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The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), a non-profit public-private partnership that promotes awareness and education on cyber-security and privacy in the United States of America, has shared some tips to enhance personal security in an era when the boundary between our digital and personal lives is quickly vanishing. With the world becoming more and more connected, NCSA advises that individuals should also commit to staying safe and secure when online, in order to protect personal data.
“Today, so many of us are always connected. As we think about how to better safeguard our virtual lives, we’ve identified quick and easy tips that will help keep you on a safe and secure track year-round,” says Michael Kaiser, Executive Director, NCSA. “If you implement these five reliable practices, you will enjoy the benefits of connectivity with greater confidence. And, if you can convince your family and friends to do the same, we will all be safer and more secure online in 2017 and in years to come.”
To ensure better and secure online life, NCSA provides individuals the following five tried and tested tips:
1. Lock down your login—A study by NCSA had found that 72% of Americans believe that usernames and passwords are enough to secure their online accounts like email, eCommerce, banking and social media. As hackers keep evolving their attacking techniques and websites and apps keep collecting user data, users should also evolve the ways in which they secure their accounts and therefore their personal information. NCSA suggests:
Use the strongest authentication tools/apps like biometrics, unique one-time code and security keys;
The password should be a sentence which has a minimum of 12 characters;
Have separate passwords for separate accounts;
Write down your password and keep it in a safe place away from your computer/mobile device;
2. Device safety—To ensure the safety of devices, which include computers, mobile devices, smart phones, wearables, fitness trackers, gaming systems and other IoT devices, NCSA suggests: Users should always keep them updated with the latest operating system, web browser and security software. This would ensure updated defense against malware, viruses and other cyber-threats;
Any external device or USB should be first scanned by the system’s security software;
IoT devices, wearables and mobile devices, are constantly collecting personal data about the users. To ensure safety of this data, users should connect such devices only through a secure router.
Become aware about the processes for keeping such devices secure over time;
3. Connection safety—When online, the following safety measures should be adopted:
Do not access and delete any suspicious links in social media posts, emails and online advertisements;
Adjust device security settings to limit who can access it;
When banking or making payments online, check if the site is security enabled. Websites that have addresses starting with “https://” or “shttp://,” are secure, Web addresses starting with “Http://” are not secure.
Be wary of requests for personal information;
Be careful with communications that push you to immediately act;
If something sounds too good to be true, then be extra careful;
4. Own Your Online Presence —NCSA suggests that individuals need to become aware about online practices like:
Personal information like purchase history is also valuable. Be aware about who and how this information is accessed;
The security and privacy settings on personal devices and web services should be set at a level at which the individual is comfortable to share personal information;
Before posting information online or on a social media site, be aware and think about what the post reveals, who will be able to see it, how will others perceive it now and also in the future.
5. Digital cleanse—NCSA advices that a good way to start the New Year would be to clean up:
Emails—clean up your emails and retain only the important ones. Unsubscribe to unwanted emails;
Files—delete or archive old files and outdated financial statements;
Electronics—when disposing of old electronic devices, wiping data is not enough. Find ways to shred disks, hard drives and memory cards;
Backup—important information should be backed up into another drive, or to a secure cloud site. All backup should be password protected;
Trash—make sure to permanently delete all files from your trash;
Practising good online habits and being thoughtful about yourself when online, would ensure that users can control access to their information. Individuals should keep checking trusted websites to improve their knowledge about latest security related information and share the same with family, friends and colleagues, apart from encouraging them to be web wise.
Any stolen finances or identity theft or any other cyber-crime should be immediately reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov). It should also be reported to the local law enforcement agency or state attorney-general, as appropriate.