Protect Yourself From Being Hacked—8 Tips for Staying Safe Online

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee
that you’ll never be hacked. Especially since, as writers today, this is where
we spend so much of our time. But there are a LOT of things we can do to lower
the odds of it happening.
This week I
want to give you some tips on how to keep from being hacked online. This advice
will continue to change because inevitably, the more wise we become at
protecting ourselves, the more cunning those wishing us harm become.

The majority of times we get hacked
it’s because we clicked a link that uploaded a virus which opened us up to
hackers. 
This is the bad news, but there’s
also good news. This kind of hacking is preventable, and here are some steps to
take to stay safe online.
1. Be wise. This seems basic, but so many times we just
ignore our better judgment. How many of us have been sucked in by direct
messages like these? “Have you heard the
rumors your fiend is spreading about you?”
or “This is a hilarious video just uploaded about you.” Stop. Think.
Then DON’T click that link!
2. Assume
it’s a lie.
Awhile back, I got an email
from an online company confirming a large purchase with my credit card. I knew
I hadn’t made any purchases, but still had to fight the urge to panic. My gut
response was to reply to the email. Thankfully, I took a step back and looked
more closely at the email. I noticed several things that made me suspicious. I
immediately did an online search for scams involving that company and came up
with pages of recent victims. I contacted the company directly (not through the
info in their email) and confirmed the email was a ruse to steal my information.
3. Never give out sensitive information.
Let me repeat, NEVER GIVE OUT
SENSITIVE INFORMATION! Companies don’t ask for bank account info, passwords or
other information over the internet. First, if you’re a customer, they already
have all of your information they need. Keeping up with personal passwords is a
liability for companies. 
4. Stop accepting friend requests on Facebook
from people you don’t know.
If
you’ve read my blog for long, you know that I run my personal FB profile as a
public forum. BUT I still don’t allow “FRIEND” access to strangers. There was a
time when we could look at common friends as a sort of endorsement for
accepting a connect. That time is GONE. The only time I might consider looking
further at a possible friendship would be if we had HUNDREDS of friends in
common.
5. Never share personal data while you’re on a
public Wi-Fi.
This
includes logging into sites when you must type in a password. It’s okay to
bring up a site you’re already logged into, but NEVER type a password in a
public place. Not only is it a risk, but it’s so easy to counterfeit a public Wi-Fi
and make it look legitimate.
6. Use two-level authentication whenever
possible.
For instance, when I log into my
Google account from a new device or new location, I receive a text message with
an additional code I must type in. This has saved me so many times. A lot of
networks offer this option and I always sign up for it. It may seem frustrating
when you’re in a hurry. The truth is, when we’re rushed is when we’re not
paying attention and we’re often more vulnerable.
7. For PC users, invest in a good security program. And good programs don’t necessarily mean
expensive programs. AVG is an excellent option and has free options.
8. Have a
different password for EVERY site you’re on.
And change your passwords every six months. I know you don’t want to hear it, but I cannot
emphasize this strong enough. Your password must be different for
every account you have. That can seem overwhelming. If you’re like me you
probably have dozens of accounts, so how can we keep up with all those
passwords? Trust me, it’s not with sticky notes or a file on your
computer. Every single time I share this information, someone confesses
that they have a file on their computer and no one will know it’s there because
it’s labeled INFO or something similar.
Instead, take advantage of some
wonderful programs. Some charge a small fee, others are free—all have the
highest security rating available. And they all have apps so you can
access your accounts from your mobile devices.
Keepass X (for Mac) and Keepass (for PC)
I’ve
heard people suggest that these programs are a security risk. The experts
disagree and so do I. Look for ones that have AES-256 encryption (and ideally two-factor
authentication) to make certain your information stays safe.
There are also blank booklets
available for those of you who are old school and want something you can hold
in your hand. I’ve seen them at local discount stores, as well as high end
specialty stores.

Now it’s your turn,
what are some tricks you use to stay safe online? Be sure to share your
thoughts in the comments section below.

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Edie Melson—author, blogger, speaker—has written numerous books, including her most recent, fiction, Alone, and nonfiction, While My Child is Away. She’s also the military family blogger at Guideposts.org. Her popular blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She’s the the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine, Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy, and the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com.