Internet Security in the Age of the Device

There’s no shortage of cybercrime, and the popularity of mobile devices has made it easier for hackers to intrude on our personal lives. More devices are able to connect to WiFi, making it especially important for the average person to learn more about cybersecurity. Luckily, there are several ways you can protect yourself online. The same methods you use for your home computer can in many instances also be used on your mobile devices.

The unfortunate side effect of the age of the device, though, is the concern about new internet-enabled technology. Some newer gadgets don’t have built-in security software or the capability for the user to download apps that could be used to protect against hackers. When you have a smart car or appliance, what are you to do?

For now, we should avoid gadgets that don’t offer necessary security measures or are otherwise vulnerable, at least until manufacturers catch on and release new and better versions of their current products. Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways you can keep yourself protected while using certain devices (smart cars, toys, and appliances, for example) beyond securing the network perimeter, but the following internet security tips can be helpful nonetheless, and it’s wise to implement them whenever possible.

Secure Your Online Accounts

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Nearly every internet-enabled gadget requires you to sign into an online account, so it’s important to know how to keep them secure. To begin with, you need to have a password that’s a bit above the average birthday or home address. You need to ensure your password contains a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols whenever possible. There are a few things a strong password should exclude as well. If a word can be found in the dictionary, you shouldn’t be keeping it in your password.

The use of passphrases is recommended if you have multiple accounts and have difficulty remembering your passwords. Never reuse passwords, even if they’re strong, as a hacker could then access more than one of your accounts if they figure out the password you’ve been using. Changing passwords on a regular basis is a good idea as well. Avoid saving your passwords anywhere (even on your web browsers).

Finally, consider using an alias when signing up for your online accounts. This will not only protect your personal identity from companies who fancy selling your data, but also hackers and other internet users who have nefarious intent.

Use Security Apps

A lot of devices use apps now, and that’s a good thing since it allows the user to install security software. The main reason why it’s important to use security apps is because most devices currently on the market connect to WiFi. They sometimes even do so automatically. Though WiFi hotspots are convenient, they can be dangerous due to their lack of encryption and their availability to the public.

Anyone within range of the signal can be connecting to the internet on the same network as you and with the right knowledge, they can use public WiFi as a means of accessing your device. Once they’ve made their way in, they can spy on your activities, inject your device with malware, alter your files, obtain your passwords and even use your accounts.

That’s not the only reason to use security apps, though; another is that any internet-enabled device is susceptible to malware and can be used to track you. The best course of action to prevent all of the above is to use an anti-virus program and a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Anti-virus apps, such as Avast Free Mobile Security, can be downloaded for free and will scan and remove malware from your device.

A VPN also protects you from hackers, but in a different way. It reroutes all your internet traffic through an encrypted (secure) remote server and masks your IP address (which is used to display your location online). When you have your internet connection encrypted, it is nearly impenetrable from anyone on the network, allowing you to safely use public WiFi on your device.

Your IP address being masked is also important since it can help you protect your privacy and prevent cyber stalkers from finding you. If you’re looking for recommendations on the matter, Secure Thoughts has a good guide that you can read on the subject.

Check for Updates

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Checking for updates is especially important, as updates for software or operating systems often contain patches for security vulnerabilities. The longer it has been since an internet-enabled gadget has been released, the longer hackers have had to figure out ways to use it to their advantage. Some updates may be automatic, but always check your apps and even check with the manufacturer of your device to see if any updates are available.

When checking apps, all you have to do is search for them in the app store you downloaded them from. If you open their page within the app store, the option for updating is often listed. It’s unlikely you’ll have to do this often, however, as smartphones and tablets tend to alert you when there are updates available. If you don’t have automatic updates enabled on your device, check your settings to see if it’s a possibility to enable them.

Depending on your device, you might want to check the manufacturer for updates and the best way to do this is to contact them through their website. Just be careful when you search for the website, as there are a lot of illegitimate sites posing as websites for well-known companies. The manual included with your device may have contact information, so look through it if possible.

Smart devices aren’t going anywhere soon, so the best course of action to protect yourself is to follow the above methods and always stay current with cybersecurity tips and news.

What steps have you taken to protect yourself online? Share with us in the comments.

Cassie Philips

Cassie is a cybersecurity expert who enjoys sharing her knowledge with others so they too can protect themselves online. With the release of more internet-enabled devices, she finds it more important than ever to teach web users how to avoid cyberattacks, both at home and on the go.

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