Password Protected: How to properly secure your password privacy

If you are, well, alive and well, you absolutely have an email address and, with that, a password.

How else are you supposed to log in and scroll through junk mail, work emails or anything else through that medium?

In addition, passwords also play a role in things like online banking, security through a server at work, for example, and just about anything else that is specific to you and you only being able to see it.

So, with that, passwords are everywhere, but unfortunately your eyes aren’t the only ones trying to see (and remember) your password. A recent study showed nearly 50 percent of the population has had information brought to light by hackers, a startling number and a sobering statistic that really reinforces the importance of not only having unique password protection but online security as a whole.

The most reliable piece of advice is one that is broken far too often even though it seems fairly obvious, and that is visiting accounts or password protected ones though a public network, such as sitting down for a cup of coffee and transferring money between bank accounts or just randomly looking at your email.

As convenient as public Wi Fi is, you have to make sure you’re using it correctly, and that simply means avoiding anything that has personal information associated with it. Hackers have very little road blocks in order to get account numbers or passwords when you’re basically handing them that information on a silver platter.

Even your own web browser or your private network can also come into play, as you should try to tap into security features offered by Internet Explorer or FireFox, to name a few.

One thing that is often underutilized is additional security that is available for email, such as not only giving a password but also another piece of personal information that can be required to access your inbox. Some products that are available make getting into your email that much more difficult for computer hackers because not only do they have to figure out your password but also some other unique code or series of numbers that you’ve asked to be part of authenticating the user.

Protecting your identity is paramount and one could argue that it is the most important element of security overall. The good news is that as adept as hackers are at finding ways to manipulate the system, you can always stay one up on them with sound pieces of advice and a little effort in regard to how you use your information properly and safely.

Soft Aware: Free software to protect identity is worth second look

Everybody wants to ensure that their privacy is protected when they’re online.  Whether using your phone, tablet, or laptop, you want to make sure your personal information is secure.  This is especially important if you use public Wi Fi hotspots. 

So how do you protect your privacy without spending a ton of money on software? 

Tor Browser, for starters, is a special version of Firefox that diverts data to protect your privacy.  With the Tor Browser you can browse the web as usual, but it uses thousands of relays to disguise where your data is coming from.  Tor Browser delivers secure browsing that is only slightly slower than normal and enables anonymous internet browsing provided that you practice safe internet surfing. 

Some software prevents tracking cookies from monitoring your browsing and reporting it back to advertisers.  Ghostery is one of those, and it also has the knack to tell you exactly what each company is looking at and what they are likely to do with your data.

While some software that is free can be a little “too good to be true,” you can’t argue with the price tag. That said, one of the more overlooked means of computer identity and subsequent theft is your password. Hackers are adept at stealing your key strokes, but with Key Scrambler Personal, the aptly titled software makes short work of this.

Key Scrambler Personal encrypts every letter you type and the free version supports 38 different browsers.  However, email, instant messaging, and online gaming do require a paid for version of the product.

For Windows users, you already know that Windows 10 is the most personal version of Windows.  But some feel it’s too personal and that Windows 10  gathers too much personal data.  Anti Spy enables users to disable advertising ID’s, Smart Screen filtering, and apps that can access your camera.

Finally, you have GnuPG or GNU Privacy Guard.  GnuPG is a tool for encrypting files and emails.  It enables users to encrypt and digitally sign documents with technology that is effectively unbreakable.

All of these programs are free software that provide security in a variety of different areas and will help ensure your peace of mind when it comes to protecting your privacy online. They can only do so much (since they’re free, remember?) to protect your identity but certainly is a good place to start if money is an issue.

Public Protector: Why open Wi Fi spells trouble for your identity 

Everybody does it these days, so don’t feel bad.

With laptops, notebooks, and iPads and tablets, working away from your desk is commonplace.  And it’s not just work either.  We all like to check our personal email and Facebook at our favorite coffee shop or café as well.

So how do you protect yourself from identity theft and other privacy risks when you’re working or just surfing the internet away from home or the office?

The most important thing when using your laptop in a public place, is taking the proper precautions when using a public WiFi network.  Before connecting to a network, make sure you know whose network you’re connecting to.  Those looking to steal your information online can set up what’s called a honeypot.  This is where thieves set up their own WiFi hotspot.  These usually have unassuming names like Public WiFi or Public Network to tempt you to connect without thinking anything of it.

To avoid this situation, make sure that you know what network you’re connecting to.  Make sure that your laptop or other device isn’t set up to automatically connect to an unknown network.  If you’re using your laptop or smartphone at a café, coffee shop, library, or other public place, find out what the public network for the location you’re in is.  If you can’t figure it out for yourself, ask an employee for the information that you need.

