Web Security Archive

Keeping your computer secure is one of the most important things you can do. We live in a world where much of what we do happens online. We schedule doctor’s appointments, keep track of important documents and sensitive information on our computers, and even do our banking online. Sadly this makes us vulnerable to hacking attacks.

Add to that the fact that all our computers are linked through an expansive network that we call the internet and it’s easy to see that it doesn’t take much to become a victim of hacking, malware, viruses, or even identity theft, or finding that fraudulent charges have been made with our PayPal account, or that our bank account has been cleaned out.

Thankfully there is a lot you can do to prevent this from happening. By keeping your operating system and software up to date, installing and running a good antivirus program, you can secure your computer and keep hackers and viruses at bay. Aside from that you should always use common sense. Stay away from questionable websites and don’t fall for email scams. If it sounds too good to be true or smells fishy, your caution is probably warranted. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

One of the best habits you can get into aside from practicing safe surfing and keeping all your programs up to date, is to read up on current threats. If you know what kind of phishing scams are popular right now, or what virus is making the rounds, you won’t be caught unaware.

Last but not least make it a habit to use strong, random passwords. Create a different password for each login and account, and change them frequently. This will go a long way towards preventing someone from breaking into your accounts. When you create your passwords keep them random, use special characters along with numbers and both upper and lower case letters. A password that’s hard to remember is a safer password.

I hope this inspires you to think about web security and the steps you can take to protect yourself. A little foresight and effort on your part now, can save you a lot of headaches in the future.

In this day and age we can’t afford to ignore computer security. We rely on computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones too much to risk having them compromised. It’s time to get smart, read up on, and implement as many security measures as you can.

Top 10 Web Security Tips > Web Security

Posted November 19, 2016 By Callie

It’s hard to imagine a life without the internet in this day and age. How would you learn new skills, find a new restaurant to try, or get directions to your business meeting. The internet is an integral part of all areas of our lives. But it doesn’t come without risks. Here are the ten best tips to make sure you are safe and secure on the web.

Tip #1: Keep your operating system and any software you use up to date.

Start by keeping all software up to date. This is easily done with automatic updates. This is important so security holes, and backdoors into the program can be closed as they are discovered by hackers.

Tip #2: Get a strong antivirus program and run it daily.

This is also a must. Keep it running and scanning on the fly. Make sure virus definitions are updated daily and do a deep scan every now and again to catch anything that may have slipped through the cracks.

Tip #3: Only download and shop from trusted sources.

Double check where you’re downloading from, and if it is a trusted source first. This goes for pictures, documents, other files, and especially programs or executable files.

Tip #4: Be aware of scammers and hackers out there and use common sense.

Read up on current scams and threads. Become more aware of what could go wrong so you can recognize a hacker or scammer from a mile away.

Tip #5: Don’t open an email attachment that you’re unsure of.

It doesn’t matter who sends you an email, don’t open an attachment until you know what it’s for. Don’t open any attachments under any circumstances that come from sources you don’t know.

Tip #6: Create strong passwords and change them frequently.

A good password can help keep all sorts of account information secure. Make sure it is random, hard to crack and that you change it from time to time.

Tip #7: Stay out of bad online neighborhoods.

Avoid sites that are notorious for hackers, malware, and viruses. These include adult sites, obscure forums and social media sites.

Tip #8: Don’t give out personal information online.

Be careful about what type of information you share online. There should be no need to hand over your social security number or account password for example. Use caution and common sense before responding to any requests for information.

Tip #9: Use secure sites when shopping online and use PayPal when possible.

Make sure sites have a security certificate and https before you enter your credit card or payment information.

Tip #10: Make sure everyone that uses your computers practices basic web safety.

This includes your spouse, friends, children and roommates. Your own safe practices don’t do you much good if someone else in your household doesn’t follow them.

I hope you take these simple tips to heart and say safe and sound when browsing the web.

Public Wi-Fi Safety Tips > Web Security

Posted November 17, 2016 By Callie

When you’re traveling, or you’re just out and about, it’s nice to find free public Wi-Fi so you can log in and check your email, update Facebook, or do a quick Google search. While public Wi-Fi is very convenient, it isn’t as safe and secure as your home internet connection. Follow these simple tips to make sure you don’t fall prey to hackers and identity thieves.

Know Your Source

Many restaurants, coffee shops, airports, and even city governments offer free Wi-Fi hotspots. Before you connect to one, verify and make sure that what you think is a store provided hot spot, is just that. Ask a waiter or customer service person for the name of the network.

It’s very simple for a malicious person to set up a compromised Wi-Fi network near a coffee shop for example, and include the name of the coffee shop in the network name. This tricks you into thinking that you’re connecting to an “official” and thus safe network. Always double check before connecting to an unknown network.

