Education & Tech
By Camille McClane*
The need for cyber security is an unfortunate reality in today’s world, where hackers and other malicious folk can readily hijack unprotected websites and wreak havoc with the owner’s reputation and personal data. You know you need security, but you’re not exactly an expert and might be feeling a little overwhelmed about where to even begin. Here are some useful yet simple tips for ensuring your own web security is as tight as it needs to be:
Update Your Script
You’ll want to protect and update the script your site is built on up-to-date to ensure your site is protected from any old exploits or backdoors. If you hired a developer you’ll want to have them teach you to do this on your own for your particular site so that you don’t have to pay them every time to you need an update.
Create Strong Passwords
Passwords are unavoidable, but you’ll want to understand how to create a strong one to keep yours safe. The first thing you think of is probably similar to the first thing most people think of. Your initials, birthday, spouse, etc. are all far too easy to guess for a hacker and considering the amount of personal info you may have on social media, a lot of your personal data is easy to figure out. Keep your passwords around 12 digits long, full of numbers, letters (lower upper case) and symbols that are hard to guess but easy for you to remember.
If you have a bad memory, try making a story out of it in your head to help with a more challenging password. If your password is JQ6LS8*T9! then you’re story could be "Johnny Quest had a crew of only 6 so he got Lost in Space and ate (8) stars (*) Til 9pm!" It doesn’t have to make sense, just keep it something simple that you can picture in your mind all at once. Odds are you’ve already nearly memorized the example password above. Change your password every few months and write them down.
Better Security Questions
Similar to the password issue, your security questions ought to be things that you know that aren’t easily accessible via the Internet. Avoid things like “Mother’s maiden name.” Instead choose the city where you met your spouse, or the model of your first car. If you can create your own questions, be creative but not so creative that you outsmart your future self if you happen to need the answer. Write them down, secure them nearby and change them every few months, just like your password.
Secure Networks Only
Avoid Unfamiliar Links
The perpetrators of phishing scams (a method of tricking someone into revealing usernames and passwords) have gotten very skilled at impersonating seemingly trustworthy websites. If your financial institution is contacting you out of the blue, or a website you haven’t visited in ages suddenly needs you to amend your account info, be wary. Scammers often use authentic logos, message templates and alter their name to fool people.
Often there are grammatical errors or other signs of an unprofessional message, but the smoking gun is always the email address itself. As scammers cannot actually send email via the institution itself, they will change the display name while the actual reply address will be a mixture of numbers and letters. If the domain name doesn’t match the financial institution itself, it’s probably bogus.
The safest way is to navigate to the authentic page yourself and login there, never using the links provided in the email.
Separate Recovery Email
For most of your logins and passwords associated with your site, you’ll need to provide a recovery email. Rather than use your normal address that you use for everything else, create one specifically for recovery. Make it easy to remember but hard to guess (avoid your name or personal info) and never list it anywhere online, especially not on your page itself. It should be an island unto itself and serve only as a backup in case you forget your login info.
(*) Camille McClane is a writer, researcher and marketer who enjoys creating content involving tech, business, social media, web security and psychographics. She hopes you enjoy this article, and that it will help you keep your site safe!
Education & Tech
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