When you connect to websites, make sure you’re connecting via HTTPS.  This encrypts everything you send and receive from websites.  You should also use a VPN service to make sure all of the data you send over a public connection is encrypted.  VPN services do charge a fee for using them, but it’s a price worth paying.  Especially if you’re using a work computer that contains a lot of sensitive information about your company, customers, and clients.

It’s also recommended that you use two factor authentication when using a public connection.  This requires both a password and secondary code that changes regularly for websites.  The two factor authentication makes it difficult for hackers to get your information because even if they steal your password, they won’t have the secondary code.

Make sure that your computer or device isn’t configured to share access to files or be seen on public or guest networks.  You can do this by going to Settings, then going to Network and Internet, then WiFi.  From there you can scroll down and turn off file and printer sharing.

Nothing is full proof when hackers are involved but if you’re not following certain guidelines you’re just asking for trouble in the form of identity theft and putting your computer in harm’s way.

Expert opinion: How to spot and prevent common computer privacy mistakes

Ask any random computer owner or someone who feels as thought they have identity theft totally figured out about how safe they are with their pertinent information, and a majority of time you’ll be met with confidence in their keen ability.

But the reality is most people make all too common and repetitive mistakes when it comes to computer privacy, and thus take their would be iron clad system and approach and dispel it rather quickly. As much as we want to believe we’re safe with our computer and information we shouldn’t be sharing, the truth is we’re still making doing the same thing over and over again wrong, and thus leading to even more widespread concern about hacking, compromised computers and information of yours being shared with the masses.

Easily the most obvious yet ignored is using a WiFi network that isn’t protected to do anything that should be secure, such as banking, emails or shopping online. Your penchant for wanting to check your banking balance is all well and good, but you can’t go against logic and good judgment as it relates to waiting to use a network that is password protected. Some experts also agree totally that passwords also are the root of all that is evil online as far as privacy is concerned.

You might believe that a complex or complicated password isn’t all that important, but those who pay attention to the little things or suggestions they’re given, such as making your password difficult with numbers, symbols, etc., are the ones who are avoiding their privacy being put in jeopardy. And that includes your propensity to want to reuse passwords that have already been in your rotation.

Just because you are familiar with certain passwords or you use the same one for other accounts doesn’t mean you should get in the habit of recycling them. Even some rely on password manager functions, which create random, difficult to figure out passwords for you, particularly good for those devoid of creativity when it comes to coming up with their own unique combinations.

You also can’t, under any circumstances, under appreciate just how smart hackers are in today’s world. Underestimating an opponent is something you hear a lot in sports, but you can’t assume or take on the “it won’t happen to me” approach when you consider just how random and ridiculously out of control things can get when you lose control of passwords. Knowing the types of common mistakes that lead to computer privacy is one thing but implementation and consistency is another, two of many characteristics you’ll need to stave off this cyber security warfare.

Basic Instinct: Are you doing simple things to protect PC privacy?

Protecting your personal security when using your computer is something that we all know needs to be done.  With identity theft being as prevalent an issue as it is, you would think we all know the basics on how to prevent it from happening.  But are you as up to speed as you think you might be?

This may sound basic, but the first thing you should always have on your computer is a firewall.  A firewall blocks unauthorized access to your computer while you’re accessing the Internet.

Using an antivirus program, again, might seem like something obvious.  But it is often overlooked.  Antivirus programs help to prevent and remove viruses and other malware and spyware.  There are plenty to choose from that are both free and available for purchase.  Along with an antivirus program, spyware-blocking software is very important as well.

Another common overlook is installing updates to your operating system.  Use automatic updates to make sure your system is up to date and all of the latest patches are installed.  Turn on the automatic updates in your settings to make sure this is covered without you having to do it manually and leaving your system vulnerable to attack.

Passwords are another basic function that can be often overlooked when it comes to security.  Make sure to use a strong password.  A general rule is to use at least six characters that include upper and lower case letters, numbers, and a non-alphabetic character.  Changing your passwords at least every 60 to 90 days is recommended as well (30 days is a bit much, honestly). You should also password protect all guest accounts and use encryption too.  Encryption scrambles the text so it can’t be read without decrypting it.

Another easy security option that is often overlooked is increasing your browser security settings.  This is a simple step that allows you to select your security level.

And of the easiest ways to protect yourself is using common sense.  Don’t open any emails that are from unknown senders. Unknown email attachments carry viruses and Trojan horses, so make sure that if you don’t know the source, you don’t open the email and/or attachment.

Following these suggestions should keep you safe and secure and prevent viruses from damaging or destroying your computer.  It should also prevent hackers from accessing your personal information, even if they’re on the cusp of the latest technology that allows them to do that.