Keep It Simple

While you’re hooked up to a free Wi-Fi spot, keep your internet use simple. Don’t log into any sensitive accounts. This is not the time to do your online banking for example. Instead stick to simple searches and social media posts. Everything else can wait until you get home.

It’s also a good idea to keep an anti-virus program running while you’re out and about. This will work on your laptop, tablet, and even smartphone. If at all possible, avoid logging into anything, be it on a website or app. While that isn’t always possible, at the very least be very choosey about what types of accounts you log into.

Change Passwords And Scan Your Device After You Get Back Home

When you get back home, do a deep anti-virus and anti-malware scan if you’re at all concerned about the network or networks you’ve connected to. If you logged into any accounts or apps with a username and password, go ahead and change those passwords. Don’t put it off or decide not to worry about it because you only logged into your Gmail account for example.

Think about the emails and information that can be found in your Gmail. Do you have login information saved in there? How about the copy of your birth certificate or social security card that you scanned and emailed to HR? Something as simple as an email account may contain a lot more sensitive data than you may realize at first glance. It won’t take more than a minute to change a password. Get it done and keep your accounts secure.

Online Shopping Safety Tips > Web Security

Posted November 16, 2016 By Callie

I don’t know about you, but I love online shopping. You can find just about anything under the sun, often at great prices, and after you’re done shopping, your purchases are delivered right to your doorstep. It doesn’t get any easier and more convenient than that. Instead of fighting crowds at the mall, all your Christmas shopping etc. can be done with the click of a button and a credit card.

Shop With Trusted Merchants

Start by only purchasing from stores and websites you trust. These could be trustworthy by reputation, come highly recommended, or sell through a secure selling system like eBay for example. With big sites like Amazon.com, Walmart.com and other well known stores, you don’t have to worry much about handing over your credit card information.

Small mom and pop stores, or random web stores that open, particularly if they are run from a different country are a different story. The first issue is that the shop owner may not spend the time and resources needed to keep everything secure. The second issue is that every once in a while an online store is opened with the sole purpose of collecting financial information that can be used or sold.

Make Sure The Sites Use Secure HTTP

Before you start punching in your credit card number, make sure the payment processing is run through secure http. You can see a little padlock in the address bar or look for the https:// at the beginning of the url. This will also appear in the browser address bar. Get in the habit of checking for one or the other anytime you make a purchase.

Run A Good Anti-Virus Program

Having a good anti-virus program running is one of the best defences you can set up on your computer or laptop. Make sure it’s not only in place, but also up to date and scanning websites you visit regularly. It should warn you well ahead of time if something is amiss.

Use Credit Cards Or PayPal

Whenever possible pay with your credit card or your PayPal account. Both of those will give you a lot more protection from theft or not receiving your merchandise than your debit card for example. Plus neither one of these methods is directly linked to your checking account.

Check Your Statements

Last but not least, review your credit card and bank or PayPal statements as soon as they are available. If something is amiss and your card information is stolen, you want to know about it as early as possible. This will help you limit further damage and start the process of getting your money back sooner.

Is Your Operating System Up To Date? > Web Security

Posted November 15, 2016 By Callie

Let me ask you a question. Do you know if your operating system is up to date? For that matter, do you know exactly what operating system you are running? This is important information to have and there’s a reason why I’m asking about updates. Here’s the thing. Software is great, and as precise as code seems to most of us, it’s easy to leave an unintentional hole, or backdoor. Those software vulnerabilities can be exploited by hackers to get into your computer and create all sorts of havoc.

If you’re not sure how up to date you are, log onto your computer right now and take a look. If you’re not sure how to update your software, refer to the Windows or Apple websites. There are also lots of video tutorials to be found on YouTube that will walk you through the process.

Update your operating system if needed and reboot your computer. Then you may want to enable automatic updates so you don’t have to worry about doing this manually again. From there you should be fairly secure provided your operating system is still supported and updated regularly.

Usually we’ve long moved on to a new computer and newer software by the time Windows or Apple decides to stop updates and support for an old version of their respective operating systems. If you’re in doubt about yours, a quick Google search should put your worries to rest.

In addition to keeping your operating system up to date, it’s also a good idea to do the same with any other software you have on your computer including browsers, email programs, office tools and the likes. Next to running a good anti-virus program, keeping everything updated is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself, your computers, and the information stored on them.

Since all our computers and laptops are connected to the internet these days, each machine in your house is a possible hacker entry point. You wouldn’t leave your front door unlocked or a back yard window open. Why risk the same with your computer by getting lazy about regular updates.

Of course automatic updates aren’t a must. If the idea of giving away that much control makes you nervous, simply make it a point to check for updates regularly and install them as soon as you come across them. In most cases it won’t take more than a few minutes of your time. That’s well worth having piece of mind.

