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67 Practical Hacks for Personal Protection—When Surfing The Web, Dating Online, Shopping And Playing Games…

Your Resource For All Things Online Safety

67 Practical Hacks For Personal Protection—When Surfing The Web, Dating Online, Shopping And Playing Games…

These 67 practical tips can save you heartache, inconvenience and affronts to your personal safety and security if followed when surfing the web, browsing online profiles, shopping and playing fortnight and other games. These tips include suggestions for keeping your kids safe, managing their online life and keeping them safe from predators. This really comprehensive list of hacks is really a what-to-do and what-not- to- do, it explains in detail the what, where and why of all things online and cyber-security.

 

If adopted, these 67 safety tips can keep you, your finances, home and family safe.

 

  1. Keep Personal Information Professional and Limited. This is very important to online security. The less information of a personal nature out on the worldwide web the better. This seems obvious, but many people list detailed personal info— with backstories to boot. The rule of thumb is if you don’t want the complete stranger on the street knowing the information, you don’t want to share it on the internet. 
  2. Keep Privacy Settings On. The University of Cincinnati’s Office of Information Security How to Manage Your Social Media Privacy Settings suggest:

     

    1. Checking your audience for each post
    2. Managing your privacy settings
    3. Controlling your own timeline
    4. Understand how to quit the site

    3. Practice Safe Browsing- The Cyber Security experts at Veracode make the following recommendations for safe  browsing:

    1. Keep your browser software up to date
    2. Run anti-viral software
    3. Scan files before downloading
    4. Watch out for phishing
    5. Don’t reuse passwords
    6. Use Https (the S stands for safety)
    7. Read Privacy Policies
    8. Regularly monitor your bank statements
    9. Avoid public or free Wi-fi
    10. Disable stored passwords
    11. Turn on your browsers pop-up blocker

       

Compensated Affiliate Disclaimer

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you buy the product I may receive some monetary compensation. I only recommend products I use and love!

 

4.  Change Password Frequently– The Better Business Bureau (BBB) Suggests every 30 days. But the National Institute of Standards and Technology disagrees with this recommendation. In their Digital Identity Guidelines they discourage using overly complex passwords, and frequent password changes. The password people Last Pass also say complicated isn’t always better. They advocate against buying expensive software and following complex rules. They say use strong passwords, store them in a password manager, and turn on multi-factor authentication everywhere you go. They state these basic steps should be more than adequate to keep most people’s accounts safe.

“Passwords are like underwear: don’t let people see it, change it very often and you shouldn’t share it with strangers.” –Chris Pirillo

 5.  Use a Virtual Credit Card with phantom numbered card or Prepaid Cards to Shop Online- not tied your account-I actually didn’t know what a virtual credit card was until yesterday. But as I researched, I became intrigued by them and what the best applications for them was. The Credit Card Insiders suggest the following uses for virtual credit cards and when they should be used in place of your standard cards.

 

But what are they?

Credit Karma defines virtual credit cards as not really being credit cards at all — at least not in the literal sense. A virtual credit card is a randomly generated number designed to protect your traditional credit card information when shopping online.

6.  Use Apple Pay, Amazon Cash, PayPal, Pay Near Me- These apps and services keep your credit cards and accounts protected. Digital Wallets are essentially a buffer between your money and crooks.

 7.  Use Two Stage Authorization– 2FA as it is commonly abbreviated, adds an extra step to your basic log-in procedure. The second factor layers in more security. Cnet says 2FA mitigates the problem but it is not 100%.

 

 8.  Make Online Purchases From Secure Sites– SiteLock recommends you look for these 5 things:

  1. Look for the “S” in HTTPS
  2. Check for a website privacy policy
  3. Find their contact information
  4. Verify their trust seal
  5. Know the signs of website malware

 9.  Sign up for Credit Monitoring or do it yourself- Nerd wallet suggests this is a service we can all do ourselves, but we must be diligent in doing it. My employer offers Life Lock basic plan as one of our benefits, so I signed up and have been extremely pleased with the service. I do not know if I was as diligent self-monitoring as I have been with the service. I also don’t know if I would have signed up for the service if most of the cost was not covered by my employee. I am glad I did. Life Lock is affordable and well worth the cost. 

 10.  Be careful what you post about- The experts at IRMI list the following as big no-no’s for what not to post on social media. Driver’s License, Credit Cards, Passports…. Are all on the list!

