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All of your valuable stuff is online. We know, we’ve seen it. Jokes! Here’s how to protect it.
Looking to avoid a brush with cyber- crime? According to a Symantec study, three in four South Africans have fallen victim to an online attack, with thieves making off with passwords, personal info and cash. Basie van Solms, the director of the Centre of Cyber Security at the University of Johannesburg, says follow these simple steps to safeguard your digital space:
1/ Clean Up
Chances are your de- vice is already teeming with viruses. (In 2014, Alcatel-Lucent’s Motive Security Labs reported that over 16 million mobile devices had been hit by malware.) Solms says most guys don’t know there could be backdoor software lurking on their phones, beaming Internet activity to a hacker. Your solution: download a free app like AVG (iOS, Android) and run a virus scan.
Remember those Scrabble words that didn’t pass the dictionary test? Those are your secret weapons. Studies have shown that if it’s in the dictionary, even the most lethargic hacker will be able to brute force your code in minutes. Solms says it’s time to play fast and loose with the English language (or ditch it entirely). Throw in a few numbers, uppercase letters and symbols. Better yet, use an app like LastPass (right) to generate uncrackable passwords.
3/ One-Two Step
This isn’t just a time- less dance move; it’s a safeguard against online attacks. Two- step verification, which adds an extra hurdle to the login process (making you confirm your sign-in) is being implemented by most big sites – like your bank and even Face- book. Solms says even if a hacker figures out your password, they’ll hit a wall. You’ll add a few seconds to your sign-in, but it’ll shave down the risks.
4/ Stay Notified
Most sites will let you receive login notifications. So when you spot a 3am sign-in from Abu Dhabi, it’ll give you a chance to put everything on lockdown. Solms says he’s surprised by how many guys just bury their head in the sand: “Keep track of what’s going on with your online accounts, or they might not belong to you much longer.”
5/ Stay Sharp
If you’re a regular browser on your local coffee spot’s Wi-Fi, it’s time to rethink your online habits. Public networks are easy targets for hackers, says Solms. Never enter sensitive info while you’re hooked up, especially your card details. And when you’re online, look out for a lock near the URL: it’s a sign that you’re speaking to a secure server and not a suspicious one.
6/ Surf Anonymously
Every time you visit a site, you’re leaving behind a footprint, says Solms – and all roads lead back to your stuff. Stop the stalkers by going anonymous with a secure VPN service, such as NordVPN. It’ll cost around $6 a month, but for that price you’re buying a masked connection that will let you browse without a trace.