How To Come Up With A Strong Password > Web Security

Posted November 14, 2016 By Callie

Let’s talk about passwords. One of your strongest defences for all your online accounts are strong passwords that are random, individual, and changed frequently. Let’s talk about each of these in a little more detail.

What Makes A Strong and Random Password

It always surprises me when I hear how many people use some of the most common passwords out there. There’s actually a list of the most common passwords used. It goes without saying that you don’t want to use one that’s on the list. You also don’t want to use your mother’s maiden name, your wife’s birthdate or anything else that can be easily guessed or researched.

A strong password will consist of both upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols in a random order. You can try to make up a random password yourself, but it may end up being not quite as random as you think. A better option is using a random password generator.

Why You Need Individual Passwords For Each Account

The next big mistake I see people make when it comes to passwords is that they come up with one (random or otherwise) and use it for everything. This is a big mistake. If just one of the accounts gets compromised and a hacker gets a hold of that password, he can potentially get access to all sorts of other accounts. And finding out what other accounts you have is surprisingly easy with a little Google Search or a bit of trial and error.

Protect yourself and your online assets by using a different password each time. Yes it takes time to not only set them up, but also work out a system for managing or remembering them, but it is time well spent. A password manager will come in handy if you’re dealing with more than a handful of account logins and passwords.

Are You Changing Your Passwords Frequently?

There’s one more piece to the puzzle. You want to get in the habit of changing your passwords frequently, particularly for sensitive accounts like your online banking logins for example. Why is this important? Because occasionally account information is compromised. By changing the password from time to time, you increase your chances of keeping your information safe and sound. The more sensitive the information is, the more frequently you should change your passwords.

For most things, creating a new password every six months to a year is sufficient, but for medical or financial account passwords, it’s probably a good idea to change them monthly.

Is Your Antivirus Program Up To Snuff? > Web Security

Posted November 13, 2016 By Callie

A good antivirus program is your first line of defence for all sorts of cyber threats that can work their way into your home via the internet. But how do you know if you have or are getting a good antivirus program. I have some great tips for you and some simple little things you can look at to make sure your antivirus is up to snuff and will protect you properly. After all, what good is an anti-virus program that doesn’t catch the really bad stuff.

Start by looking at recommendations. You can ask family, friends, or your favorite neighborhood computer geek what they use and recommend. Chances are you’ll get quite a few different recommendations. That’s a good thing. Write them all down. There are quite a few very good programs and services out there. This will help you quickly create a short list. If you’re lazy, go with the computer geek’s recommendation.

Next start looking each program up online. In particular you want to look for reviews. Make sure there are plenty of positive reviews and read through them to see what people like about each program. Don’t worry about a few bad ones. Any good, legit program out there will have some bad reviews. It happens.

Another thing you may want to look at is how often the software is updated, in particular how often the virus definitions are updated. A good anti-virus program will update virus definitions daily and act quickly when they see a new threat out there. You don’t want to leave yourself vulnerable for days on end, while the coders take their time coming up with an update.

Next it’s a good idea to get a feel for how the software works and how easy it is to use. Since you’ll be updating things daily and have it running in the background, you want to make sure it’s something you can live with. Download a free trial, watch some YouTube videos or see it in action at a friend’s house to get a feel for the software. With all other things more or less equal, pick the one you’re most comfortable using. After all, if you don’t end up using it as intended, it won’t protect you much.

One last consideration is the company or software’s track record. How good are they at catching the big viruses going around and how quickly they are up to speed. Read up on some technical reviews and benchmark testing before you make your final decision. This is particularly important when you’re getting ready to pay money for a quality anti-virus program.

Common Email Threats and Scams > Web Security

Posted November 13, 2016 By Callie

I couldn’t function without emails. They help me run my business, stay in touch with family and friends, keep me in the now on a variety of topics, and I enjoy special offers landing in my email inbox to some of my favorite shops. I’m sure you feel the same. Emails have become an integral part of how we communicate and consume information. Thanks to smartphones, emails can reach us anytime, anywhere.

Sadly, because they are so popular, emails are also used by criminals to infect our computers, get access to sensitive information, and scam us into handing over our savings in hopes of future riches. Let’s talk about some of the more common email threats and scams so you can better protect yourself against them.

Malicious Email Attachments

Be leery of unexpected email attachments. It’s easy to hide a virus or malware in an innocent looking email. You click the link to look at a cute video or open an interesting file and before you know it, a virus is taking over your computer.

Or worse, you see the cute video and go on about your daily computer tasks without realizing that software has been installed on your computer that logs everything you do and every keystroke you take including those to enter the password to your online banking account.

To protect yourself don’t open or click on any attachments or links that you aren’t sure of. If it’s someone you know, check with them to make sure they did indeed send you the file on purpose. If you don’t know them, delete the email if it seems fishy.

