The Ultimate Guide to Online Security

In the twenty-first century humans are cyborgs. Our minds have been plugged into a vast cyberverse where all our personal information is at risk. This connection between the organic and the digital will only become more symbiotic in the future. Thus, it is necessary to ensure maximum technological security and privacy.  

 

What is the perfect password for my account?

You should set difficult and complex passwords for all online accounts. A complex password should be long and contain numbers, symbols and capitals. Another good trick is to add phrases or multiple words into the password. If you want to remember the password then choose a phrase or sentence that you will remember from a book or from music. A list of words is more secure than one word. Ensure that the phrase or sentence is not easily guessable or well-known.

Do not have the same password for all your different accounts. If one of your accounts is hacked, the hacker can get into your other accounts. Create unique passwords for everything. You will need a password manager to remember all these different passwords. Safari and Chrome and other browsers already store passwords if you allow them. You can get more secure password managers online. 

A password can stop people from getting into your online accounts but it cannot stop a person from breaking into your computer. Nevertheless, you should still select a difficult password and ensure that the computer always requires a password after it goes to sleep.

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Should I keep a list of passwords on my computer?

That is not advisable. If you have a list of passwords for all your accounts then print them out. Your computer could be hacked and all your passwords will be accessed. It is easy to break into a computer even if it is password protected. Therefore, print out your passwords. Make the printed list cryptic and keep it in a secure place. Do not make it look like a list of passwords. Do creative things like add an extra letter to each password so that if someone steals the list, then the passwords will not work. Only you will know not to add that extra letter at the end of each password when logging in. 

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Discuss how two-step verification works.

Two-step verification is an added layer of security for logging in. After you type in your password you will be asked to provide an additional piece of information: a short code of numbers that is sent to your phone. Each time you login you will get a unique code. Add two step-verification to everything and make sure you get codes through your phone number. Most websites like Google, Microsoft, Apple and Twitter have the option now.

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What kind of email address should I use?

An email is a public thing but that does not mean you should share it around to everyone and post it online. You should have multiple email accounts, including a private one and a professional one for work. Your private email can be more cryptic and difficult to guess. However, your professional one should be respectable as it is more public. If you want to be really professional then use a custom business email address. The paid version of Gmail offers you the ability to use a custom email address without the @gmail.com at the end. 

[yourname]@[yourcompany].com

 

Is it good to link all my accounts together?

Most websites have the option to link to third-party applications. Twitter, for example, is able to link to Google, Flipboard, Facebook and many other apps. This might put your personal information and privacy at risk. If someone hacks one of your accounts they might be able to access your other accounts. Do not keychain all your accounts together unless it is necessary. 

Review the list of connected third-party applications for all your accounts such as Twitter. Revoke access to certain apps and services that you do not use anymore.

Twitter > Settings > Apps > Revoke access

Change your password if a bad application is connected to your account. 

 

Is it unsafe to have too many online accounts?

People in the twenty-first century have a huge online presence. This is insecure. What you should do is make a list of all your accounts online and then figure out which ones you use and which ones that you don’t. Delete all the accounts that you absolutely do not need or do not use. Most websites have a Delete or Deactivate Account option. Other websites make it notoriously difficult to delete an account like Apple.

Google and Twitter are easy to permanently close. Delete any old social networks and old email accounts that you do not use as they hold personal information. 

 

What if I cannot deactivate or delete an account?

Websites like Apple or EA Games make it almost impossible for users to close their accounts. You may need to contact Support.

If that does not work you can remove all these personal things from the account that you do not need:

  • name
  • address
  • bank details
  • connected apps
  • photos and documents
  • phone numbers
  • email addresses
  • connected devices
  • security questions

 

Explain how I can backup my files to iCloud.

You should backup all your files to a cloud service or to an external hard drive to keep them secure.

System Preferences > iCloud > iCloud Drive. 

Go to iCloud Drive > Options > Desktop & Documents Folders and select it. This means documents are instantly uploaded to iCloud and updated as you work on them. If you want to upload something to iCloud Drive you can drag a file into Finder > Documents. 

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I recommend storing your entire library of photos and videos on multiple cloud services. Activate iCloud Photo Library on Mac so that your entire photo library is stored on iCloud and can be accessed on all devices. Settings > iCloud > Photos > iCloud Photo Library  

Also activate iCloud Photo Library on iPhone and iPad. Settings > Photos and Camera 

 

How can I backup photos on Google Photos?

Activate automatic backup on Google Photos on iPhone and iPad for unlimited photo storage and great editing tools. 

Google Photos > Settings > Back up & sync 

 

Explain how I can encrypt files on Mac?

Encryption converts information into code that bars it from unauthorised access. You can encrypt folders to become password protected on Mac using Disk Utility. This allows you to protect important and private information. 

Launch Disk Utility: File > New Image > Image from Folder

Select the folder that you want to encrypt. You place the private files into the folder. 

For Image Format select read/write if you want to be able to edit the folder. Select 128-bit AES encryption (recommended). Provide a strong password and an encrypted .dmg folder will be created. The original folder can be deleted in place of the encrypted version. 

Additionally, turn on FileVault on Mac to encrypt data on your disk. Go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault

 

Can I encrypt emails?

In Outlook go to File > Properties > Security Settings > Encrypt message content and attachments. 

 

Should I use Find My Mac?

Find My Mac is not recommended. If someone steals your phone or gets into your iCloud account they can remote wipe your computer. It makes sense to use Find my iPhone or Find my iPad for smaller devices but not for your computer. I recommend switching it off. 

System Preferences > iCloud 

 

How do I activate Firewall on Mac?

Firewall is off by default. Turn it on to stop objectionable apps from controlling network ports. 

System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Firewall 

 

How do I ensure all apps are updated in App store?

Ensure that the App Store automatically updates all apps and installs macOS updates. Set the App Store to automatically install new software updates all the time. 

System Preferences > App Store > Automatically check for updates

Install all new system updates and ensure that you are running the latest editions of the operating systems for both Mac and Windows. Keep all your devices like your phone, tablet and watch updated. Security flaws and problems with apps are rectified in updates. They improve performance and stability. When a new version of macOS arrives download it from the App store and install it. 

App Store > Updates

 

Why should I display filename extensions?

A filename extension is a type of metadata where certain letters are displayed at the end of the name of a computer file. This helps the computer determine the nature of the file and how it is used. Examples of filename extensions are .jpg and .txt. The extension occurs after a period in the filename. 

Filename extensions are not displayed by default on Windows and macOS. This has meant that malicious files can be spread to computers from the web with their true filename extensions hidden from sight. A dangerous file that contains malicious code may have a fake filename extension added to it and the real extension will be hidden. Potentially dangerous filename extensions include .exe, .bat, .pif, and .cmd. Do not open a file from untrustworthy emails or from certain websites. 

Below are the instructions to display filename extensions. 

WindowsStart > File Explorer > View > Options > Change folder and search options

A Folder Options window will open. Folder Options > View > Hide extensions for known file types. Uncheck Hide extensions for known file types. 

macOSFinder > Preferences > Advanced > Show all filename extensions 

 

How can I tell my browser not to track me?

Google Chrome:  Settings > Privacy > Send a “Do Not Track” request with your browsing traffic

Safari: Preferences > Privacy > Website Tracking: Ask websites not to track me

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What do I do if I get a popup?

If popups appear on-screen alerting you that you have a virus, it is a lie. If your computer really had a virus, Safari and other browsers would not alert you. The pop up is a scam to get you to press it and give them your details. These scams pretend to scan your computer and will then advertise computer virus software. Some popups are designed to look like a Windows alert box to look like it belongs to the operating system when it does not. These are known as Rogue Security Software programs that popup on the screen in the browser. 

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Quit the browser immediately through Force Quit. Do not press the Cancel or Close button on a Popup window. In some cases the Cancel button is fake. Ensure that the ‘Block Popups’ feature is activated on your browser. This does not block all popups but it is better than nothing. 

On Windows press ALT + F4 to close the browser. 

 

What are the different forms of Malware?

Malware is malicious software that disrupts or destroys a computer system. 

Virus: A virus is a piece of code that replicates with a deleterious effect upon the operating system and can destroy data.  Viruses are commonly sent through email attachments and through downloads from the Internet. You should never open an email attachment unless you know who the email is from. 

Worm: A worm is a piece of computer code that self replicates and it has a deleterious effect upon a computer. Worms are propagated without user interaction through networks. Worms commonly come from infected email attachments that are opened. 

Trojan Horse: A trojan horse is a malicious program that breaks through the security of a computer and performs detrimental functions. Trojan horses are carried in other programs and are usually spread through downloaded software and viruses. 

Spyware: Spyware is malicious software that enables a user to gain access to another persons computer and transmit data to the computer. Spyware collects personal information, browsing data and advertising information. 

 

How do I remove malware?

Malware removal software should be installed on your computer. You should also keep your computer updated to the latest edition. On Windows set the Automatic Updates to run automatically. If your computer has a virus, open Safe Mode and use the Disk Cleanup tool. 

 

List the ways I can stay secure on public WiFi. 

  • Ensure that you only use secure apps when connecting to public wi-fi
  • Read the Terms and Conditions
  • Forget the network when you are finished. 
  • Avoid websites where you have to login
  • Do not install any software
  • Use VPN (Virtual Private Network)

 

Is Google Search private?

Even if you delete the search history on your browser, Google is storing everything about you. All your Google and YouTube search history and online life is being archived. Whenever you search something on Google, Youtube and Google Chrome (if you are logged in) your searches are stored in your account. This can be a breach of privacy if someone hacked your account and had a look at your searches. Even if you clear the browsing history on Google Chrome the data is still stored online. The idea that your searches are being stored is quite restrictive and can make you be extra cautious about what you search.  

Go to the My Activity Page on Google and login. You can erase individual items or you can press the menu bar and delete everything. Items that are deleted are permanently deleted.

If you want to prevent searches and other activity from being stored: 

Google > My Activity > Activity Controls > turn off the switch for the activity that you do not want to save. Press Pause to confirm. 

 

How do I restrict Siri Suggested apps on the iOS lock screen?

iOS 9 introduced Siri Suggested Apps. Then iOS 10 introduced a new lock screen that gives you information on a widgets centre without having to unlock the device. As humans get more lazy Apple had to make the lock screen more convenient by presenting relevant information at a glance. The widgets centre can present private information that can reveal much about a person. This is at the detriment of privacy. The widgets centre provides a shortcut to your most used apps suggested by Siri. This means a person could pick up your phone and see your dating apps (not that their used for dating). 

Go to Settings and select which applications can show up on the lock screen. You can also toggle off Siri Suggested Apps entirely. 

Settings > General > Spotlight Search > Siri Suggestions

 

How do I restrict private notifications from appearing on the lock screen on iPhone and iPad?

You might want to restrict which notifications end up on the lock screen as they can present private and sensitive information to outsiders. The lock screen and widgets centre of iOS and Android are convenient but they can offer a large glimpse into a persons personal life. 

Settings > Notifications 

You can restrict certain apps from presenting banners on the lock screen without turning off notifications entirely. 

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