The recent wave of ransomware attacks that has hit big organizations and private individuals alike has left us wondering: is surfing the internet really safe? The answer is a resounding no, but that does not mean that you have to despair. In fact, there is a myriad of tools out there that can be used to improve your browsing experience and make your online activity much more secure. These are our four top picks.
1. Password Managers
The first advice that everyone offers when it comes to security is almost always the same: make sure your password is not easy to guess. Yet, as more and more of our activities, from banking to shopping to entertainment, have migrated online, it gets harder and harder to generate and keep track of complex and different passwords. Enter the password manager: a dedicated software application (although it could come in hardware form, too) that stores all your personal login details across the various websites you regularly use and even generates new, unique and strong ones on demand. Password managers like LastPass store all your information in your password database that is encrypted and protected by a master password, which is the only one you need to remember.
2. Two Factor Authentication (2FA)
A password may be the first line of defense, but it is a pretty simple one. Two factor authentication is the necessary next step and has been widely endorsed by the tech industry, by companies including Apple, Google and Microsoft. In short, authentication can be established through three different kinds of factors: something the user knows (for instance, a password), something the user has on their person (such as your mobile phone), and something the user is (for example your fingerprint or retina). 2FA systems use a combination of two out of these three factors, making it harder for hackers to gain access. For example, you can set up 2FA on Google to ask you for your password plus a time-sensitive token generated by an app on your phone. 2FA is essential when dealing with sensitive data like medical or financial information, so it can prove crucial when you are managing assets, especially in highly vulnerable financial dealings like share trading, which more and more people do directly online nowadays.
3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
If privacy is on your mind, then another useful tool to try out is a VPN service. Especially if you regularly connect to public Wi-Fi networks, you need a VPN in order to encrypt all communication between the server and your device – including any personal data and your logging details and location. Services like NordVPN or VyprVPN also come with a kill switch, which keeps you protected should the VPN fail. VPNs can be used on your laptop as well as your phone or tablet for an extra layer of privacy and security.
4. Browser Security and Privacy Add-Ons
Besides emailing and social media, most of us go online to browse the web – which is why it is good to keep your browser security always up to date with add-ons and extensions that focus on privacy and are tailored to the service you most regularly use. For example, on Firefox and Chrome you can add HTTPS Everywhere, a free and open source extension that forces websites to convert to the more secure https protocol to encrypt all data sent using SSL/TLS. Alternatively, you can add Ghostery on virtually any browser. This privacy-focused extension allows you to block website trackers that monitor and collect information on your browsing activities.
Everyone is online these days – and that includes criminals. Yet there are also plenty of ways to stay secure, so there are no excuses. Get informed and get protected.