 11.  Be careful who you meet online- How to Safely Meet a Person You Met Online shares 5 tips:

 

  1. Keep personal info off of your profile- maintain your anonymity
  2. Check your privacy setting- control who can see what…
  3. Look into their backgrounds- even if it means paying for background checks, the cost is minuscule in the grand scheme of things. I recommend this before meeting in person.
  4. Avoid giving away personal information- keep birthdays, and year of birth to yourself. In the early stages addresses and places of employment are off limits.
  5. Take it slow- keep your emotions in check. Check yourself regularly to make sure you are not getting ahead of yourself.
  6. Trust your instincts- if it’s too good to be true—it usually is.

 12.  Keep your Antivirus Program up to date-Keeping your Antivirus up to date is important, but selecting a good one, is essential for your protection. The best antivirus software is :

  • Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2018
    • 1.  Plenty of features
    • Reliable antivirus detection
    • Excellent anti-ransomware
  • Norton Antivirus Basic 2018
    • Light on resources
    • Priced low     
  • ESET NOD32 Antivirus
    • Excellent detection and protection
    • No bloatware
    • Advanced features- not for beginners
  • Webroot Secure Anywhere Antivirus
    • Light on Resources
    • Intelligent behavior monitoring
  •  
  •  Kaspersky Antivirus 2018
    • Simple to use
    • Excellent performance
    • Very basic in the feature department
  •  Panda Antivirus Pro
    • Rich in features
    • Accessible
    • No firewall
  • Trend Micro Antivirus + Security
    • Robust anti-ransomware protection
    • Detection performance
    • Sporadic performance issues
    • Above average false positives
  • AVG Antivirus Free
    • Great performance
    • It really is free
    • Very basic features
  • Avira Free Antivirus
    • Reliable performance
    • Browser support
    • No-frills
    • New interface favors mobile devices

 

“The popularity and adoption of smartphones have greatly stimulated the spread of mobile malware, especially on the popular platforms such as Android. In light of their rapid growth, there is a pressing need to develop effective solutions. However, our defense capability is largely constrained by the limited understanding of these emerging mobile malware and the lack of timely access to related samples.” – Yajin Zhou and Xuxian Jiang, North Carolina State University 

13.  Meet in public places when first dating online – 5 date minimum!!!!!!!!!! Not 2 really hot dates. Not 4 really amazing dates….. FIVE DATES! Repeat after me, 5 dates!

14.  Only meet when you feel completely comfortable- enough said?! Be wary of people who pressure!

15. Know how to report abuse or block anyone who bothers you online.

16.  Be careful with sharing intimate photos—sextation and revenge porn are real. Don’t search these terms from a work device! A friend told me. Basically sextation is using text messages with sexually explicit content or photos to blackmail. Revenge porn is placing explicit images or content on websites without your knowledge. Be careful what you share with people you are dating.

17.  Use strong and unique passwords

18.  Don’t automatically click on links in emails- Cheat Sheet publishes a caution list of emails you should never open if they have these subject lines:

  1. The Government Scam
  2. The Long Lost Friend
  3. The Billing Issue
  4. The Expiration Date
  5. You’re Infected
  6. You’ve Won
  7. The Bank Notification
  8. Playing The Victim
  9. The Tax man
  10. The Security Check

 

19.  Make sure your phone has a locking passcode- can’t stress this one enough!

 20.  Don’t respond to emails or calls from anyone telling you your computer may be infected with a virus.

21.  Use pin numbers that are random and have no significance to birthdays, anniversaries, or special dates.

22.  Keep realistic expectations—if it sounds too good to be true it is.

23.  Always remember there is nothing free. Nothing!!!!!

24.  Never send cash or wire money. Use credit cards if possible, otherwise use debit cards or other legitimate payment services like PayPal.

25.  When shopping or banking look for secure sites where the web address starts with HTTPS. (That “s” stands for secure).

26.  Research online charities before donating. Especially after disasters. The scammers come out of the woodwork after hurricanes, catastrophic events and terrorist acts!

 

27.  Read reviews before downloading smartphone apps. The article, Knowing When Apps Are Safe to Install by Turbo Future warns that some apps may contain Malware. These apps containing Malware tap into your phone and steal sensitive data.

    a.  Know Your Source

     i.  Tell-tell signs a marketplace for apps is reputable:

  1. Terms of service that is well developed
  2. Clear contact information and a troubleshooting FAQ
  3. Strict app developer criteria
  4. A history of removing vendors with poor content

      b. Learn about the vendor or developer- if the app store links the vendors webpage, visit it.

       ii.  Questions for the developer:

  1. Do they have a professional website?
  2. What is the privacy policy
  3. How is information collected and used?
  4. What is their policy for disclosure of personal information

iii.  Inspect permissions- Apps should not have too many permissions. Permissions give the app access to various parts of your phone. Apps with a long list of permissions should send up a red flag.

