I sometimes feel that the providers of security products want us to feel terrified. After all, there isn't much of a story in "opened up my PC, did a good days work, then closed it down safely".
Thank goodness then for the wonderful phone calls from those helpful people at Windows telling me they have detected problems with my PC. If it wasn't for them and for the Nigerian Prince who has promised to come up with a wonderful new pot of money, I never knew I had, I would never have got round to recommending these 10 simple tips to staying safe online.
Our Ten Recommendations
- Using passwords that are really secure
In case you feel you cannot remember lots of passwords,something that helps us is to think "password length". A question I was asked once asked if "#`t5\<8;v6Wv" is safer than "ABC.....................". The answer by the way is the second. The longer your password, the less likely it is to be cracked, especially when you use special characters.
- Making sure your internet connection is secure
As we increasingly connect using public remote wireless networks, so we expose ourselves to malicious attack, but you can also take steps to ensure your own networks are properly protected for your own safety.
- Staying updated, staying protected
There is an obvious reason for keeping antivirus and anti-malware up to date and for scanning regularly: just do it. There are plenty of free tools for basic security so cost can ne ver be an excuse for not getting this done.
- Always keep a critical eye
This is the boy scouts equivalent of being prepared. Watch out for small changes. Assume that anything unfamiliar could be dangerous. Check email headers. Simply be aware of things that are going on around your browsing and working habits, so you notice anything unusual.
- Never open suspicious email
This is a crunch item, and could mean the end of your small business. If the email has come from someone you do not recognise, asks you to chec a bill, confirm a password or some other item of identity, or if it is simply an email you did not expect, assume the worst. If in doubt, dont open it. Make sure you check the email headers to be sure it is legitimate. Assume if it comes from a bank or financial institution that is a fraud. Follow your bank's guidelines.
- Use secure connections whenever you can - HTTPS and VPN
These are not always available to everyone, but if you have a regular conversation with your business and you are away a lot, have them establish a secure VPN connection. Always do your shopping and financial transactions over a secure connection. It only involves a simple check on the site URL.
- Don't share your computer
People are nosey, or worse still, they are malicious. Even family members can be careless, so set rules and restrictions on family computers.
- Think before you click
We have all done it. Clicked on the tempting link, or hit the button to the left that downloaded new programs on to the computer by mistake. You are only one click away from danger, so just pause for a moment longer and assess whether what you are doing is safe.
- Use two factor authentication (2FA)
If you dont know what two factor authentication is, read about it here. It can easily be linked to your smartphone to increase your security. As an alternative, your thumbprint is likely to be more secure than the password you thought up. Many modern devices have them.
- Don't do security critical things in public spaces
Banking, or shopping at your local Starbucks is simply a no-no. Wait till you get home or find a secure place to do that sort of business.
OK, I know this is a short list, but, follow thee guidelines and you will sleep better at night knowing you "opened up your PC, did a good days work, then closed it down safely".