Tips on how to stay safe online

Hackers, like the devil are always busy – finding new ways to cause problem for unsuspecting users of computer systems. And in this Age of Internet of Things (IOT), not only are computers targeted, but Smartphones and other smart devices as well. Manufacturers and developers of these systems and apps are also doing their best to ensure that you are protected, but that can only happen if you play your part. Follow this advice to stay safe online.

Make sure your Operating System and applications including anti-viruses are up-to-date. One way to ensure that your computer or smartphone is protected is to download the latest updates and install them. Updates vary from security patches to bug fixes. Some updates are critical whereas others are service packs, which can include performance improvement, but they are all needed to keep you safe. To prevent your computer from being vulnerable, you need these updates especially the critical and security updates. You can configure your update settings on your computer or smartphone to automatic, so that once the updates are available and you have internet with data, it will be updated automatically. For smartphone users, if mobile data is problem for you, you can configure the system to only download over Wi-Fi, but you should do it regularly – at least check for update every other day.

Avoid opening hyperlinks that you are unsure of. Hackers are aware of how trigger-happy many unsuspecting users are about opening links. If you received a link, be it on Skype, WhatsApp, Telegram or in any other messaging app, and you are not sure of it, do not open it. The reason being that such a link could be malicious and opening it could compromise your system by downloading malware onto your system.

Note that not all websites are safe, so be careful!

Avoid installing apps outside of Google PlayStore. Apps that are not on Google PlayStore may not be safe, so you should avoid installing them. Make sure installation from “unknown sources” is not allowed under Security Settings of your Android Smartphone. Unknown sources installation is meant for software developers who want to test their apps and they know the risks. There are exceptions though! There may be situations where an organisation or individual may develop an app for you, which they have not put in the PlayStore due to reasons known to them. In such situations, they may send you the installation file (an apk file) to install. To install such apps will require enabling “Unknown Sources” on your device. But remember to disable “Unknown Sources” once you are done installing such an app.

Finally, use strong passwords for your online accounts. Yes, strong passwords are very important to keep you safe. Avoid using your phone number, nicknames, popular towns and your favourite sport team as password for your online accounts such as Google, Yahoo or Microsoft.

As a rule of thumb, your password should be a combination of Uppercase, lower case, numbers and special character with a minimum length of 8. Above all, do not share your password with anyone.

Hackers have always been around but they have upped their game. Ransomware is the latest trend where hackers have access to your system and lock it by demanding a ransom from you before they unlock it for you. If you want to avoid falling victims to ransomware or any type of attack from hackers, do your homework by adhering to the above tips.

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