If you are part of Generation Y then your daily life is all about being connected. Tweeting, friending, and googling is routine, but protecting yourself from the various cyber-related issues that will likely pop up should be, too.
According to our research, only 31% of Gen Y ranked security as the most important consideration when making decisions about their computer. In fact, Gen Y was more likely to prioritize entertainment and community than security. This is in spite of the fact that at least half indicated that they had computer security issues in the past two years.
In reality, being proactive with personal online security doesn't have to be an inconvenience and should be a priority for this connected generation. Here are ten ways to get started.
It sounds simple, but regularly updating your computer’s operating system and software is one of the most important ways to protect it since updates are often how companies address a possible security issue. Plus, it’s not exactly hard. You can easily configure your operating system to automatically check for updates.
Did you know that more than 9,500 malicious websites are detected by Google every single day? This stat includes legitimate sites that have been hijacked and those that are designed to spread malware. Stay safe by being wary of the links you click. And remember to hover over links so that you can review the full address before you click. Finally, always keep your two-way firewall and antivirus up-to-date and active.
Small changes can cause big problems if you’re not careful. For example, Facebook changed your default email to @facebook.com. This means that a whole new group of marketers and spammers will be able to contact you much more easily than ever before. Whether you like this (or not), adjust your privacy settings to protect yourself from possible issues.
Always create strong passwords for online accounts, and include letters, numbers, and symbols. Longer passwords (at least 8-10 characters) are more secure and help prevent brute force attacks. And try not to use the same password for multiple sites. If a password gets compromised on one site, it may allow hackers to log into other accounts with the same credentials.
Don’t disable your security software when gaming. Yes, experiencing a high-speed connection with minimal interruptions is important, but not at the expense of security. Instead, look for “game mode” in your security software. This setting will never interrupt you while you’re in the middle of your game. It will also keep you protected.
The best solution is to simply never use P2P sites to download pirated software and, instead, download your files from the original software developer. If you still choose to take that risk, you should at least take a few precautions, like reading the user comments before you download the file. Keep in mind that many of today’s popular P2P sites offer a pretty accurate rating system that can provide you with a sense of just how these downloadable files have performed for other users.
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Cyber criminals scour social media sites all the time to learn all they can about potential targets. They’ll use the information they gather to send you highly-targeted emails, pretending to be from your boss, friend, or family member. Did you post information on Facebook about your favorite vacation spot only to receive an email from a co-worker about the best summer getaways, complete with a request to link to a recent article? That’s not a good sign. It’s also why you should always watch what you say online. Revealing too much information like a middle name or a pet name could be just enough to tip off a cyber criminal.
There’s nothing like making connections online via Facebook and other social networks. However, you definitely put yourself at risk by not taking the time to filter who you accept into your inner circle. If you get a friend request from someone you haven’t spoken to in years or someone you don’t know, a social bot may be using this as an opportunity to hack into your network. They could exploit the trust you have built on Facebook and Twitter to send emails or notifications to your networks, using your access, information, and persona to solicit products and spread malware to others’ computers.
Online video has really taken off, especially for Gen Y who often spends more time watching videos online than any other group. Be careful when downloading videos, as this activity could be a hotbed for viruses. If you don’t have the most up-to-date video player, download it directly from a trustworthy source. Never install software from file-sharing sites when trying to view a video, and keep in mind that downloading a video by itself should never require running an executable (.exe) file.
Most people are thrilled when they encounter free Wi-Fi hotspots. Before you connect, verify that the Wi-Fi network name (SSID) is from a legitimate service. Do not connect to random, unsecured Wi-Fi networks. It increases your risk. And use a Virtual Private Network, if you can. A VPN allows you to route all your activity through a separate, secure, private network, even if you’re on a public one. Several services are available, or you can even go with an app like Hotspot Shield, which sets a VPN up for you automatically.
Staying vigilant is a good start, but it’s just not enough. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security, no matter what your age. You will not only avoid becoming another statistic, you’ll also do your part to keep the Internet safe for your online community.