Today you have more reasons than ever before to appreciate why you must safeguard your personal information.

In October 2016 major websites suffered crises when they were inaccessible to people across most of the United States.

Dyn, a company that manages vital parts of the internet’s infrastructure suffered a major problem. Its servers experienced distributed denial-of-service.

Thousands of cameras, monitors, and home routers were affected.

In another instance, the search giant Yahoo admitted that all of the 3 billion of its site users had been impacted by a breach in 2013 – far higher than 1 billion previously estimated.

You must bear in mind that cyber attacks happen all the time, therefore it is essential that you must take certain basic steps to protect your vital information.

Here are a few pointers.

Protecting Your Online Information

Change your passwords

It makes good sense to not to use the same password across multiple sites. Change your passwords for websites that contain sensitive information like banks, and credit card data.

Create strong passwords

If necessary make use of a password manager. A password manager site creates unique passwords for every website you visit and stores them in a database safeguarded by a master password created by you.

If a website allows you to create password phrases, try crafting complex passwords consisting of irrational phrases. You may even create a phrase that you can remember.

For example, “My wife is forty years old”. If it does not allow phrases, you convert the phrase to password “mwifyo” 

But are passwords enough?

No, they are not. If a website offers additional security verifications, like two-factor authentication, enable them without fail.

As an example, for Google, two-factor authentication comes into play when you are logging in from a different computer.

But what happens when you cross the border?

Recently we have been hearing of some travelers being compelled to hand over their smartphones at the airport.

It is important therefore that when you carry your devices abroad you must protect your data on your gadgets in the best possible manner.

It is true that governments abroad may have their own valid reasons to ask you to reveal your personal data, including your social media accounts.

Legally, law enforcement officials cannot force you to unlock your cell phones or share passwords. But rules may vary, depending on where you are traveling to. You cannot argue with officials.

The best policy is not to lie with officials.

Yet, there are several tricks for safeguarding your cell phones.

Here are a few of them.

Carry a cheap phone

Travel with a device that does have not sensitive or important data in the first place.

Invest in a low priced phone especially for travel, so that you are not inconvenienced by the loss of a pricey gadget or by being searched by border officials.

Immobilize fingerprint readers

Some Apple and Android phones have fingerprint sensors, an ingenious feature to unlock your phone quickly. Your best approach while traveling is turned this feature off.

Use 2-step verification

If at all a situation arises that you are asked to provide the password for your Google or social media account, having 2-step verification enabled will provide extra protection, provided you have left your main phone back at home. 

Store in cloud

There could be some important data that you will need to access when abroad. Your best tactic is to back up your sensitive information to a cloud hosting service and then erase all of it on your phone.

Online storage services like Dropbox and Drive use encryption to keep your data safe. After passing through the customs you can always retrieve the data from the cloud.

Here are a few pointers to keep your data safe.

Email is not necessarily secure

Without encryption, emails can be intercepted and read without you knowing it.

Be careful of attachment received via email – they can contain viruses that can play havoc with your device.

Be wary of phishing attempts

You may get emails claiming to be from banks or trusted organizations. These emails can provide you with links to a spurious website. These websites can trick you to provide username and password.

Do not fall for such ploys. Carefully verify all claims made in the emails and review all links meticulously.

The best bet is to use only secure websites. Look for https:// in the space bar and yellow lock in the location bar.

Protecting your devices

Use anti-virus software that will detect and wipe out viruses even before they cause havoc to your devices.

Keep your device updated

Install security updates and enable automatic revisions.

Backup all important files

Avoid using public devices to access online banking

These devices may not have secure and reliable connections. Stay away from unprotected Wi-Fi. Make certain that your financial institution sends you account alerts whenever there is a withdrawal or change in password.

Summary

Cybercrime is all-encompassing. You must do your best to preempt attacks on your devices. Every month we hear of a major hack with thousands of personal records stolen.

There is no automatic fix, excepting for the actions taken by your own initiative.