5 Tips to Strengthen Your Computer Security and Online Presence in 2023

November 30, 2022
security lock symbol over person typing on laptop

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center 2021 Data Breach Report, there were 1,862 data breaches in 2021. While 2020 saw a total of 1,108 data breaches. AKA computer security is no joke! But where do you even start? SEP’s Junior Sys Admin team compiled their top tips for Computer Security Day.

SEP IT Jr Sys Admins
SEP’s IT Junior Sys Admins – Gabriel, Katelyn, and Kishan

See our top five tips to strengthen your computer security and online presence before the new year.

#1. AdBlocking and Tracking on the Web

The World Wide Web (WWW) can be a crazy place, with companies tracking your digital footprint—where you click, your location, and even having access to your browsing activities. It is important to use a combination of good privacy-based search engines, browsers, and Ad-Blocking software.

Many search engines like DuckDuckGo and StartPage do not record personal data, search history, or your IP address. For an extra layer of privacy, consider changing your browser to one with built-in AdBlocking and Anti-Tracking technologies like Brave, Opera, and/or Tor.

These browsers have built-in software to block tracking throughout your web surfing journey. If your favorite browser does not offer these features, such as Safari or Microsoft Edge, consider adding an extension like uBlock Origin or AdBlock.

#2. Credit Card Tokenization for Privacy

With the holiday season coming up, events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have great savings! According to the National Retail Federation, 93.2 Million shoppers purchased items during Black Friday in 2019. Most of us add our items into a cart, enter our credit card information, check out, and anxiously wait for the exciting new toys for our grumpy cats!

In reality, you are giving away one of the most valuable assets in your wallet—a 16-digit number on a plastic card! Who knows where, what, and how that data is stored?! This data is a gold mine for hackers to steal and use your money!

Before entering your credit/debit card data into a website, consider using a virtual or tokenized card. Companies like Privacy (Privacy.com), will generate a one-time use card with a specific dollar amount of your choosing that does not tie back to your original credit card. For example, you could authorize a $100 virtual card to be used only by a merchant of your choosing. This allows for a more secure transaction and an added level of privacy for your purchases.

#3. Good Password Hygiene

When you’re online, you want to keep your private information away from a malicious user. The first step in security is to create a strong password. Creating passwords can be hard and time-consuming.

How would you create a password that’s strong enough to keep your data safe while also remaining easy enough to remember? Here are some guidelines to create a memorable yet hard-to-crack password.

  • Create a password that is 15 or more characters long
  • Include letters, both uppercase and lowercase, numbers, and non-alphanumeric characters (such as @ or #)
  • Using phrases may help you remember lengthy passwords

An example would be “M4shedP0tat0esFeelNice&WarmOnMyCalves!”

It’s not far out to say that it’s unlikely for anyone to guess this example password.

Creating a secure password is as simple as writing a long string of characters with letters, numbers, and some fancy non-alphanumeric symbols. Of course, there are some things you should avoid while using this password creation scheme.

  • Do not include your real name or username in the password
  • Avoid using passwords that you are already using or have used in the past

Using a password manager like LastPass is recommended. LastPass can protect, generate, and manage your passwords securely. Password managers are a handy tool. Be mindful when setting one up to set a very complex password to mitigate the risks of a breach.

Keep your data safe, follow the best practices, use a password manager, and you’ll be safer on the internet.

#4. The Importance of MFA

Multi-Factor Authentication is a method of verification that requires the user to provide more than one piece of information when accessing an application, website, or resource. Using MFA can be a big step toward improving your computer security.

In the past, the typical form of authentication was a username and password. This worked great for a while! That is, until malicious users created methods to get ahold of this information in numerous ways, such as phishing, social engineering, and keyloggers.

That’s not to say that the classic combination of a username and password isn’t a good idea; it’s a tried and true security method. Although, it’s not enough to guarantee safety anymore—at least not alone!

This is where MFA steps in.

Multi-Factor Authentication can be applied in more than one way, generally following a set of guidelines. These guidelines are:

  • What you know: Something that only you know, such as a password, combination, or keyphrase
  • What you have: Something that you physically have, such as a key, security card, or phone
  • What you are: Something that is a part of your physical body, such as using fingerprints, facial recognition, or an eye scanner

MFA applies two or more of these security solutions. A popular MFA practice is sending a code to your email or phone to input after your username and password. Perhaps you’ve already been using MFA and didn’t know it!

Malicious users want all of your delicious and private information. Remember to stay safe online by utilizing Multi-Factor Authentication to keep your data out of their hands.

#5. Putting the Internet on an Information Diet

In the age of social media, it’s easy to overshare: a picture of your first home, what your weekend plans are, a cool new gadget recently purchased, your adventures in getting Crypto rich.

Unfortunately, your friends and family aren’t the only ones who get these insights into your day to day. Certain algorithms in social media have made it so that friends of friends are able to get updates about you. Sometimes Facebook, like a terribly misguided matchmaker, has decided that you and this friend twice removed would be great as best friends, so it shows them your latest status update.

If this status update included information about when you plan to be out of town next, that cool new gadget you got last week could make its way into someone else’s hands.

Double-check your social media settings. You can control privacy settings like:

  • who sees what
  • hide identifying information, like your current city or date of birth
  • limit visibility on old posts (like those “fun” questionnaires you might have filled out five years ago that look suspiciously like the answers to password hints)

If you have long since abandoned your Facebook, go ahead and delete it entirely. A particularly motivated person will see an easy way to get access to your friends and family (and their wallets).

As you can see, Computer Security is important. Take your security and internet hygiene to the next level with some of our favorite podcasts and related articles: