If you work from home then you probably spend a lot of time working on a computer. And that computer will invariably be connected to the Internet. The world wide web is great for getting things done. We can connect with clients, send out orders, carry out research, bid for projects, and carry out a hundred and one other work-related tasks. And we do it all online and from the comfort of our own home.
But the Internet isn't just a fantastic asset for small businesses, freelancers and work-from-homers. It can be a dangerous place, thwart with risks, threats and malicious intent. Which is why you need to protect your computer from viruses, trojans, malware and all the other potentially damaging materials which are floating around the web. In this article, we'll show you the 6 best practices for keeping your computer, laptop, your tablet, smartphone and any other devices you use safe online so that you can have the confidence to just relax and get on with the job.
#1 Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication requires you type in not just one but a second password when you log in to certain accounts. This is usually in the form of a text message that sends a code to your phone. The code changes every time you log in so even if someone steals your main password, they still need the newest phone code to gain access to your account. Two-factor authentication is invaluable for highly sensitive accounts like email and bank accounts.
#2 Long and Strong Passwords
When you do set passwords for websites you want them to be long and strong. This is because when sites store passwords, they carry out what is known as hashing and salting, which basically encrypts the password. However, if someone hacks into the site and downloads the password data base, they're going to try and decrypt all the passwords. But if yours contains uppercase, lowercase, numbers and special characters, there's a good chance that the hackers will be unable to crack it. Even if they are able to decrypt other, weaker passwords. And how long is a really good password? The longer the better. Twenty characters are probably super safe, but a lot of websites just won't let you go that far. Passwords of around 10 to 12 mixed characters are usually complicated enough to ensure good to high-security levels.
#3 Unique Passwords
You should definitely be using different passwords on different websites. Especially import ones. A hacker probably won't even try to get into a Paypal, a Google or a Natwest account. What they will do is target smaller, less secure sites. Do you remember that tiny forum you signed up to five years ago? More to the point, do you remember the password you used? If you're using the same password everywhere you go, you're making it a whole lot easier for the hacker to gain access to the more important accounts.
There are a few ways to get a unique password. You can use a password manager that generates passwords, like LastPass or KeePass, that way you don't have to remember them. Or you can come up with an algorithm in your head, or some kind of method for creating a password based on the name of the site or some other characteristic. That way you can remember it without having to write it down or store it somewhere it could be compromised. Creating unique passwords is probably the most important thing you should be doing to improve your security and protection online.
#4 Complete Encryption
There are a few options that provide you with encryption for your entire hard drives and devices. The first is BitLocker. This usually comes with Windows and is popular with a lot of users because it is easy and convenient. The software encrypts the data on your devices, making it unreadable for anyone who doesn't have the proper authorization. This is good for preventing your private data from falling into the wrong hands in the case of theft or loss, for example. TrueCrypt is another excellent encryption tool but due to its complexity is probably only suitable for advanced users.
#5 Phone Encryption
These days, most of us have an Android, iPhone or another type of smartphone which we use as an integral component of our online activities. Most devices will allow you to enable full system encryption, so if anyone steals your phone or if you lose it, no one will be able to gain access to the data it contains. This does, however, minimise the chances of you getting your phone back because the tracking ability will also become encrypted and therefore unusable. But you have to ask yourself, would you rather lose a phone forever and be sure that no one can read what's on it, or would you rather retain a small chance of getting it back but know that whoever finds it will have full access to whatever they want? You decide.
VPNs funnel all your data through a Virtual Private Network and then encrypts it so that no one can see it, not even your Internet Service Provider (ISP). You have to pay for a VPN. Don't get a free one because a lot of them are sketchy, compromised, or they might actually be looking at your data. Generally speaking, if something is free, then you are the product! VPNs are usually quite affordable, just a few pounds per month and definitely worth it, especially if you're travelling and using a lot of hotel wi-fi which you know absolutely nothing about.
This list is intended to be an introduction to the most basic actions you can take to protect yourself online and is aimed at people who lack the in-depth knowledge about how the Internet works or the variety and complexity of threats lurking within it. There is, of course, a lot more you can do to make sure your devices are protected online. Many free and premium anti virus and anti malware programmes are available that can give your security a huge boost. Remember, when in doubt, do the research and/or ask an expert. Meanwhile, surf well and stay safe.