A Summer Privacy Reminder: Be Secure Out There!

ipad-summerIt’s glorious summer, a perfect time to check e-mail from our phones while taking sunshine breaks, post updates on the kids’ outdoor revelry, share photos and videos of the kids on vacation, shop for new swimsuits, get updated on daily news, stream summer jams, visit the virtual bank (via apps), and binge on the newest Netflix releases (Orange Is the New Black, anyone?).

We are so busy living simultaneously online and offline that we rarely stop to think: How secure am I right now? Here are some suggestions for keeping your digital experience safe and private this summer.

Safe Navigation
When you’re surfing the web, do you ever pay attention to the URL of the site you’re on to see if it has “https” on the left? If you haven’t noticed it before, you should start looking for it now.

Historically, HTTPS connections were primarily used for payment transactions on the World Wide Web, e-mail and for sensitive transactions in corporate information systems. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, HTTPS began to see widespread use for protecting page authenticity on all types of websites, securing accounts and keeping user communications, identity and web browsing private.

If there’s no “s” after the “http,” you’re not on a secure website. If you don’t see the “s,” don’t immediately panic. If its an informational news site or blog, you should be fine. However, if it’s a site that requires you to create an account, allows you to purchase, or asks for you to provide information, steer clear.

More than often, a site without the “s” means you are not on the site you think you are, but are checking out a “spoof” site designed to fool you. This is called a Phishing site. Make sure all personal banking and shopping sites you visit have “https” in the URL.

Password Strength
Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 12.05.24 PMYou’re only as safe as your credentials (log-in information) will let you be.

If your credentials are easy to remember, commonly used (like “password”), something you’re proud of (like your children’s names), or are displayed prominently on a sticky-note on your desktop monitor, your log-ins are at risk of attack or unauthorized usage.

Using the same password for everything (e-mail account, online banking, social media or streaming service, etc.) is a big mistake. When you re-use the same password for log-in on multiple sites, you’re creating another possible leak to your own security. Try to change your passwords often.

Always set up your security questions with answers that don’t make sense to anyone else, but answers you can remember. An example I like to share is this: Question: What is your favorite color? Answer: Harley Davidson. When you have the chance to set up two-step authentication, do it. The more authentication you can have on any account, the safer you’ll be.

And do not fall for those online quizzes that ask you all the same security questions! For example: What was your first school? What was the name of your first pet? They may seem like an opportunity to share nostalgic fun, but they’re actually phishing for private information access points.

Mobile App Purchases/Use
Monitor the legitimacy and professionalism of the apps you download. The top devices on the Mobile market are Apple iPhones, iPads, and iPods, and Android phones and mobile tablets.

Apple is extremely careful about letting apps into the App Store. So any app you put on your iPhone has probably received a fair amount of scrutiny by Apple prior to its Apple Store appearance. Even still, I always check out app ratings and reviews for good judgment to check if the app will serve my needs or not.

Android, on the other hand, be a bit more careful with. Android applications do not go through the same level of scrutinization; therefore, you will want to rely on the ratings and reviews of Android apps you see in the Google PlayStore.

If you get your Android apps from any other place, be very careful. I upload and activate a security antivirus app, an app killer, and a health monitor on my Android devices. But once again, carefully check the reviews and ratings for not only Android security apps, but all apps in general. Some apps are designed to look like a game or personal app (clones apps of real games, or just snake-oil apps), and they can hijack your Droid OS and cause serious problems.

A great majority of app companies work hard to protect you and your data. Additionally, companies like NowSecure help improve mobile security for enterprise businesses. This sort of secure technology for companies, especially in the testing phase of product development, helps increase privacy and safety overall by detecting issues early.

Safety Software Support
There are different types of protection for computers and mobile devices. Computers can have firewall, antivirus, anti-malware, ad blockers, pop-up blockers, and sandbox applications all designed to protect against open-port, browser-based, and/or e-mail based attacks

For antivirus software solutions, you can run Norton (Symantec), McAfee, Kaspersky, AVG, Avast, Avira, Trend Micro, Sophos, ESET, MacKeeper, Intego, or ClamAx for PC or Mac platforms. But these are only as good as the latest antivirus definition updates, and they can’t stop all possibilities of being breached.

For anti-malware/spyware software solutions, you can run Malwarebytes, Adaware, Spybot Search & Destroy, Emsisoft, Zemana, or IObit Malware Fighter on PC or Apple OS X computers. Once again, these applications are only as effective as the latest anti-malware definition updates, so keep updating whenever a new version is available.

If you’re somewhat of a techie, you may have a firewall application set up, such as ZoneAlarm, VIPRE, Bitdefender, Agnitum Outpost, or Comodo, to name a few. All are designed to protect your computer as a software barrier against unwanted access and intrusions. There are also sandbox applications you can run to create an isolated area of your desktop to access and run installation applications. By boxing in your applications, any bad code is unable to corrupt files and compromise your operating system.

vacationKeep yourself safe and secure this summer so you can focus on the bigger things, like activities and family fun!

Cathy Brown-Mort
Project Manager

This entry was posted in Best Practices, Digital Engagement, Social Media and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Talk Back

Posted on July 27, 2015

Awesome article! I intend to share with my friends and family. A lot can be learned from this.
Thank you

Ryan B.
Posted on July 14, 2015

Great article!

When it comes to saving passwords, I always opt out on having my browser/computer save my information whether it would be my own computer or a shared computer.

Like with your contacts list on your phone, I find that you run the risk of forgetting your password while at the same time, increasing the chances of any unauthorized access.

It’s always good reminder to stay safe on the Internet, especially when it comes to password and login management.

Get On Your Soapbox