  1. Some examples of permissions: Location, Read Text messages, Modify or Delete SD Card contents. Control vibration, take pictures and videos, full network access, Prevent tablet from sleeping, run at startup.

iv.  Know the numbers- what are the apps ratings. How many users have downloaded it?

28. Know and use the privacy settings for any device, app or service you use.

29.  Do not provide any personal information on a website unless you are certain it is legitimate.

30.  Be nice on social media. Copy Press poses a question… Want to do well in social media? Then they answer the rhetorical question by simply stating you should be nice. They premise that there are real people behind those sometimes witty, strange and cute screen names.

31.  Learn to read between the lines. The dating gurus at Relationship Development list Red Flags in Online Dating: Reading Between The Lines shares the following:

 

  1. Tone
  2. Complaining or negative
  3. Doesn’t respect women
  4. Does he try too hard to overly impress you
  5. Does he boast or brag
  6. Is he a self-absorbed narcissist
  7. His he vague about himself or past
  8. Are there unexplained gaps where he is not available (nights, holidays)
  9. Does he talk about financial problems
  10. Misspellings, typos, bad punctuation and heinous grammar in written communications

 

They Suggest You Run Like The Wind–If You See These Things!

 

 

32.  Pay attention to what is not said. The Keller Institute likens it to studying mimes movements. Watch for subconscious noises and movements. In Poker these are called tells. In business it is known as an advantage. In influence, it is known as a smart observation. Just be watching and aware of body language.

33.  Be very weary of the perfect person. See above. If it is too good to be true- it is! There is no such animal as the perfect person.

33.  Be aware that not everything you read online is true—rely on reputable news sites for news. This was big in the 2016 presidential elections. People just took what they saw on the internet as gospel and forwarded and shared stuff all willy-nilly without vetting it. Some of it in hindsight was laughable. Here I stick to mainstream media sources for my news. They adhere to journalistic standards.

34.  Never share anything that you have any reason to doubt. Vet it through mainstream news channels first, and confirm it on multiple sites. See above.

35.  Don’t respond or retaliate to cyber-bullying. It is hard sometimes to not respond, but there are people who live for the joust. They want to have conflict and the internet gives them the courage through anonymity. They have an ax to grind with everyone. Just don’t engage!

 

Whew… Just A Little Over Half Way….Only 32 More Tips For Online Safety To Protect Yourself, Kids, Home, And Finances…

 

37.  Save evidence of bullying.

 

38.  Reach out for help at the first signs of red flags or trouble.

 39.  Protect your accounts- at all cost!

40.  Restrict others from using your smartphone. Don’t let others use your phone, especially someone you just met.

41.  Don’t share passwords to social media, people can impersonate you. Self-explanatory, right?!

42.  Know what your apps know. Understand what they are tracking and what they do with the info. See above privacy policies.

 43.  Share your location mindfully when checking in on social media. Women be especially wary of this practice.

 

 

 

 

 

44.  Consider parental controls for your children. The experts at Norton list these 5 reasons to use parental controls:

  1. Cyber Security
  2. Time management
  3. Online reputation
  4. Data backup
  5. Cyber etiquette

45.  Talk to your children about the dangers of online and teach them common sense approaches to social media.

46.  Monitor your children’s online friends and activity- Your children should feel comfortable telling you about social media friends and followers. If they don’t feel comfortable, a predictor is already winning. Our practice in our home is to be connected to our child as a friend as a way to monitor what she post and is consuming. Modern Families has 13 tips (I am sharing 10):

  • 13 is the minimum age for Facebook
  • Check Privacy Settings (notice a theme here?!)
  • Use filtering software
  • Create ground rules
  • Know your child’s habits
  • Keep the computer in a central location (a little more challenging in the smart phone and table portability era)
  • Urge kids to avoid, questionnaires, free giveaways and contest
  • Monitor the pictures your child post online
  • Be a good example of how to use social media

47.  Don’t text and drive. Do I really need to expound on this?!

48.  With online dating avoid sites that let anyone message you- There is no screening…you cannot rely on the sites screening but it’s a baseline to start from.

