I met Edie within minutes of arriving at my first Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in 2015. By the end of Tuesday night, she had not only mentored me in her classes, but we became friends. I still remember as the conference came to a close, she told me, “You better stay in touch, girl. We’re cut from the same cloth.” I couldn’t have a better compliment from someone I respect so much.
While you can find me at her blog, The Write Conversation, every third Monday of the month, I wanted my own readers to experience her knowledge. This month, she shares 8 tips to stay safe online.
Don’t Get Hacked!
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.
- 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 friend is spreading about you?” or “This is a hilarious video just uploaded about you.” Stop. Think. Then DON’T click that link!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- For PC users, invest in a good security program. And good programs don’t necessarily mean expensive programs. AVG is excellent and has free options.
- 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.
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.Frankly, My Dear . . . Edie Melson: Don't Get Hacked. Click To Tweet
Edie Melson—author, blogger, and speaker is a prolific writer with years of experience in the publishing industry. Her best-selling ebook has been expanded and re-released as Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers. Her popular industry blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands of writers each month.
In addition, she’s the Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, the Social Media director for Southern Writers Magazine, Social Media Mentor for My Book Therapy and the Senior Editor at Novel Rocket. You can also connect with Edie through Twitter and Facebook.
And Frankly, My Dear . . . That’s all she wrote!