As New Year’s resolutions go, resolving to improve your online computing security is both an effective and easy-to-complete task. Here are five easy steps you can take to improve your security this year.
#1 — Switch to the Google Chrome Browser
According to a recent BrowserScope Security Test run by Tom’s Hardware, Google’s Chrome web browser is the most secure browser you can get (Safari runs a close second.) It’s free, runs on Windows and Mac OS X, and automatically updates itself to the latest, safest version when new features or bug fixes become available. (Users never have to install an update manually.)
It also features a rich ecosystem of browser extensions and apps, and Google Chrome makes it really difficult for Chrome extensions to include malware. Get Chrome now at http://www.google.com/chrome.
#2 — Start Using LastPass to Generate and Organize Secure Passwords
We all know that we shouldn’t use the same password over and over at multiple web sites. Any password you use in multiple places is only as secure as the least secure site you use it on. Using unique passwords for every web site provides a tremendous improvement in your overall web security, but it presents the challenge and hassle of having to remember dozens of unique passwords.
LastPass (“the last password you will ever need”) solves this problem by generating unique, secure passwords for you and storing them securely in the cloud. You only need to remember one password — your LastPass master password — and LastPass remembers all the others for you. LastPass works on Mac OS X, Windows, iOS (iPhone), Android, Linux, and more. Here are some of its must-have features:
- One Master Password – stop remembering all those passwords. Your LastPass master password is the only password you’ll ever need to remember.
- One Click Login — With a single mouse click, LastPass automatically fills in your user name and password on all sites that you log in to.
- Automatic Form Filling — Set up multiple profiles and have LastPass automatically fill in your name, address, phone number, etc., on forms across the web.
- Secure — All password and form profile data is encrypted on your local machine before it’s sent to LastPass. Only you have access this information.
- Synchronization — All your LastPass data is automatically synced across all your machines and web browsers.
#3 — Change Your Email Password!
It’s hard to overstate the importance of this tip. Most web sites these days send you a confirmation email when you request a password reset (or when you tell them you’ve forgotten your password.) Anyone with access to your email account can therefore gain access to just about any other account you use on the web, including banking, brokerage, Facebook, etc. One way to protect yourself is to change your email password periodically. (And while you’re at it, you should probably change your banking and bill-pay passwords at the same time.)
In addition to changing your email password, you should also make it as secure as possible (at least ten characters long, containing a mix of letters, numerals, special characters, etc.) The aforementioned LastPass can make the process of generating and remembering a secure password much easier.
The web pages linked below explain how to change your email password in a variety of popular email systems:
- How to change your Gmail password
- How to change your Outlook password
- How to change your Hotmail (Windows Live) password
- How to change your Yahoo! Mail password
- How to change your AOL password
- How to change your Comcast password
- How to change your AT&T email password
#4 — Check Your Facebook Security and Privacy Settings
The dawn of a new year is a great time to re-check your Facebook privacy and security settings. After you log in to Facebook, head to these links to see who has access to your Facebook profile and postings:
As for which specific settings you should use, ComputerWorld has some great tips for securing your Facebook profile.
#5 — Use the Free DoNotTrackMe Browser Extension
Without protection, all of your web browsing is being watched by advertisers, spammers, identify thieves, data miners, and others. Companies use a variety of methods to track you, including the use of small graphic images, scripts, cookies, and others. DoNotTrackMe from Abine installs automatically, blocks several hundred different trackers, and is absolutely free.
DoNotTrackMe works on PCs and Macs and supports the Chrome, IE, Firefox, and Safari web browsers.
When you visit a website, that site tells your web browser to communicate with all sorts of other companies to get information about what you do and who you are. DNTMe stops that data collection from happening by preventing your browser from contacting these companies.
Get DoNotTrackMe free over at http://www.abine.com/dntdetail.php.