49.  Pay attention to geography settings in dating apps. This is important. You don’t want to be giving away your location, your address, work place or where you socialize and places you are a regular at. If things go sour and you find you have a stalker, they will accidentally be bumping into you a lot. It is difficult to uproot and change your job, home, etc.

50.  Use a unique photo for your online dating profile—never use one from your Facebook, Instagram accounts because they can be reverse image searched. Super tip!!!!!

51.  Avoid too much personal detail on your dating profiles. You want the ability to go ghost if things go south. Giving clues to your favorite hangouts and place of employment hamper that ability if you attract a stalker.

52.  Set up a Google Voice Phone number just for dating. This affords you some anonymity and if things go south you don’t have to change your numbers.

53.  Talk with mutual friends to vet if the app shows who your mutual friends are.  

54.  Don’t share where you work or live too soon. Anonymity is your friend until you are sure you aren’t dealing with a psycho.

55.  When online dating always arrange your own transportation. This goes hand in hand with keeping your privacy for as long as possible. Sometimes red flags take a little longer to surface. Earlier I suggested 5 dates in public places- you should drive to each yourself. Being picked up for a date should only be done well into the dating.

56.  Consider carrying a self defense tool when meeting an online prospect. I strongly suggest this. I suggest a whistle, a personal alarm and a weapon. See my post on best personal protection gifts.

57.  Be cautious of public Wi-Fi. Norton has a do’s and don’ts rules of public Wi-Fi. There are two types of public Wi-Fi—secured and unsecured. Never use the unsecured! But exercise caution with secured.

  • Do connect to secure public networks
  • Don’t access personal bank accounts or other sensitive personal data
  • Don’t leave your laptop, tablet or smartphone unattended
  • Don’t shop online
  • Do turn off automatic connectivity
  • Do monitor Bluetooth connectivity
  • Do think about using VPN

58.  Minimize location sharing- The Good and Bad of Location Sharing from the folks at Connect Safety. The good- Apples iOS 12 will automatically and securely share your location data with 911 callers and first responders. Location sharing to emergency personnel can save lives!

It’s also a great tool for spouses and children traveling. Find my phone is a good one.

But that’s pretty much it!

 

So this happened just yesterday as I was making dinner. My wife got held up at work and said can you whip up this recipe? I’m a pretty good cook and always help around the house so I said sure…. As I opened the recipe on the recipe site, it repeatedly asked if I would allow said site to use the current location. Each time I said no, but it kept popping up. So it got me to thinking, why do they need to know my location? I’m following a recipe, I don’t get it?!

 

The rest are all bad….stalkers, and people who track without the person’s knowledge are just creepy!

59.  Update operating systems- Hackers prey on software that hasn’t been updated. According to Stay Smart Online, Hackers use weaknesses in software to access your computer, smartphone, tablet and other devices (Internet-of-Things). Protect yourself by keeping your operating system and applications updated automatically. Hackers and Malware look for vulnerabilities. Installing updates, fixes these vulnerabilities and keeps you secure.

Most modern software and applications update automatically, but make sure you agree to install updates when prompted. The common software to keep updated are:

  • Operating systems, for example Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android
  • Antivirus and security software
  • Browsers, for example Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome
  • Web plugins, for example Adobe Flash, Reader, Skype, Apple QuickTime, iTunes, Java, ActiveX
  • Other types of applications, for example Microsoft Office.

When you purchase a new device, check for updates right away as part of initial set up, ensuring you enable automatic updates.

60.  Disable Bluetooth Connectivity when traveling abroad.

61.  Disable Auto-connect when traveling.

 62.  Be wary of phishing scams- The University of Indiana wrote an extensive piece on Phishing.

Phishing explained:

  • Phishing scams are typically fraudulent email messages appearing to come from legitimate enterprises (for example, your university, your internet service provider, your bank). These messages usually direct you to a spoofed website or otherwise get you to divulge private information (for example, passphrase, credit card, or other account updates). The perpetrators then use this private information to commit identity theft.
    • Types of Phishing:
    • Spear Phishing targets a specific individual or organization
      • The best defense against Spear Phishing is to carefully discard personal information and shredding documents.
      • Be mindful when responding to emails asking for personal data.
      • I just got one of these from a PayPal look alike and an Apple Store. These are on the rise.
    • Whaling targets high profile targets within governments, organizations and business; yep you got it, they go after the big fish!

