Staying Safe While Online

Some useful tips to help you avoid various online problems.

Email and Web Browsing

Generally, you want to be helpful, and safe. It's human nature. Unfortunately, criminals take advantage of this fact, and use your nature to entice you to do something that they want you to do.  Something that will be profitable for them, and potentially disastrous for you.

For example, they may send you a phishing email which offers to provide you with some interesting information relating to current events (plan crashes, elections, discounts, dirt on some celebrity, etc.), or attempts to scare you into clicking on a link because your computer has viruses, or is running slowly, etc. 

Home PCs and Networks

Keeping your home PC and network safe from attackers requires some work, but the consequences of not doing so can be great. Losing your banking credentials to criminals, having your identity stolen, having your most personal e-mails and photos posted online, or losing access to all of your files until you pay someone ransom to get them back can have a negative impact on your life.

Security experts tend to approach the problem differently from most people. Most people, for example, tend to underestimate the value of keeping all of their software, plugins, and operating system components up to date.

Securing home networks is also important. If an attacker can make it into your home network, it makes getting to your sensitive data or monitoring your online activity much easier.

Taking care of your home PC and network takes time and effort, but it is worth it.

Smart phone, Tablets, Laptops, Other Mobile Devices

 Inherently mobile devices like laptops, tablets, and phones present their own challenges. Easily lost or stolen, these devices often contain the same data as (or completely take the place of) a home PC. These types of devices also tend to support wireless technologies like Bluetooth, WiFi, and NFC which can introduce their own vulnerabilities Because of this, it's important to know how to secure your mobile devices.

Internet Connected Home Devices

More and more devices are connected to the internet each day.  You may have heard of "the internet of things" (IoT), which refers to devices like home thermostats, door locks, security cameras, etc., that are connected to the internet.

The connection to the internet can be a convenience. For example, you may be expecting your painter to finish up some work at your house. Unfortunately, you can't be home to let him in, so he can call you when he arrives at your front door. You can see that it is him by remote-viewing your security camera, and remotely unlock the door to let him in.

Unfortunately, although these devices are convenient, and the vendors have attempted to make them as secure as possible, these devices are susceptible to the same types of "hacks" as are normal web sites. Software has flaws that can be exploited. So attackers study the software looking for these flaws.  Once a flaw is discovered, the criminals craft a way to use the flaw to bypass security and take control.  

This means that there is a potential exposure that would allow these devices to be accessed and controlled by someone other than yourself. A prankster may turn off your air conditioning and set your furnace to "max" on the hottest day of the year. A criminal may unlock your door and walk into your house after noticing - by remotely watching your security camera feeds - that you have gone to work for the day.