It’s been a rough year for cybersecurity. Among the myriad breaches, breaks, hacks and other cyber threats, it’s incredibly clear that for most, internet security is still a foreign subject.
Among the more frequent attacks this year is phishing schemes, which target unsuspecting victims through an email or text message. When a user opens the message and clicks the link inside, their network becomes infected with a type of malware that gives the hacker a virtual doorway into their network.
One of the biggest cases of phishing schemes this year was the recent ransomware attack involving Google Docs. Hackers sent out thousands of Google Doc invites with a malicious link contained in the message. When someone clicked the link, the ransomware immediately infected and took over their browser, holding their network ransom.
While phishing schemes aren’t exactly new — in fact, they’ve been around since long before the internet — the way hackers are beginning to deploy them is becoming more advanced. In the case above, hackers were able to copy the Google authenticity seal in their emails, giving these messages a more authentic look which, in turn, was able to fool more people.
As hackers begin to utilize new technology, so, too, should everyone else. To keep up with the ever-evolving landscape of cyberattacks today, here are 4 helpful security tips you should start using immediately.
- Take advantage of free browser add-ons and extensions
There are hundreds of free Chrome and Firefox extensions developed with your security in mind. Tools like UBlock Origin, which helps automatically blocks ads, pop-ups, and third-party scripts, and Privacy Badger, which blocks trackers and other potentially harmful cookies, are two great (and free) examples.
Both extensions work silently in the background and help keep your network safe. As a bonus, they also contribute to reducing all that advertorial clutter you often see on some websites. In some cases, they can even speed up loading times.
Of course, you can also whitelist sites you wish to receive ads from, though we only recommend doing this with sites you know and trust.
- Know when to use private windows (and when not to)
A common misnomer is that private windows keep your browsing information secret. While opening a private window may help keep your browser history safe from the next person to use your computer, your all-knowing internet service provider still keeps tabs on the sites and services you visit, regardless of which browser you use. It’s also worth noting that employers and websites themselves can see your browsing history too.
Still, private windows DO have their benefits. They’re a great way to help bypass pesky cookies and other tiny tidbits of information that slowly follow your search history and accrue over the years. They’re also super helpful for when you’re using someone else’s computer or for when you want to log onto multiple email addresses.
- Use a VPN
Now, if you really want to browse privately, you’re going to want to use a VPN. Short for virtual private network, VPNs are safe and easy ways to encrypt your network and anonymize your browser. When you connect to a VPN server, you’re able to take on another IP address in the location of your choice. A user living in New York could connect to a VPN server in Paris and browse the web as if they were in France.
When it comes to picking the best VPN, there are a few key things to look for. First, make sure the VPN provider doesn’t keep logs, as the main reason behind VPN use is the fact that they offer anonymous browsing. Second, check and make sure the VPN hosts their own servers.
Paid VPNs often use the revenue to create and maintain their own networks, meaning they’re able to offer faster speeds with more encryption protocols. Free VPNs cannot compete with a paid service, and you should be wary of how they fund their servers—it’s possible that they sell your data to gather funds.
- Always, always, always update your network when prompted
Software developers continually roll out updates and software patches because the software developers are working to fix any potential leaks or flaws that hackers could take advantage of.
While Mac users are typically running the latest OS updates, one of the biggest issues with Windows is the fact that it gives users a choice of when — if ever — they want to update their software.
The WannaCry ransomware attack, which infected more than 30,000 computers in less than 48 hours, was able to target victims who were using outdated browsers individually.
If more people had simply updated their software, they would never have been at risk.
Stay one step ahead
Don’t let hackers get the upper hand. Take advantage of these tips and start browsing smarter, safer, and happier today.
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