How to Avoid Phishing Scams

To guard against phishing scams, consider the following:

  • Indiana University and other reputable organizations will never use email to request that you reply with your password, full Social Security number, or confidential personal information. Be suspicious of any email message that asks you to enter or verify personal information, through a website or by replying to the message itself. Never reply to or click the links in such a message. If you think the message may be legitimate, go directly to the company’s website (i.e., type the real URL into your browser) or contact the company to see if you really do need to take the action described in the email message.
  • Read your email as plain text.

Phishing messages often contain clickable images that look legitimate; by reading messages in plain text, you can see the URLs that any images point to. Additionally, when you allow your mail client to read HTML or other non-text-only formatting, attackers can take advantage of your mail client’s ability to execute code, which leaves your computer vulnerable to viruses, worms, and Trojans.

  • If you choose to read your email in HTML format:
  • Hover your mouse over the links in each email message to display the actual URL. Check whether the hover-text link matches what’s in the text, and whether the link looks like a site with which you would normally do business.

On an iOS device, tap and hold your finger over a link to display the URL. Unfortunately, Android does not currently support this.

  • Before you click a link, check to see if the message sender used a digital signature when sending the message. A digital signature helps ensure that the message actually came from the sender.

When you recognize a phishing message, first report it as noted below, and then delete the email message from your Inbox, and then empty it from the deleted items folder to avoid accidentally accessing the websites it points to.

63.  Protect sensitive data- This should go without saying, at this point!

64.  Back up your data-!!!!!!!!!!

65.  Closely monitor bank statements, as well as balances and immediately report any problems- It’s easier to head off a problem in the beginning that alerting the bank or credit card company after $1,000 or even 10’s of thousands of dollars are gone or being disputed, because their first question is going to be, when did you discover this and why did it take so long to alert us?!

66.  Memorize ATM Pin numbers- I admittedly am terrible with this and the older I get the worse I am with memorizing passwords.

67.  Monitor your credit quarterly– I strongly advise you do this! This can tip you off to problems, i.e., new unauthorized opened accounts, etc.

 

 

 

In Conclusion

67 practical Hacks for Personal Protection…If adopted, these 67 safety tips can keep you, your finances, home and family safe.


Instituting these 67 tips for online safety—dating, gaming, privacy settings, shopping and safe online practices for kids, could keep your identity, your home, bank accounts and families safe, unharmed and thriving. These hacks were eye-opening for me. Some were common-sense and we have practiced for years, while others were really novel and great tips to layer in our security and personal protection protocols for online. Whether singularly enacted or combined where applicable, they can really fortify and expand upon what you may already be doing to keep safe. I’d like to leave you with these powerful quotes on all things interwebs…hopefully these will govern your online actions and attitudes about what to do and not to do and proper nettiquette?


 A great quote I stumbled upon, regarding online bullying…
“Freedom of Speech doesn’t justify online bullying. Words have power, be careful how you use them.” 
― Germany Kent

“Checking in on what our kids are doing online isn’t helicoptering, it’s parenting.” 
― Galit Breen, Kindness Wins

“What you post online speaks VOLUME about who you really are. POST with intention. REPOST with caution.” 
― Germany Kent

“Like, love, follow, friend, and share positive content for good Netiquette. NetworkEtiquette.net” 
― David Chiles

“Use social media for good and lift others up, not tear them down. Stay on the high road. Keep your peace.” 
― Germany Kent

“e-Commerce makes it easy to spend money. Netiquette makes you aware hidden fees. NetworkEtiquette.net” 
― David Chiles

“It didn’t happen without a selfie. It’s good Netiquette to take safe pictures of thy self at events. NetworkEtiquette.net” 
― David Chiles

“Updates are low quality if we lose more contacts than we gain. It’s over posting if all we get is exposure.” 
― David Chiles

 “We all have a responsibility with the words we post on the internet. If you wouldn’t want your mother, daughter, sister or friend to read it, don’t post it.” 
― Germany Kent

“The internet is bringing our collective conscious together by showing the good and bad in humanity. Good Netiquette is the outcome.” 
― David Chiles

“To teach our kids what they need to know online, we have to talk to them off line.” 
― Galit Breen, Kindness Wins

“Tweet others the way you want to be tweeted.” 
― Germany Kent, You Are What You Tweet: Harness the Power of Twitter to Create a Happier, Healthier Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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