Use the Internet more securely

padlock Internet security

On the 5th of February it was Safer Internet Day. Use of the Internet is inevitable for us all whether it be for personal or professional use. Yet you can still browse without feeling that you are exposing your information to all and sundry if you know what daily activities are potential pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Browsers

Your first port of call for browsing the Internet is your browser. These browsers provide your IP address as well as information about sites that you visit to web site operators. Web site operators use sophisticated methods with which to track your information but there are ways to circumvent these. Make use of your browser settings to restrict cookies and increase privacy levels. But remember that high privacy settings may prevent you from using online banking or shopping. If you are truly worried about your browsing information being applied inappropriately, make use of the “Private Browsing” or “Incognito” tool available on many browsers. Be warned, though, this tool may be undermined by the use of plug-ins and extensions.

Search Engines

Like browsers, search engines will also record your IP address, the search terms you frequently used and when you searched. Your search strings may be revealing information that you might not want on record such as typing in a search of your name and ID number and it then being retained in the archives. Even though search engines defend the storage of personal information as a means to help guard against security threats, the amount of time information is kept can be seen as excessive. Make use of a search engine such as Startpage by Ixquick as they remove all identifying information from your searches and submit it anonymously to Google. If you prefer staying with your traditional search engine make it a habit to use Ctrl-Shift-Del after you have finished in order to clear your browser history.

Separate e-mail from browsing

Use separate sites for your e-mail accounts than you would for your search engine needs. Obviously the site that hosts your e-mail account will ask for a password with which to sign in and this can make you vulnerable if you use the same site to search the Internet while signed in. Rather sign out after checking your e-mails and clear cookies before starting any other browsing, and also disable all automatic sign-ins.

Passwords

Tips on secure passwords we have all heard before but many people still neglect to use these tips. It may be easier to remember “1234” or “password” but it will be easier for those who want to access your information as well. The length of a password does not seem to be an issue anymore but rather what the password consists of. Do not use birthdates, the names of people you know, phone numbers, words that are found in any dictionary (foreign or otherwise) or the same word as your log-in. Rather use phrases that you use often or a song that you like and then convert it into different symbols. For example, if your favourite quote is “Be the change you want to see in the world” convert it into something like “BtC%W2CInT0”. But make it something that you can relate to or that makes sense to you.

An even better answer to creating a secure password would be to use password managers like KeePass and LastPass. With these you only need to remember one master password with which you will access all your other passwords. A single click will have you entering the account you want and no more entering passwords that others might see. These managers can also generate random passwords for you. Another thing to keep in mind is to never let your browser automatically save your password for easy access later. It may take a few more seconds of your time in the day but ultimately it is worth going through the small amount of effort to know that you are secure.

WiFi

WiFi may be convenient but it can pose a security risk. Each wireless router has a password that restricts access to its settings but it usually has a default, easy-to-guess password like “admin”. Change this to a more difficult password so that an outsider cannot configure your settings maliciously. Your SSID is the name of your network and it helps devices know that they are part of the same network. This identifying factor can be obtained automatically but rather set it up manually on both the router and all the computers in your network. Make sure you disable your SSID being broadcast to wireless devices for identification and make it less visible to intruders.

Encryption is not a given when it comes to wireless but to increase your connection security turn on your encryption. There are two types of encryption, namely WPA and WEP. Try to avoid using WEP as it is an old type and can be easily broken. Some routers only support WEP but then make an effort to get one that you can use WPA with. Disable auto connect so that you do not land up on a network that is unsecure without you knowing it. Along with this enable your built-in firewall, if you have one, on your wireless router to protect against attacks from the Internet.

 

Maxxor provides software consulting services to clients to help them manage all aspects of software development within their company, including employees’ security habits online. Contact us to start the consulting process.