You can fight the proverbial good fight and do what needs done on your end to, at the very least, keep them guessing and sending them right back to the drawing board.

Password Protected: Computer privacy starts with smart choices

Despite all the stories of computer privacy, hackers, stolen credit cards or debt cards or just about anything you can conjure up when you’re talking about the subject of protecting yourself from fraud, you still manage to run into those who believe there’s really nothing to worry about at the moment.

Or ever.

If you’re someone who has had this happen, you’re all over any tips or tricks you can use to have your identity protected and make sure what’s happening on your computer is just specific to you and no one else.

As much as you want to be super specific and try to do everything possible and then five more things, you really can spend the majority of your time focusing on two key elements of identity theft, preventing it and making sure you’re not a victim in that regard.

The first seems simple, but yet overlooked. You’re probably used to always changing your password at work, perhaps as often as every 30 or 60 days. Your company is making sure your password is kept fresh and unique, and you should take that to heart when it comes to your own computer.

That goes for the password to not only get on to your computer, but also email as well, particularly paramount if your email contains receipts or other pertinent information. Passwords should be difficult, and if you can’t remember it, then write it down and put it somewhere safe. Surprisingly, the most popular password still is 123456, but you should get in the habit of not going with the safe choice and instead something that is familiar but not so easy to figure out by a hacker.

Beyond the password, you still find individuals using WiFi that is public, meaning that it isn’t password protected (although thankfully that trend is going away with most locations that offer this as an added service). There isn’t so much an issue with using public WiFi if you’re checking sports scores or news in general, but steer clear of using it to check email, send email or, worse yet, navigating your bank account, making transfers.

This also includes paying bills online as those account numbers are out and for anyone to see. If you begin to underestimate those who hack into accounts, you’ll be the one left to pick up the pieces, and that means calling credit card companies, your bank or even Gmail or Yahoo to let

Changing Landscape: How hackers are infiltrating more than just traditional computers

When you think of the word “smart” in relationship to technology and gadgets, you immediately conjure up the image of your phone, right?

Of course, that’s because the term “smart phone” has revolutionized not just the phones themselves but how they’re marketed and perceived by the general public. More than 90 percent of the population has a cell phone and about 70 percent of that is comprised of smart phones, suggesting that they’re more popular than ever, even amongst the 50 and older demographic despite the thinking that a flip phone or even a landline would suffice.

But “smart” technology has come a long way since the Apple iPhone first gave way to smart phones. You have all kinds of electronics that have been labeled “smart,” including those at home appliances that feed off your Wifi connection and allow you to do things that you hadn’t thought possible with a refrigerator but certainly can now.

The same could be said for your home security system or even how you monitor or control your temperature, also running off wireless internet, and you certainly can’t look past the more traditional devices, such as your laptop and that aforementioned smart phone.

What this creates is the perfect store for hackers to be able to gain access to your personal information and continue to wreak havoc when it comes to identity theft and fraud, only now than them having a few portals to do so, they have more avenues now that technology is so “smart” that we didn’t realize we opened up another can of proverbial worms.

The good news is that you awareness is key, and doing all the same things you do with your at home computer still pertains and can be considered relevant. Granted, your refrigerator or home security, for example, don’t come with the ability to have anti virus protection, but you can keep updating your firmware in mind as you purchase these products. Updates are key to being able to get hackers at bay so that you’re constantly changing the game of getting your information or access to your devices before they can crack their own code.

And speaking of codes, the majority of “smart” home technology comes with the ability to not only password protect your devices but also add levels and layers of other means to keep hackers guessing. Some offer multiple digit codes that you can enter as backup to just having a lone password, most of which are becoming easier and easier to bypass by the smarter hackers. The more you change your password, as well, the better off you’ll be, because for most of us, that’s our only level of protection.

Having smart technology doesn’t always equate to being equally intelligent with how you use it. For those products and devices to truly live up to their name, users have to use some smart, too.

Hack Proof: Why we tend to overlook the simple when protecting computer

Computer privacy will forever be a hot topic, when you throw in not only the hackers and how they find ways new tricks to maneuver through capturing your identity or how we, as the general public, still find ways to overlook the obvious when it comes to protecting ourselves from one day to the next.

The two that easily stand out as glaring and easily avoidable are both related to online use: banking and user names and passwords.

The banking one is quite simple. You should always bank online when you’re using a secured internet connection, rather than randomly checking that account any other way (even your phone on your wireless carrier signal). Most banking missteps occur when you start doing any sort of bill paying that isn’t within the comfort of your home with your password protecting internet service.

