There are a million and one things you should do to keep yourself safe online, but what techniques are the experts using?
To find out, we asked computer security experts what they think the best online practices are for keeping safe, as well as what they personally do to protect themselves and their family.
Their answers showcase the nuts and bolts of safe online practices, and they’re not too hard to follow either.
Kurt Roemer, chief security strategist at Citrix
Roemer, who works at the software company Citrix, believes that having the most up-to-date software is one of the most important things anyone can do to stay safe.
Additionally, he says it’s imperative to make sure all of your digital sources are trusted. He only downloads applications from trusted app stores and checks every link that’s emailed to him on Google before he clicks it.
Dr. Chase Cunningham, threat intelligence lead at FireHost
Dr. Cunningham uses a home firewall. He also believes that home education is precisely what helps families stay safe from nefarious online actors. “Limit what your children can do online,” he wrote, adding that it’s vital to be “educating your children about being safe online as well as what not to post.”
Additionally, Dr Cunningham adds that making sure you’re using the best home technology is of the utmost importance. He recommends that people buy their own home router and avoid using the one provided by their ISPs. Also, all home routers’ passwords should be changed from their factory default.
Mark Nunnikhoven, senior research scientist at OpenDNS
For Nunnikhoven, password safety is one of the most important parts of digital security. He recommends that people remember two long passphrases — “one for your local computer account and the other for your password manager.”
Password managers like 1Password, Dashlane, and LastPass are applications that safely save and create passwords for users. This makes it possible for people to have unique and complicated passwords for multiple accounts without having to memorize them all.
Nunnikhoven says his two-password rule creates a “a very simple system for managing a unique, complex password for every site and app you use.”
Ryan Olson, intelligence director at Palo Alto Networks
Like Nunnikhoven, Olson highlights the importance of password safety and the usefulness of password managers. “I can’t expect my family to memorize 10+ complex passwords without ever re-using them, so a better solution is to use a password manager which tracks them instead,” he explained.
He also uses a tool called a virtual machine (VM) when performing certain online activities. A virtual machine creates exactly what its name implies: a program inside your computer that acts as if it’s its own standalone computer. Anything that is downloaded on a virtual machine does not touch the data on the other. Similarly, the data stored on each machine is siloed, meaning that information on one is protected if another VM is hacked.
According to Olson, if you are going to do risky online behavior — namely, downloading files — you best do it using something that doesn’t put your other digital assets at risk.
Ryan O’Leary, senior director of threat research center at WhiteHat Security
O’Leary is a big proponent for sharing as little as possible online. For example, if anyone asks you for personal information over email, don’t give it. “No legitimate business will ask you to email them your Social Security number, credit card number, passwords, date of births, etc., over email,” he writes.
He adds that the only way to be sure that what information you’re sharing online is safe is if the website communicates over HTTPS — which you can recognize by the tiny green security lock icon that shows up at the beginning of a website’s URL once you connect.
Frank Gifford, team lead security research of application and threat intelligence, network test solutions at IXIA
Like the rest, Gifford advocates for password security and uses a password manager. He has one tip for coming up with unique passwords: “Longer passwords are harder to break than those with special characters or numbers.”
Additionally, he says you should be judicious about the software you download. And, if you must, make sure it’s safe by using a virtual machine.
All the experts generally agreed on a few key points:
- Use strong password security/a password manager
- Never download unknown attachments
- Don’t email personal information
- Be wary of the software you download
If you’re sharing your information online, be sure you know who you’re sharing it with, and avoid sharing personal details if you can.
Lastly, educate yourself and your family on all the ways you can stay safe from hackers, and always exercise common sense.
This article is published in collaboration with Business Insider. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Cale Guthrie Weissman covers cybersecurity/tech-politics for Business Insider.
Image: A magnifying glass is held in front of a computer screen. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski.