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Daily tips to create awareness of cyber threats and empower Total Defense users to be safer and more secure online.
Lockscreen alerts are useful for conveying at-a-glance information. They’re also possibly risky if your device falls into the wrong hands, as they might give away sensitive details. You can either turn them off and stick to badges and the pull-down alert menu (available on both iOS and Android) or use a phone with facial recognition, in which case they’re locked until a recognized face is scanned.
Despite its name, the term “spyware” doesn’t refer to something used by undercover operatives, but rather by the advertising industry. In fact, spyware is also known as “adware.” It refers to a category of software that, when installed on your computer, may send you pop-up ads, redirect your browser to certain web sites, or monitor the web sites that you visit. Some extreme, invasive versions of spyware may track exactly what keys you type. Attackers may also use spyware for malicious purposes. Because of the extra processing, spyware may cause your computer to become slow or sluggish.
If you use your own router, it’s important to ensure it’s a recent model and has the latest firmware. By looking up the model number, you can determine if it is compatible with specific security protocols and also find its default IP address. By entering the latter in your browser, you can check its firmware and adjust various settings.
Side-loading is the practice of downloading applications that have not been approved by the operating system’s official app store. It’s usually not worth the risk, as there’s no assurance these apps have been scanned for malware. Stick to the official channels.
When you buy anything from a USB thumbstick to a phone charging cable, don’t settle for any old option or buy exclusively based on price. Check the vendor and the outlet you’re buying from, since some products are technically faulty (e.g., cables that aren’t certified for the right voltages) and/or might put your data at risk, too.
Losing a device is never fun. You lose an important tool while also potentially putting your data at risk, too. Services like Find My iPhone provide some recourse, since they allow you to remotely wipe the device, erasing all of its contents and settings so that no one else has access to them.
Limiting the number of people who have access to contact information or details about interests, habits, or employment reduces exposure to bullies that you or your child do not know. This may limit the risk of becoming a victim and may make it easier to identify the bully if you or your children are victimized.
Children are especially susceptible to the threats that social networking sites present. Although many of these sites have age restrictions, children may misrepresent their ages so that they can join. By teaching children about Internet safety, being aware of their online habits, and guiding them to appropriate sites, parents can make sure that the children become safe and responsible users.
A zero-day (also known as 0-day) vulnerability is a computer-software vulnerability that is unknown to those who would be interested in mitigating the vulnerability (including the vendor of the target software). Until the vulnerability is alleviated, hackers can exploit it to negatively affect computer programs, data, additional computers or a network. An exploit directed at a zero-day is called a zero-day exploit, or zero-day attack. Even after a fix is developed, the fewer the days since Day Zero, the higher is the chance that an attack against the afflicted software will be successful, because not every user of that software will have applied the solution.
There are many e-commerce sites out there that you should never buy from. The clearest sign that you might be at risk is if the site’s address bar lacks the “HTTPS” prefix or padlock icon signifying the presence of a security certificate. Any site that’s just plain HTTP is not a safe place to perform any sensitive transactions.
Informed Delivery is a USPS service that provides an email digest containing scanned images of incoming mail, along with options for managing delivery. Some scammers have exploited it by signing up with carefully targeted addresses and then intercepting the recipients’ mail. Consider enrolling and protecting your account with a strong password to avoid this possibility.
Don’t react to the bully. If your child is targeted by a cyberbully, keep a cool head. Remind your child that most people realize bullying is wrong. Tell your child not to respond in kind. Instead, encourage him or her to work with you to save the evidence and talk to you about it. If the bullying persists, share the record with school officials or local law enforcement.
PCs with spinning hard drives will take longer to start up and access files and applications if they are fragmented. Luckily, you can use either the built-in defragmentation tools in the operating system, or a more comprehensive PC tune-up solution, to organize data into fewer contiguous regions.
To really be effective, antivirus software needs to be in place on all of your devices. Most people have long since moved beyond the days of having a single desktop PC, and have diversified to laptops, tablets, and 2-in-1s in addition to their phones. Consider investing in AV software that can be installed on multiple devices.
To prevent outsiders from easily accessing your network, avoid publicizing your SSID. All Wi-Fi routers allow users to protect their device’s SSID, which makes it more difficult for attackers to find a network. At the very least, change your SSID to something unique. Leaving it as the manufacturer’s default could allow a potential attacker to identify the type of router and possibly exploit any known vulnerabilities.
Sometimes when you search for something and then try to visit a website in the results, you’ll see a warning saying the site’s certificate has expired. Instead of going through anyway (which is risky), consider using the cache – on Google, it’s usually to the right of the result, in a drop-down menu. The cache is a snapshot of the site from the recent past.
The manufacturer of your wireless access point will periodically release updates to and patches for a device’s software and firmware. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s website regularly for any updates or patches for your device.
Do you have lots of important data – family photos, copies of official documents, etc. – stored exclusively on a computer hard drive? If so, it’s time to diversify. The average HDD sees a sharp rise in its risk of failure after only 4 years. Store some of its data in an external drive, in the cloud or even on optical discs.
You might want to keep some websites off-limits to your kids, and there are multiple ways of doing so. Parental control software provides advanced, customizable oversight of what websites are allowed on a device. At the same time, there are permissions like the ones within Apple iOS that let you quickly limit the domains that the default web browser can visit.
When you’re on the go, connecting to a public Wi-Fi network or even one managed by a hotel might seem like the best option for internet access. There is significant risk, though, as you can’t be sure the connection is safe. Sticking to cellular is advisable, as is using a virtual private network (VPN) when on Wi-Fi.
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