The user names and passwords one is another that screams simplicity but often is overlooked on two levels. First, you should make it a habit to change your password on a regular basis, rather than just leaving it the same for months at a time. Furthermore, it’s imperative that you log out of accounts each time you are finished, whether that’s an email or if you’re online paying a credit card bill. Logging out might not seem like that big of a deal but it can lead to theft of credit cards, for example, or someone using your identity or card numbers to spend money that isn’t theirs and technically not yours, in the case of stolen credit cards.

The combination of staying logged in and not using a secured, encrypted network is only going to be part of the solution to protecting your computer privacy. You have to remind yourself, too, that opening unsolicited emails or clicking on links of that same ilk are equally bad for you. Anything that seems as though it’s too good to be true (make money fast scheme) or even an email from a trusted source that could be fake can lead to all kinds of password and identity issues online and also a computer break in you simply don’t want to deal with whatsoever. One of the bigger computer privacy scams comes in the form of those who are having computer issues and receiving random calls from “tech support” wanting to remote into your PC. This happens with some regularity but anyone asking for credit card information over the phone and telling you they’ll be able to help with your computer without you doing so much as a thing to get the call is a huge, monumental red flag.

As much as you want to believe that remembering a password or clicking a link is harmless, it’s the exact opposite. You’re undoubtedly putting your identity, your money and your computer at risk.

Easy Does It: Why protecting your identity is rooted in simplicity

Identity theft and protecting your computer go hand in hand, but as much as we want to turn this into a no one is safe discussion (which has merit), you must first ask yourself one very important question.

Are you doing enough to protect yourself? Furthermore, what about the simple things you can do, the day to day easy practices, that are tailor made to keep your identity and subsequently your computer safe.

We all have that friend who is constantly talking about computer viruses or having their identity stolen, and you don’t have to look (or think) for very long to realize that their bad habits have plagued them when it comes to this issue.

For starters, you should make it a point to stop filling out information online that includes all your pertinent statistics (particularly social security number and address. This goes for these so called online polls or anything that tells you to sign and get something for free (pop up ads or offers).

Quite possibly the easiest way to protect your computer is to make sure you have a password that protects anyone else logging into it or you have it set up to sleep mode rather quickly if you’re away from it. How often do you use your computer in a public setting? If you’re doing that, chances are you want to stay on top of that screen, even if you step away to grab a cup of coffee, that’s how easily someone can refresh and start going to work, or even worse if it somehow gets stolen out from underneath you completely.

Along the same lines as the password are those pesky (but relevant) security questions that help determine that the person logging into an account actually is you. Often times, you’ll have to answer at minimum one but usually three to four to be able to access anything. We tend to pick questions and answer them accordingly, but the general rule of thumb is to lie about the answers with some response that is far fetched, just in case your identity falls into the wrong hands.

There isn’t one way or an iron clad way to protect your identity, as anyone is susceptible to having their identity compromised. But if you’re just leaving it up to chance and also exhibiting habits that are detrimental and often invite hackers right into your living room so to speak, then you’re not just helping identity theft experts.

You’re practically giving your identity away.

Simple Solution: Computer privacy doesn’t have to be overly difficult

As technologically advanced as most internet hackers or those who can steal your identity seem to be, sometimes it is the easiest measure you can take to keep your computer private and your name and other valuable information and numbers quite the secret.

The other irony of computer and identity privacy is we all understand that, through the news stories and information about how easily identities can be stolen, yet we tend to overlook the simple things we can do to keep everything safe and sound.

Case in point, how many times have you used a public Wifi and done something silly on that medium? What exactly do we mean by silly?

Have you ever checked your bank statement online while you’re sitting at a coffee shop? What about logging into a credit card statement sitting at Barnes and Noble?

These are really the epitome of bad judgment as it relates to computer privacy and keeping your identity safe. You should always make it a point to do one of two things: either log in using some sort of VPN login, or make sure the Wifi is password protected. Now, if you need to log in to a public network, if it’s absolutely necessary or if you’re just looking to surf the web aimlessly to kill time, make sure you simply steer clear of punching in anything from your social security number to a credit card number.
So, no ordering shoes online at the airport while waiting for your flight.

Furthermore, what is easier than simply signing out of your computer or anything that is password related online. If you’re paying a bill, logging into your email or your computer is left alone in a public place for any period of time (then again, why would you ever do that), make sure you log off or at least, in the last example, lock your screen and PC.

Finally, your password has been the same since you’ve first had your email and your first computer. The reason your company asks you to change your password once every 30 days, they’re doing so to protect your privacy, so why wouldn’t you do that for yourself on your own computer?

Maybe your work isn’t so dense after all.

You want to change your password every 30 to 60 days, and if you can at least change your password at minimum three times per year, that should deter hackers and keep you at least safer than you were when you weren’t practicing these potentially identity and privacy saving practices.