[Part 2] Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Teach You How to Be Safer Online

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The internet is now become bigger than ever. During the Singles’ Day (China’s biggest shopping day) last year, Alibaba broke its record once again by garnering revenue as much as $17.79 billion, surpassing its previous year record of $14.69 billion GMV.

In Southeast Asia alone, the e-commerce sector is slated to become a $200 billion industry by 2025. Unfortunately, as businesses are moving their focus to e-commerce, so are criminals setting up shop in efforts to gain a piece of the pie.

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On a global scale, cyber-attacks has cost businesses as much as $400 billion. This includes money lost from the damage itself and subsequent disruption to the normal course of businesses. Though businesses & cybersecurity companies are diligently working to protect consumers regularly, we as consumers should be vigilant and be sure to protect ourselves from cybercriminals too.

Since you’re here, why not take a second and read Part 1 of “Give me 3 minutes and I’ll teach you how to be safer online“, if you have not done so? If not, stick around with additional tips on how you can be safer online. 

  • Surf & Make Purchases with a Secure Device
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While smartphones were designed to make our daily routine more convenient and connected to others, we need to take safety precautions that this same level of convenience, is inaccessible to unwanted individuals.

While phone reviews portrayed on the media talks about devices with the best graphics and performance, we need to remember that software and hardware security features should be something we never skimp on. To date, devices with face recognition features and fingerprint sensors are great anti-theft tools. 

On top of this, cell phone security experts also highlighted that we should actively ensure our phone data is encrypted and set up for remote wipe, should our device be stolen. You can’t be too confident these days when there’s news on the safest iOS devices being hacked by experts with a ‘one-time fee’.

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On another note, as Android and iOS software developers have developed a more secured platform for our smartphones in recent months, Android devices still lags in terms of security. Apple remains the leader with the iOS as they have complete control over its device’s entire ecosystem – from its hardware, firmware to its software. On the other hand, Android has no control over its ecosystem with its various hardware providers and Google’s eternal struggle to rid its Play Store of harmful apps.

As such, many are utilising harmful Android devices without knowing it. Many are found using their Android devices without an anti-virus app. Free apps such as AVG and 360 Security provide basic but insufficient protection for your device. But be vary that some antivirus apps on Google’s Play Store are harmful, so be sure to make the necessary research to see which app best suits your needs and requirements.

Takeaway: Purchase devices with great security features, ready your devices with remote wipe & secure your Android device with a reputable antivirus app.

  • Surf with VPN (especially at public or semi-public Wi-Fi networks)

Sure, free public Wi-Fi is convenient and we’re instantly revived when we see free Wi-Fi available, especially when we’re overseas. But little do some of us know that our browsing activity and things we do online are exposed and can be tracked. In some cases, even a HTTPS link can be compromised when you connect to an unsafe public Wi-Fi connection.

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Though banks and credit card companies are constantly making their services fraud-proof, we have the responsibility to ensure that we make transactions in the safest manner. Therefore, it’s advisable that we conduct transactions through our LTE internet connection or with hotspot via mobile to your PC rather than doing it over public Wi-Fi. In addition, make purchases only on sites with HTTPS certification at its url.

Not to mention a recent finding by Kaspersky Lab, found that a ‘cyberespionage group’ called Darkhotel, has specifically targeted execs on the road through hotel networks. The group accomplishes this by injecting malicious code into the Web portals used by hotel guests to log in to the local network and access the internet with just a guest’s last name and room number.

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The infections are known to be brief and targets specific guests by prompting them to download ‘trojanized’ updates disguised as popular and secure software applications. Once installed, the software then downloads and installs information stealing programs without the user’s knowledge. 

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So, how can I ensure my information is safe even with the use of public Wi-Fi networks altogether? Use VPN (virtual private network) connections. A VPN encrypts all outgoing and incoming traffic to a trusted internet gateway and masking your current IP address.

You can easily install VPN software as listed by TechRadar for the best free VPN software around and PCMag for those who prefers a quicker and ad-free service.

Takeaway: Do not access your personal information and make online transactions over public Wi-Fi connections. If urgent, conduct transactions over mobile internet connections or surf with VPN connections on PC. Be sure to conduct transaction on sites with HTTPS certification.

  • Lock Your PC When Left Unattended

Most of us are probably guilty of leaving our PCs or laptops unlocked when we’re out for lunch or in a meeting. You might be thinking; what’s there to keep private from when it’s all work-related information and you don’t want to not trust the people you work with closely. 

However, even though the workplace is a semi-private space, we can never be too safe these days when it just takes a few seconds to install a malware. With your PCs logged in as administrators, this makes it easier for anyone to install harmful software tailored to evade detection by antimalware software.

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Start by cultivating this habit by adding a passcode lock to your device. To do this for Windows, click the Windows key + L and for Mac, press Control + Shift + Power to lock. 

Another tip is to set your PC settings to automatic lockdown after a period of inactivity. This is great especially for moments when you forget to manually lock it. In your battery management settings, set a shorter period before your PC goes to sleep and make it compulsory to enter a password when you’re active again.  

If you’ve read my previous experience on how my PC password was easily override, it might be for the best to obtain laptops with built-in fingerprint or facial recognition such the new Microsoft Surface Book where your biometrics is all your need to unlock your PC.

Taking a step further, you can utilise a physical token to unlock your device such as the GateKeeper. This device uses a USB dongle and a fob that works as a lock and a key. Communicating via Bluetooth, your PC locks and unlocks depending on your proximity.

Takeaway: Always lock your PC when left unattended and when possible, purchase PC with biometric security features.

Even though these tips sound like a no-brainer, many of us are still not taking the necessary measures for our best interests. To avoid undesirable consequences that we can avoid as early as now, take the time to start applying these steps seriously and you’ll thank yourself in the future. 

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