By taking a few simple steps, you can maintain security against intruders' attempts to access your data and protect your privacy online.
Create Strong Passwords
People often create easy-to-remember passwords. Unfortunately that also makes them easy to crack.
- Make passwords long and complex. Secure passwords are at least 10 to 12 characters long and have a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols, such as punctuation.
- Avoid common phrases and words like song or movie titles, your dog's name, your high school or favorite sports team. One effective strategy: Pick a relatively obscure but easy-to-remember secret phrase and insert extra letters, numbers, and symbols. For example, “&IheartluvBECUitisthebe$t!”
Clear Your Cache Frequently
- Your browser's cache saves information about your web history, which could point to sensitive personal data. If you're using a public computer or one that's accessible by other people, make sure to clear your cache regularly. Otherwise, anyone who uses the computer after you may be able to see what you've been doing — and/or have access to private data required by websites you've visited.
Review Privacy Policies
- Familiarize yourself with the privacy policies of apps and services you use. It's helpful to learn how an organization will use your personal information before you provide it.
- Scroll for potential opt-outs or helpful privacy settings.
- Check to see if you can access, correct or delete personal information.
Only Download Trusted Apps and Software
- Every app you install on your phone and every piece of software you download represents another potential security gap. Only download software from verified sources and only download apps from your device's official app store.
Turn On Auto-Updates
- Out-of-date operating systems (OS), browsers and software can leave your computer vulnerable to attack by malware — malicious software that can capture sensitive data like log-in credentials or passwords.
- Make sure to take action when you get a notice it's time to update.
- An even better strategy: Choose auto-updates for your computer software, apps, internet browser and operating systems. This ensures you'll get the latest security patches as soon they're available.
Activate Firewall and Antivirus Protection
- Install or enable antivirus protection on your computer, cell phone and other devices.
- Most operating systems have a built-in firewall. Check your settings to make sure it's active. This can prevent unauthorized access to your network and devices.
Never Share Login Credentials
- Keep personal identifying information to yourself. Never share usernames, passwords, PINs, account numbers or answers to security questions with anyone.
Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi
- Hackers love public Wi-Fi. Assume that everything you do on public or free Wi-Fi can be seen by other people. Refrain from conducting sensitive activities such as online banking or shopping.
Confirm Website Security
- Browse with vigilance. Make sure the websites you're using have URLs that begin with “https” rather than “http.” The “s” in “https” stands for secure. This lets you know that all your communication and data is encrypted as it passes to the site.
- Additionally, look for the padlock icon in the browser bar. It's another indication that the site is encrypted.