14 Aug 2019

How to be Protected in an Increasingly Connected World

Written by Kristian Rusten

Our digital neighbourhood isn’t what it used to be. We can’t leave our electronic doors open anymore. Connected life is increasingly hostile and difficult to control, but here are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe in the technological world.

The internet can be a rough place. It exposes us to things like fraud, data theft, privacy issues, and even blackmail. And while the threats of being part of the digital world can seem overwhelming, there are things you can do to mitigate the risks.

We’re going to run through some easy steps anyone can take to keep themselves safe from digital dangers. With a few tools and a couple of guiding principles, digital security is easy.

The Physical Barrier to Digital Harm

There’s a great place to start with digital security. Physical security. A lot of what we see as ‘hacking’ is relatively straightforward network and systems access. And against that, physical security is your first line of digital defence.

You need to have strong password protection on any computer, network, or device. For workplaces, it’s a good idea to have managed and restricted access to offices. Try to lock hardware down too. It’s no good having some incredible software security system if someone can walk into your office and carry your server away.

Secure Passwords

Passwords can be a nightmare. It seems just taking a breath while online requires a password, and those passwords all have to be more and more complex. Of course, we end up forgetting them. And if we go the other way and repeat the same thing over and over, we could give away all our accounts with one compromised password.

So, start using a password manager like LastPass. You pick one, bulletproof passphrase and LastPass does the rest for you. It will generate complex, randomised passwords which are far harder to crack than ‘YourPet123’. It will then autofill passwords to log you in whenever you need them. It’s also got some great features which can make it easy to give and restrict access to employees and teams, making it fantastic for organisations.

This means more security and less hassle, an elegant solution for our password problems.

Be Aware of Your Data

Data is valuable and it can be used against you. You need to manage the information you share online. If the thought of someone with malicious intent knowing what you’re sharing with Random Webpage #573 makes you uneasy, don’t give it to them.

Distrust is a sound policy. Asking yourself why a platform would need certain information and avoiding those which ask for too much is a smart tactic. If you do choose to give that information, at least go to the settings of the platform and make as much of it visible only to you as possible.

For workplaces, any database should be treated like a vault. Keep access restricted to those who need it and extend the same protocol to your filing systems. The consequences of data breaches for any organisation are huge, so do as much as you can to avoid it.

Don’t Click on and Connect to Everything

There’s a decent mantra to have whenever you’re in a digital space; ‘Just Don’t’. Don’t click on that random link. Don’t connect to that open WIFI. Don’t open that email attachment. Just Don’t.

The sad truth about digital fraud is that, so often, we do it to ourselves. We downloaded this, we connected to that, we put our password there and, at the end of the day, we gave Holly McHacker access to our online treasure chest.

Cynicism is a good philosophy on the internet. Enjoy it on your terms and ignore the push to go to random websites. And never, ever, ever-ever, give a username, a password, or personal information to any website you haven’t arrived at independently, even if it looks like a site you know and love.

Virtual Vaccination

Viruses and malware are a technological plague. Some can do serious damage in an abrasive way, while others are more discrete and hide in your system, spying on you, showing you ads, and even using your computer as a bot.

But antivirus software can be a mixed bag. Some of them are intrusive and insist on showing ads or changing your default search engine. Some of them are too popular, and people find a way to exploit them.

Malwarebytes is a good option. It offers a decent free version and the premium version will even intercept incoming connections and dodgy websites. It’s a fantastic tool to have in your digital security belt.

Take Care of Old Hardware

Just like you might tear up a sensitive piece of mail before throwing it away, you should be careful when disposing of your old computers and devices. Make sure all the information has been removed from hard drives and memory sticks comprehensively. Then you can safely and ethically recycle everything and we’ll all be happy and move on with our lives.

These are just a few, basic tips on how to be safe while connected. Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook and continue the conversation.

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Kristian Rusten

About Kristian Rusten

After spending two years working with Amnesty International in New Zealand, Kristian Rusten worked as a refugee caseworker in Greece and now lives in Paris, while writing, freelancing and volunteering.

View all posts by Kristian Rusten