How to ...

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First of all decide what kind of internet user you are ...

Is this you?

  • One or two online bank accounts
  • One or two email addresses
  • No social media accounts
  • No online/grocery shopping accounts
  • No online access to gas, electric, mobile phone accounts
  • No music/movie streaming accounts e.g. Netflix, Spotify
  • No back-up or file-sharing services e.g. iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive etc

and you only use wired internet access from home, and either your cellphone’s network signal or your employer’s corporate desktop when you’re out-and-about:

Or is this more like you?

  • Multiple online bank accounts
  • Multiple email addresses
  • A number of social media accounts
  • Online grocery and shopping accounts
  • You pay your bills online
  • You enjoy streaming movies and/or music
  • You back-up your online life to a service like iCloud or Dropbox

and you use wi-fi to connect to the internet at home, and public wi-fi in cafes, shops, stations airports etc when you’re away from home:

Then you are generally at LOW risk of suffering major inconvenience if your online accounts are compromised because:

  • Your online “footprint” is reasonably small so you are less likely either to be targeted individually or caught up in a mass data breach
  • Without any streaming accounts, it is unlikely your home contains any “smart” TVs or speakers
  • Without any online storage services like iCloud or Dropbox, your offline life is staying away from online eyes

However, this LOW risk rating assumes that you’re using some basic common sense measures to protect what you have e.g.:

  • You use “strong” passwords for any online access i.e. definitely NOT “[thenameofyourcat/dog/child]1234”
  • You don’t re-use the same password for more than one account/service/site
  • You’re using biometric (fingerprint/3D face-scanning) protection to open your phone, or at least a “strong” six-digit PIN
  • You always check that any websites you visit where you share personal information or sign-in are legitimate, and also use a web address that starts with “https://
  • You never click on links/files in emails from unknown senders
  • All desktop PCs you use are running up-to-date antivirus software

Then you are at much HIGHER risk of your accounts being compromised because:

  • Your online identity is known across so many sites and services
  • It’s quite possible you’ve got some smart devices in your home which are a known target for hackers
  • Your iCloud/Dropbox or other online storage account is a potentially rich source of personal data for someone to try and access

Again though, you can mitigate your risk of unauthorised access to your personal details by following all the common sense measures assumed in the low risk box, and adding in:

  • Ensuring that your home wi-fi is encrypted via WPA2, and secured with a strong, unique password
  • Using a VPN service whenever you’re not using your own home wi-fi
  • Pre-encrypting your personal data before syncing it to a cloud service like iCloud or Dropbox
  • Making sure you change the default password (and username ideally) that comes with any devices you connect to your home network
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