I was traveling abroad recently when I started thinking about all of the work I do on the road, and how difficult it is to stay safe online.
Just think of the many opportunities to use public or loosely managed WiFi in airport lounges, hotels, coffee shops, and other digital crime scenes in the making…
Then there are the 50+ services I subscribe to that ask me to create and manage usernames and passwords, and my browser offers to remember them every time I use one…
And the emails I’ve provided for automatic email updates about an account, or for the delivery of a subscription…
These were just passing thoughts until I watched the movie “Snowden” on my transatlantic flight home. I had 6 hours after the movie ended to think about my own government reading my emails, text messages, and WATCHING ME LIVE THROUGH MY LAPTOP CAMERA.
The thought of completely disconnecting from the internet and living in the wild eating nuts and berries crossed my mind.
By the time we landed, I decided I’d be better off mitigating the amount of information I provide an enterprising hacker (or government employee) and segmenting that information to mitigate the damage of a breach before it happens. So, how do you do that?
Nothing about the internet is set up to help you stay safe online. Most of the advice out there is focused on “internet anonymity.” Many consider anonymity a right equal to freedom of access of information and freedom of expression. While freedom of expression is the only right of the internet protected by the US Constitution, I wanted to know what to do to protect myself and my business from being taken advantage of by a hacker, an organization, or a government. There are varying levels of effort you can go to to create some basic protections for yourself. Consider the following:
Regardless of skill level, do this TODAY. These 5 basic steps from Comodo Antivirus will protect your computer from most hacks:
- Install Firewall
- Install Antivirus Software
- Install Anti-Spyware Software
- Use Complex and Secure Passwords
- Check on the Security Settings of the Browser
If you want to go a step beyond basic security, these 9 tips from Inc Magazine will keep you (relatively) safe while using public WiFi:
- Turn off WiFi when you aren’t using it.
- Don’t do sensitive things like banking on public WiFi
- Consider using a VPN service
- Use encryption so others on the network can’t see what you are doing
- Turn off sharing
- Get antivirus software and a firewall before connecting
- Consider using Tor
- Do NOT reset passwords while on public WiFi
- Know the difference between public WiFi and shared WiFi
If your IT background is more advanced and your relationship with the real world more tenuous, consider these ideas from PC Mag to own the internet:
- Phone Call Confidentiality – use burner phones and switch often
- Get a wireless router with built-in firewall + a firewall for your PC
- Find out who or what is tracking you with Panopticlick
- Turn off your browser’s ability to remember passwords, and use a different password for everything. Use LastPass to remember them.
- Use CCleaner to periodically clean up the information your browser has stored.
- Browse anonymously with “incognito” or “private” mode on your browser
- Don’t use Google or Bing to search – use “Duck Duck Go“
- Use a Proxy server to hide your identity and location
- Use a VPN to protect traffic from your computer to another server (and also masking your identity and location)
- Use Tor for browsing
- Use a secure email service, an anonymous email, or burner email addresses
- Avoid spam altogether, but NEVER click on a link in a spam email
- Adjust your social media privacy settings so that only those that you allow can see your posts and you can only be tagged with your express permission. Or, delete it….