Phishing Expeditions

The second type of email threat doesn’t include any fancy code. Instead someone emails you and tries to take advantage of you. This could include stories about how they need your help to recover large sums of money or to get back home. There are thousands of stories like this circulating around, and every day someone falls for one of these elaborate stories. Make sure you’re not one of them. A quick way to get smart about these types of scams is to read up on them. After you’ve read a few examples, you’ll be able to see them coming a mile away.

The second type of phishing expedition is a little trickier. Here criminals make their emails look like they come from an official looking source. This could be your bank, the IRS, or PayPal to use a few examples. They usually create some sort of scenario that conveys urgency to try to get you to act without thinking. They want you to click on an official looking link and then provide important information like your bank or PayPal logins, or your social security number, address etc.

To protect yourself from these types of attacks, never click the links in emails. Instead go straight to the website of your bank or PayPal for example and log in there. If the email message is legit, you should find a copy of it in your account profile. If you’re not sure if it is legit or not, contact the company directly through their website or customer support number (not those provided in the email, but by going directly to the source), and ask customer service if the message is legit.

Be Careful What You Download > Web Security

Posted November 13, 2016 By Callie

The internet is an amazing place we can download anything from movies, music and books to entire software packages or the latest pictures of the grandkids in a matter of seconds. Sadly all this downloading brings dangers with it. We may think we’re getting and installing a harmless little game on our computer and end up with a key-logger or virus installing alongside it that causes all sorts of trouble.

To make sure you don’t fall victim to this particular branch of cybercrime, only download from trusted sources. Don’t download any software or movie from anywhere. Instead make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company. If you can find quite a few positive reviews for a download, on a safe download site, all the better.

I’m assuming you have a good anti-virus program installed on all your computers already. If not, do that right away. Then whenever you download any type of file, scan it with your antivirus program before you open, install or execute it. This one simple added step won’t take you more than a minute or two, but it has the potential for catching all sorts of tricky little programs that try to piggy back on what at first glance looks like an innocent download.

When you’re dealing with large download files, scanning it may take a little longer, but it is still well worth it and definitely something you should do whenever your downloaded files don’t come from a source you trust 100%. A little extra time spent now, can save you hours and hours of cleanup later. Even better, it can prevent a virus from hijacking and wiping your entire computer. Get in the habit of doing it every time you download a file. Even if it only catches one nasty virus or key-logger ever, it will be time well spent.

You also want to be careful about email attachments. Anytime someone you don’t know personally asks you to download and open an email attachment, a red flag should come up. When in doubt, simply delete the attachment. If you think it’s something you do need, give the person that emailed you a call and verify it is in fact a legitimate attachment. Of course scanning it before you open it with your antivirus program is a good idea here as well. Don’t think questionable emails only come from strangers? If a friend or family member’s computer is infected with a virus, they may end up sending you an infected file via email without even knowing about it. In other words, be cautious no matter where or whom the email attachment comes from.

3 Easy Ways To Manage Your Passwords > Web Security

Posted November 13, 2016 By Callie

We all have plenty of logins that we need to come up with passwords for. Each of these passwords will ideally be unique, hard to crack, and changed frequently. That’s a lot of random strings of numbers and letters to keep up with. You can probably remember a handful of them, and keep scraps of paper in your desk drawer with a few more scribbled on. Sooner or later you’ll need to come up with a better system for managing passwords. Here are three easy ways to manage all your passwords.

Go Old School With A Notebook

Writing your passwords down is definitely a good idea. Instead of having them in multiple locations that make it hard to find the one you’re looking for, it’s much more efficient to set up a dedicated login or password notebook.

Write everything you need down including what the logins are for, the username and the password. Update this notebook as needed when you change or add new accounts. Keep the notebook in a safe place. This is one document you don’t want to fall in the wrong hands.

Set Up A Spreadsheet

Using a spreadsheet is a good digital alternative that has a few distinct advantages to the notebook approach. A spreadsheet is easy to search and you can save copies that you can keep on the cloud or a different device for safekeeping.

For added security, you may want to password protect the file your spreadsheet lives in. This will be the only password you have to remember to gain access to all the rest.

The biggest disadvantages to using a spreadsheet are that it doesn’t sync across multiple copies and devices and that even with the password protection there may be a security risk, should someone be able to hack into your computer.

Use A Password Manager
By far the best option is using a password manager. Roboform for example is a good service that allows you to keep track of all your passwords and logins from one secure location. It’s also the most convenient of all the options since it works with your browser and gives you access to all your login info from both your computers and mobile devices. As an added bonus the information and changes are synced across multiple devices.

This makes it easy to stay on top of passwords and get in the habit of using strong, random passwords that are changed frequently. Most of the password managing software even has a good password generator built in for your convenience.