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Securely Surfing The Web

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Cybersecurity experts tend to have different online behavior than the average user. Owing to the nature of their profession, they tend to take greater steps to safeguard their identities; resulting in less risk of phishing or other malicious activity. But what practices can the average person embrace to reduce this risk as well?

Google researchers recently interviewed over 200 thought leaders in the field of internet security and identity theft, asking questions about their personal habits online. This was contrasted with an additional study of 300 non-experts, and some key differences emerged:

Always Install Software Updates

Software updates are usually the only way to combat actual security vulnerabilities – those bugs in software that let malicious attackers do things they shouldn’t. For instance, the recent Adobe Flash vulnerabilities opened a user’s computer up to hacking if they continued using the software: until patches were issued, there was little option but to simply stop using Flash to stay safe online.

The experts are clear: never turn down a security update. The researchers found that not only was installing updates the most commonly cited practice that experts do to keep safe online, it was also the largest difference between experts and non-experts: 35% of the former mentioned it, while only 2% of the latter. And a further 2% of experts also mentioned turning on automatic updates as one of the top three things they do, something no non-expert mentioned.

Use Antivirus Software

Antivirus packages have a bad rap. For years, the software had a reputation for slowing down computers without doing much to actually protect the computers in the first place. But despite all that, a majority (60%) of experts said they use the software. The software is good at detecting everyday malware, but keep in mind that anything sophisticated can still slip through.

Keep Your Passwords Unique

Password security online is frequently summed up as “strong, unique passwords” – but it turns out one part of that might be more important than the other. Using a strong password (that is, one that uses a good mixture of case, letters, numbers and symbols, as well as steering clear of dictionary words) can feel very much like the sort of security procedure one should carry out, while avoiding password reuse is an ongoing hassle; requiring a new password for every site.

But in practice, most people are unlikely to face an attempt to break into their account by simply guessing their password, and even if they do, it doesn’t take much to render such an attack unsuccessful. But most people are likely to be the user of at least one service which gets hacked and having a unique password for each service can prevent that misfortune from compounding.

Embrace Two Factor Authentication

Companies such as Google or Twitter are being increasingly pushy about trying to encourage users to switch to two-factor authentication where passwords are backed up by a code linked to a specific mobile phone; over two-thirds of experts say they use the security system on their accounts. The general public still lags behind the experts on this, but higher numbers suggest that the message is getting through.

The Data Vault has a vested interest in seeing our clients and community practice safe online habits, and we’ve been helping educate the community in secure information management since 1984. If you ever have any questions about how we can help secure your data, please contact us!

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