Montgomery, AL (WSFA) - Cyber crime is in the news almost everyday. We always hear about another company's computer system that's been hacked. While we can't stop those big corporate attacks, we CAN take steps to protect our personal computers and our mobile devices.
Cyber security expert Chad Smith has a long history of protecting corporate computer systems. Now, he's giving the 12 News Defenders some tips.
Here are ten things you can do right now to protect your privacy online:
1. Watch what you click
Chad's number-1 tip is about the websites you choose to visit.
"That's the largest attack vector right now for people to try and break into systems," he explained. "If they can get you to click on a website that is infected, then you can be infected on your device."
So be suspicious of links in your email. You may even get one in a text message. Don't click on it! Nowadays, some bogus websites are even showing up in search engine results, so be careful.
2. Install antivirus software
To try and prevent attacks, you should install antivirus software, not just on your home computer, but on your mobile device as well.
In fact, mobile devices are more vulnerable than your home computer. They are the new frontier for hackers. Incidents of mal-ware have increased by more than 2-thousand percent on smart phones in the past year.
Most experts agree that Android phones are more prone to attacks than iPhones. That's because Apple has tighter controls over which apps are approved for iPhone use.
To find an antivirus program for your phone, search for the software company's name in your app store or Google Play. (Read the web extra below for popular software names.) You can also simply type in 'antivirus,' but be aware that games and other apps may be included in your search.
Many companies known for their antivirus systems for home computers now offer mobile device coverage.
The best antivirus apps are not fee. They can cost as little as 99-cents, but most sell for between $20 and $30. If you already have antivirus software on your home computer, check with the company to see if they offer a discount for mobile device coverage.
3. Buy encryption software
If you do a lot of online banking, Chad says you can also buy encryption software, which scrambles your private, sensitive information. Check with your software provider for more information.
4. Add a password
Our number four tip sounds simple, but it's crucial. You should have a password on every computer device you own. That way, if it's lost, no one will be able access your personal information or banking software.
5. Use 2-step authentication
You can go beyond password protection on some sites. It's called 2-step authentication. Smith says, if it's available, use it. He described how it works.
"Let's say I've typed in the correct password. Then, the next step is the company will show you a picture. The reason that's important is that it will allow you, the user, to know that website knows who you are and that predetermined picture shows up."
6. Enable your firewall
You should always enable the firewall on your computer to prevent unwanted intrusions. These days, some wireless routers/modems come with firewalls too.
7. Delete cookies
This won't protect your information, but it will prevent people or companies from knowing which websites you visit. You can delete your cookies in your web browser's settings.
8: Facebook: friends only
This tip is for you Facebook users. Make sure your posts, photos and other information are seen only by friends. Otherwise, Smith says, hackers can use the information to their advantage.
"If I can understand a lot about you, think how easy it would be to play this game: 'Hey, this is Chad. I'm that guy you met at the beach last weekend.'"
Smith says hackers can also use your posts and photos to get close to someone else. He says once a hacker wins OUR confidence, it's even easier to win over unsuspecting friends and family.
"We need to make sure we're protecting ourselves because we're really protecting our friends and family as well."
9. Sign up for email/text alerts
By signing up with your bank or credit card company for text or email alerts, you'll know when a large transaction goes through, just to be sure you made the purchase.
10. Back up your information
Remember to back up all of your devices whether it's with an external hard-drive or through a cloud service. Perhaps you choose to back up your mobile devices on your home computer. Either way, if you are hacked, you can restore your device to a previous point and avoid losing information.
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