August 6, 2014Tyler Moffitt By Tyler Moffitt

8 Tips to Stay Safe Online


Yesterday, the New York Times published an exclusive story on what many are stating to be the largest series of hacks ever, all revealed by Hold Security in their latest report.  With a report of over 1.2 billion unique username-password combinations and over 500 million e-mail addressed amassed by a Russian hacker group dubbed CyberVol (vol is Russian for thief).  While the reactions among the security industry are mixed, with some researchers raising a few questions of the masterwork behind the hack, the story does bring to the public’s attention the necessity of strong, personal, online security policies for all aspects of the connected life.

As our researchers have shown in the past, gathering a collection of username and passwords can be easier than many think, with many scraping programs being sold on the deep-web market to the highest bidders.   And while some companies, including Hold Security, are offering paid solutions to help detect and monitor if their accounts have been breached, this does not change the fact that the first layer of security begins at the user.

To help at that level, we have made a list of 8 tips that can help you minimize the risks of your information being stolen and increase your safety online.

  1. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible.

Two-factor authentication adds another layer of security when logging into a website, be it e-mail, banking, or other websites.  Some websites, such as Google, will text you a code when you login to verify your identity, while others have small devices that you can carry around to generate the code.  Authenticator apps are also available on all major smartphone platforms. Other types of two-factor authentication do exist as well, so look in the settings of your banking, shopping, and e-mail hosts for the option.

  1. Signup for login notifications

This security layer is often used in place of two-factor authentication, including by websites such as Facebook.  If your account is accessed from an unfamiliar location, a notification is sent via e-mail, app, or text-message to the account holder.  This is a great layer of security that offers you on-the-go protection.  This feature, if offered, can usually be found in the security settings of the website, such as banking and social media, you are accessing.

  1. Use a secure password

We have all signed up for some website with a basic password, thinking there is no way that someone would want to hack our account.  But that may not be the case.  Setting an easy password on one website often leads to that password being used across many websites.  The easier you make it for a thief to brute-force access your account, the more likely you are to have your other accounts hacked.  By establishing a mixture of characters, numbers, and letters into a password, recommended to be 10 characters or more, you add a high level of difficulty for any brute-force password theft.

  1. Change your passwords regularly

There is a reason your office requires regular password changes for your e-mail.  Even if your password is compromised, by changing it regularly across all your accounts, you remove the chance of your account being accessed.  A pro-tip would be to set a reminder for every 90 days on your calendar with a link to all your accounts settings pages.  It makes it easiest to click through and make the changes regularly.

  1. Only access your accounts from secure locations

It might only be 30 seconds of access to your bank account on that free WiFi at the coffee shop, but if the network has been compromised, that is more than enough time to collect all the data needed for a thief.  While the convenience factor is there, if you must access the accounts, you might want to look into a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to ensure an encrypted connection to your home or work network.

  1. HTTPS access

In most browsers and information heavy websites, there is a way to force a HTTPS connection when available.  This connection adds another level of encrypted security when logging in, making it even more difficult for data thieves to gather your information when logging in.  To check if you are on a HTTPS connection, look for a padlock in the URL bar in the browser or check the URL itself for it to begin with HTTPS.

  1. Increase junk filtering and avoid clicking through on e-mails

You just received an e-mail letting you know that you have a new deposit pending and need to login and verify.  Many phishing schemes start with something looking very innocent and official, but lead unassuming users to websites designed to collect the information direct from you.  If you receive an e-mail from one of the account-holding websites, open a new tab and go direct to the website instead of clicking the links provided.  It adds only a few seconds to the access, but keeps you out of any legit-looking phishing websites. Most legitimate services will never ask you for your login credentials, so make sure to avoid giving out this information.

By increasing your level of junk filtering with your e-mail client as well, many of these e-mails will be caught before making it to your inbox.

  1. Use an up-to-date security program

Whether you use Webroot SecureAnywhere or another product on the market today, ensure you have the most up-to-date version and have the correct security settings enabled.  Security programs are designed to keep the malicious files such as keyloggers and data-miners off your computer and the user protected.  This direct layer of security ensures your devices, from phones to tablets to computers, are all protected when you are downloading and accessing files.  Note that some programs, such as Webroot SecureAnywhere, are always up-to-date and require no further action from the user.

While the threats to online accounts are out there, the tips to staying safe can help you stay protected and utilize features often already available by the companies and their websites, and most without costing you additional money.   The tips above should help ensure your security online while still providing the convenience online access offers.

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8 Responses to 8 Tips to Stay Safe Online

  1. Great Tips to stay safe at online. I don’t know how to Use two-factor authentication. I am also use an up-to-date security program. thank you. my blog: <a href=””>More about free antivirus</a>

  2. Thank you for this strong tips against the latest internet security breach. I have re posted this useful article for our regular readers.

  3. It is known that humans can firmly remember and
    correctly recall only 5 text passwords on average.

    At the
    root of the password problem is the cognitive phenomena called “interference of
    memory”, by which we cannot firmly remember more than 5 text passwords on
    average.What worries us is not the
    password, but the textual password.The
    textual memory is only a small part of what we remember.We could think of making use of the larger
    part of our memory that is less subject to interference of memory.More attention could be paid to the efforts
    of expanding the password system to include images, particularly KNOWN images,
    as well as conventional texts.

  4. EttaRadford Assume the entropy of a decryption key is 256 bits while that of the password for the decryption program is, say, 13 bit ( 4-digit PIN), the chances are that the data would be lost to the criminal who broke the password.  Cryptography is effective  so long as the cryptography software is protected by the reliable password.

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