Don’t be fooled by the notion that the WIFI network you’re connected to in Maccas is completely safe. Sure, it can be, but there are always ways for prying eyes to get in, so we’ve put together a short list of things that you can do to minimise the potential of a data leak, especially if you’re about to buy something online!
1) Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
A VPN routes your web activity through a secure network, even if you’re using public WIFI, which gives you all the same perks as when you’re browsing from home. There are a number of VPN options available, some of which are free (and still good) and others that cost a few dollars. Just search for “VPN” on Google before you start browsing, and follow the instructions – it’s pretty simple.
2) Avoid Automatic Connections to WIFI
Some devices have this setting activated by default, meaning that when a public WIFI or “hotspot” becomes available, your device automatically connects. This can be an issue because some clever scammers out there can set up “fake” WIFI connections, and when you use them, everything you do is tracked and recorded… including any credit card information you type in, email addresses you write to or passwords you use to access private information.
To stop this, simply go into your device’s WIFI settings and turn off any items that indicate “Automatic connections”.
3) Turn off “Sharing”
If you’re used to sharing files, music, printers or anything else between your computers at home, then it’s likely that you’d forget to turn it off when on the move. With “Sharing” active, clever hackers can raid your computer, take what they need and leave you in a right mess.
If you’re in doubt about your device’s “Sharing” settings, just run a quick search on Google for “How to turn off sharing on [name of your device]” and you’ll usually find a host of information and videos on how it’s done.
4) Set Up a Secure Connection
You may have heard of SSL or seen it displayed on websites as you’ve browsed the web. Usually a site that allows for an SSL connection has a web address starting with https:// instead of http://. But you shouldn’t rely on the websites you’re browsing to protect you.
Websites transfer data using “plain text” and this can easily be read and handled by malicious hackers. SSL encrypts that data, making it more difficult to access.
So, to set up your own SSL connection, just use a service like “SSL Everywhere” (Google it), which installs a plugin on your browser that then encrypts every page you visit for you. It’s a really good way to keep your personal information secure and ensure that your computer is safe from hack-attacks.
5) Use Two-Step Verification
Two-Step Verification requires that you use two methods of identifying yourself before you can access personal information like emails and bank account details. Most reputable web services offer Two-Step Verification and the process usually involves a password, which you type in to the access area as usual, and a code that’s sent to your mobile phone, which you then type in to the second access area.
If you’d like to set up Two-Step Verification on your accounts, simply go into the site in question’s account settings, and you’ll find Two-Step Verification as an option where you’d usually change your password or personal data. If you can’t find it, then simply run a quick Google search and you’ll be sure to find the information you’re looking for – but beware, not all sites offer Two-Step Verification! Gmail often prompts users to set up or use it when logging in to accounts for the first time on a new network anyway, so keep your eyes peeled.
6) Confirm The Official Network Name
With the same concept in mind as point 2, hackers and scammers sometimes set up WIFI accounts to appear as though they belong to a reputable company, shop or café. So, the next time you’re having your Cappuccino, ask your waiter for the WIFI network’s name before you just logon to the one that seems the “most official”.
7) Using Different Passwords
Unique passwords, especially different passwords for each service you use online, can help you to defend yourself from potential attacks. If a hacker can get him or herself into your email account with the password, they may be able to access other data too using the same information. So, try to use different passwords for everything… but how will you remember them all?
It can be incredibly frustrating when you have to remember 150 different passwords, especially as they get more and more complex, only to realise that you’ve forgotten the one you need right now. To prevent that from happening, we suggest you get your hands on a Password Protection application, such as KeePass or LastPass. These services securely store your passwords (through encryption) so that they’re less likely to be stolen from hackers and the like.
8) Ensure your Firewall is Turned On
Most operating systems have a built-in firewall, which monitors connections to and from your computer. Firewalls don’t provide the utmost of protection, but it’s a setting that can definitely help, especially when coupled with any or all of our other tips.
To turn your firewall on, simply search “firewall” on your system’s search panel and you’ll find it pretty quickly. Then, just make sure it’s switched on and you’re good to go!
9) Scan for Viruses
Viruses aren’t always just annoying pop-ups or computer-slowing irritations, sometimes they’re running in the background, spying on every key you press and every program or website that you open.
Running a good virus scan can save you from a world of trouble, and also keep your computer running at its optimum. There are number of highly effective, free services available online and even more paid options. Just Google, “free anti-virus software” and you’ll find a plethora of services to choose from – you just need to decide which is best for you and your machine.
Hacking is an international problem that many people, companies and even governments face. If you think that you’re being watched through your computer, contact Precise Investigations today and we’d be more than happy to offer advice or assist where possible. We have investigators in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart and many other cities across Australia, so we’re never far.