Jun 19, 2014
While you’ll never be 100% secure browsing the web, there are several habits you must develop to be more secure working from the office, at home, or remotely. Most of these are common sense and will significantly bolster your browsing security.
1. Make Sure You Have a Good Antivirus That’s Up-to-Date
If you’re using a work system, it will likely already have an antivirus installed. If this is the case then make sure it’s enabled. If your work has a BYOD (bring your own device) policy, then you’ll need to have a good antivirus for your personal device not to infect or be infected by other devices connected to your work's network. By good antivirus I don’t mean the most expensive one money can buy, there are excellent options free and paid, like AVG. Once you’ve installed it, keep it up to date to avoid the latest threats. Most good antiviruses will do this automatically in the background.While antivirus software is a must for everyone, don’t be tricked into thinking that you're 100% safe. Viruses and Malware can occasionally get past even the best antivirus software.
2. Make Sure Your Passwords Are Secure
You must create a strong password. Recent data has shown that two of the most used passwords are ‘password’ and ‘123456’, both of which will be top of the list when someone tries to break into your accounts. There are loads of tutorials that will show you how to make a strong password and some will tell you how secure yours is. If you’re a manager, you should ensure that your staff all have strong passwords. All it takes to breach the network is one careless employee.
3. Vary Your Passwords
Using the same password for every website you visit is just as bad as having a weak one. It means if you’re compromised on one, you’re compromised on them all. Even if you have a password that will take years to hack, a venerability or data breach can leave you compromised. If you struggle to remember lots of different passwords, a tool like Lastpass can make setting secure passwords easy.
4. Stop Pirating
Pirated content will often contain viruses and malware. A recent study has shown that 1 in 3 that downloaded pirated content were infected with a virus which often led to the device being unusable or having to be fixed, and 1 in 5 had personal information stolen.While downloading pirated content is bad, installing pirated software is worse. You might have got the latest software free of charge, but you won’t be able to download the latest security updates for it leaving you and your information vulnerable.
5. Look Out for Shortened URLs
Shortened URLs are often used on social networks like Twitter due to character count limitations; the security problem is that you can’t know what the shortened URL is linking too. These links can contain viruses, malware or they might lead you to a phishing site. There are a number of sites and plugins that’ll expand these shortened URLs for you, so you can find out exactly what you're clicking on.
6. Pick the Right Browser
You might not be able to choose which web browser you use at work, but you are able to choose which you use on your own devices. Many stick with their default browser or install the quickest one without considering security. While there is some debate over which the most secure web browsers are, I tend to stick with Chrome and Aviator, though infosecurity magazine cites that no one browser stand above all others.
7. Keep Your OS Updated
You must update your internet connected devices on a regular basis to receive the latest security patches and updates. If you’re using a work system then it’s likely that this process has been set up to happen automatically in the background, but it doesn't hurt to make sure.
8. Turn it Off
When you’re not using your internet connected device, turn it off. While this might not be possible if your work device updates overnight, you should turn off all your personal devices while not in use (mobile phone not included). Putting them in sleep mode doesn’t count! If your devices are off then they aren’t connected to a network. When your devices are left on, an opportunistic hacker potentially has a constant connection to your machine. There are also other benefits to switching your devices off; longer lifespan, increased speed upon restart and lower energy consumption.
9. Don’t Trust Public Wifi
This one is only applicable if you bring your own device to work, or routinely work from outside the office. If you surf the web while having a latte at your favourite coffee establishment then you should be aware of information being sent over the unencrypted connection. Anyone with the know-how could be reading your emails, logging your passwords or getting between your device and the network. When surfing on a public network stick to websites that use https (facebook, Twitter for example) as they encrypt your data. For other sites you’ll need a VPN (Gizmondo have a great in depth article on the subject).
10. Ensure Your Firewall is Turned on
While most devices have an integrated firewall these days, (windows has the creatively titled ‘Windows Firewall’), it’s very easy to accidently turn it off or for a programme to disable it. If you don’t know how to turn it on or off then here’s a guide.
11. Disable Pop-ups
Pop-ups are not only infuriating, but they are also a cesspool of malware that trick you into clicking by using social engineering. Most browsers have built in popup blockers but the best ones tend to be 3rd party add ons.
12. Block Third-Party cookies
Though cookies are great, 3rd party cookies on your browser aren't. While they don’t harm your device themselves, no one likes to be tracked. The cookies are a security risk as they are plain text files and therefore vulnerable to being harvested.
13. Be Careful With Your Information
Be careful who you give your information to online. While a site may not be asking for your bank details, damage can still be done by getting you to input your email and a password (as said before, many people use the same login details for everything).
14. Watch Out for Spam Email
Long gone are the days when you could spot a spam email from a mile away. Spam emails are convincing these days which is why you need to be vigilant. Spam emails will often send you to a phishing site or contain some nasty attachment. While a good spam filter and antivirus goes some of the way to help, there is no simple way of telling, just a few hints you can look for.
15. Avoid Risky Sites
While you wouldn’t intentionally go on a risky site at work, you can occasionally click on a link and get a nasty surprised when you discover the website's content. These sorts of sites are there to deliberately get you. They have often been infected by a worm that modifies the site with the intention to give you a virus.
Don’t Think You’re Safe
Don’t think that because you’ve implemented all the tips on this list or because you’ve got a mac that you’re safe. While its less feasible, Apple devices do get viruses. Similarly, while all these tips will make it less feasible to get infected, we're all at risk when we're online. Be vigilant!