and manage all your passwords safely from the same platform.
In reality, all these tips can be reduced to one: being aware that the Internet is a world full of possibilities, don't forget or underestimate its risks!
This post is also available in Spanish.