Online security is a bit like the newest household chore. We know it’s important; we do our best to keep up with it, but somehow few of us are as thorough as we’d like to be. Anyone who reads this blog regularly, knows they should change passwords often, use a unique, individual password for each site, and check frequently to see if vulnerable personal data is available online. Still, how do people have time to make this part of a daily or weekly routine? Looking at the number of celebrity hacks and internet missteps, it’s clear that even the most successful people don’t fare much better.
This guide will help lay out the most important things you can do to protect yourself online. This is doubly important for high profile individuals who represent a much bigger target for hackers. Reputation damage can be a problem in almost any career and keeping security and privacy settings up-to-date will go a long way to prevent the issue.
Step-by-step guide to becoming worry-free
The following measures will take an hour at the very minimum, and probably longer depending on how tech-savvy you are. You may want to break the work down to focus on security in one session and privacy the next. Once these steps are complete, you’ll be able to get on with your life, free of immediate concern over internet vulnerabilities. If you are someone who spends a lot of time forgetting their password, you’ll probably even find things run a lot smoother!
- Choose a password manager – this is first step in any online security makeover. It’s not as simple as it might sound given the range of password managers available, from free versions to those with a yearly fee or a one-time license cost. LastPass is the easiest and most popular option. It comes as a free download, but to include your mobile phone you will need the premium version with a US $12 yearly cost. LastPass had some security issues in 2015, but most people agree it was well handled. According to security expert Troy Hunt, “their hashing approach was solid and designed to be resilient.” LastPass is a cloud based system so your passwords will be stored in the cloud, however they will be downloaded to your computer before they are un-encrypted. Other systems like KeePass and 1Password opt for offline storage which is slightly more secure. Passwords can still be manually synced between devices, but they are stored on your computer or on a USB drive rather than the cloud. Dashlane is another well-rated option that is secure as well as easy to use, but the US $40 yearly fee can be prohibitive.
- Update your accounts – once you’ve chosen and downloaded your password manager, you will need to go through all your accounts to store each password in your password manager. Make a list of every account you can think of, from bank accounts to social media pages, to Amazon.com and other places you order online, and go through them one by one. Unless you already have a strong password system, you will want to let the manager generate a new, unique password for each site. If you prefer to keep your existing passwords, some models like LastPass will capture these and highlight weaknesses, however it’s generally easier to let the manager generate and remember passwords.
- Create a master-password – you will need to choose a secure, memorable master-password for the manager itself. Try using the first letters of a unique phrase and substitute capitals, numbers, and symbols for some letters. Avoid giving yourself hints that could make your master-password too easy to guess. Remember, this password will allow access to all your accounts, so it needs to be memorable for you but un-guessable to anyone else.
- Add two-step verification – many sites like Twitter, Facebook and Gmail now offer two-step verification. It’s important to activate this measure since it will protect you in case of an online security issue with your password manager. Two-step verification will send a code to your cell phone or another email address which you will then be required to enter in order to sign on. This measure will kick in anytime you change your password or sign in from a new computer. If you think this sounds cumbersome, remember how many emails and texts you receive on a daily basis. You’ll rarely be trying to access your account without your cellphone immediately handy.
In the next article in the series, we will move on to the subject of online privacy and show you what additional steps you can take to stay protected.