Top ways to stay safe online

Apologies I’ve been a little quiet over here on my blog. What with all the festivities and everything, it just slipped my mind.

Over the Christmas break I found that my friends and family were being targeted by a lot more scams, likely due to people shopping online more since the pandemic.

Therefore, I thought I would share with you (and them) some of the ways I personally protect myself from online attacks.

If you have any email account, you’re bound to have seen a suspicious looking email asking you to click a link to “verify your account”, “reset your password”, “track your order” (despite whether you made that order or not) or even “update your payment method” or “your X account has been blocked and you need to sign in again”.

Even if it looks genuine, NEVER TRUST IT COMPLETELY.

I’ve previously mentioned how to spot a phishing email before, but essentially a lot of attackers spoof the email address and look/feel of another company’s email and can even mimic their website scarily close too.

So what can you do?

Most companies (especially banks) have got better with their emailing strategy and will give you instructions to access what they need you to, rather than just sending you a link, it’s a lot safer.

If you do have to click on a link, always do it in “Incognito” or “Private Browsing” Mode first in your browser (see here how to do that) or use another browser completely (that you don’t normally use), as you will likely be signed out in Incognito/Private Browsing mode (or the other browser) and the link won’t try to take advantage of accounts you’re already signed into.

If the link takes you to a login or payment page, I’d always just close out of the link the email sent you and Google the page for the website you’re trying to access instead, as Google will most likely take you to the genuine version.

Making sure your Operating System, browser and other apps are up to date

Using outdated Operating Systems, software and apps that contain unpatched security vulnerabilities puts your device at risk of being targeted by attacks that focus on such weaknesses.

Hence, it is always best practice to keep everything on your device up-to-date.

Yes, I know it’s annoying, but what’s more annoying… a 10 minute update (coffee break) or losing 2 years worth of your family photos, your favourite game progress or the project due tomorrow that you spent all month working on.

Using an Ad Blocker and Popup Blocker

I always use an Ad Blocker where I can, since a lot of websites spam you with adverts and do not do it in a healthy way.

If there are some sites I’d like to support (or those that force you to turn your Ad Blocker off), I will briefly turn it off, but keeping it turned on while browsing not only makes websites load quicker and easier to use but it can protect you from malicious and scam adverts.

The 2 most trustworthy Ad Blockers in my opinion are classic AdBlock (not to be confused with AdBlock Plus) and uBlock Origin.

I also use a Popup Blocker too as a lot of popups can be malicious.

Yes, sometimes the Popup Blocker does block legitimate popups, but just like the Ad Blocker, you can temporarily disable it for certain sites.

My favourite and trusted Popup Blocker is Poper Blocker.

Not allowing the browser to store passwords, credit card information and other sensitive data

Some browsers like Chrome ask if you would like to save anything you input into forms to automatically fill it in next time such as usernames, passwords, addresses and credit card information.

I do not trust this and always decline it, since if your computer gets compromised, the attacker can access all the stored sensitive information from the browser data… there have been attacks before that have taken advantage of this (especially outdated browsers with vulnerabilities).

Instead, what you can do is use a separate password (and other sensitive information) management program such as KeePass or Bitwarden as these require a separate master password to be entered first, before you can access your sensitive information.

Using a VPN

This method is great for people who connect to free/public Wi-Fi networks on their travels such as shops, food and drink venues and hotels.

It can sometimes protect you at home too. If there’s a website you don’t trust, a VPN can mask your IP address, making it impossible to track you.

You don’t always have to pay for a VPN either, there are some trustworthy VPN providers such as ProtonVPN that offer a free version (with some limitations).

Changing your DNS

My last post explained the benefits of changing your DNS and one of those are privacy and security protection measures.

Changing your DNS not only helps protect you from your ISP snooping on you, but some providers such as 1.1.1.1 (by Cloudflare) use DNSSEC which helps prevent attackers from manipulating the responses to the requests you send such as when you request a website.

That’s it from me. If you found this guide useful, please consider sharing with your friends, family and colleagues or buying me a coffee.

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