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5 Easy Steps To a More Secure Digital Life

by: Jon Cadieux on

Privacy and security in this digital age are on many peoples minds. If you’re like me, I’m concerned about someone getting my info and using it to get credit under my name; credit cards, department store charge cards, medical bills, etc.

We don’t have much control over weather Target Stores protects the information they have on us, I mean we hope they protect it, but that’s out of our control. We can take steps to limit our security/privacy risk every time you use your computer. We are only as secure as the weakest element, in most cases we are that weak link. The things we as users and consumers do everyday make us far more vulnerable than anything Target, Bank of America or any other institution has done, it’s just that those big privacy breaches make great headlines.

So, how do you make your information and privacy more secure?

I’m going to cover a few things you can do starting today to get secure. Many of the solutions I will mention are free or relatively inexpensive and take minimal time to set up. All of these solutions can be used on your business and personal computers. I have all of my computers, my wife's and my kids computers set up as I will explain.

The first thing you should do is secure the computer you use everyday for business and personal.

Step 1

Create a new folder on your computer desktop called “Run every Friday” or whatever day you choose.

Step 2

Get CCleaner. It’s a fantastically easy program to get and an even easier one to use. In a nutshell it helps protect your privacy and makes your computer faster. After installing this program, place an application shortcut in the folder you created in Step 1.

Step 3

Secure your passwords. I don’t know about you, but I have a zillion accounts and they all want me to create a password and if you’re like most people you use the same password for everything. STOP THIS RIGHT NOW. Stop it!!! That’s right 3 exclamation points, I’m not messin around. I won’t bore you with all of the research and articles written on how this is probably the single worst thing you can do and how it completely makes you vulnerable, but trust me, this is a bad policy you have.

To manage your passwords I recommend using LastPass. It’s free but offers a premium edition that allows password sharing and a couple other features. Again, very easy to install and use. It is not a stand alone application, but an internet browser extension, and supports all of the major browsers; IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera. Not to mention apps for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and Windows phones.

After you install the browser extension an icon will show up on the top right. Whenever you login to a website, LastPass will popup asking you if you want to save this site. Then, when you return to that site, it will automatically fill in your username and password or you can disable this autofill and enter it by clicking on the browser extension and going from there. I’m not going to get into a detailed how-to on this as their website covers all that quite well.

One of it’s many great features is password creator. It will create random passwords up to 100 characters long using upper case, lower case, numbers, special characters, make pronounceable and even avoid ambiguous character strings. These are all your choice or sometimes restricted by a particular website. I recommend using as many characters as the website you are logging into will allow, especially for financial and medical sites. I use the random password creation tool for ALL of my logins now.

Another great feature is you won’t have to manually type your passwords when you use LastPass. Not only is this a time saver but it seriously lowers the risk of a keystroke logging malware capturing your login information as you type it. With LastPass you copy and paste.

Another feature is the fact that it syncs real time with the app on my smartphone, again a time saver and I always have my passwords with me.

Beside securing website login information you can secure credit card information, notes and form fill info. Again, with the credit card info, no need to type the numbers, it just fills in all the info for you. Time saver and more secure.

One more thing, when you create a LastPass account you are required to create a single password that gets you access to all of your account passwords and other secured data. Their security measures go one step further with Multifactor Authentication. This helps protect your account from being accessed even if someone gets your main password. It requires another step before gaining access to all of your passwords. This is an option in LastPass but as far as I’m concerned it is mandatory. It only takes a few extra seconds to access your account but the piece of mind and security are well worth the time.

Don’t wait another minute, get it now.

Step 4

Get a good anti-virus app. Notice I said a good one, not a free one. Now there are some free ones out there, but the best ones usually have a cost to them. The one I settled on for my family and business is BidDefender. Highly recommended and seems to do a better job of real time monitoring and scanning than most.

I used Microsoft's Security Essentials for years but stopped after my wifes business computer got taken over by a nasty virus called the Department of Justice virus. It said the only way to get the computer unfrozen was to enter my credit card info and pay $350. I might of been born on a turnip truck, but it wasn’t this morning.

Bitdefender offers a free version but the features and functionality of the premium version have too many benefits for me only limit myself to the free version. I’ll leave it to you as to the version you get, but in most cases BitDefender Total Security should do the job. It’s about $80/year for up to 3 PC’s, cheaper per year if you buy multi-year licenses.

Step 5

If’ you are still using Internet Explorer I recommend switching to either Firefox, Chrome or Opera. I used Firefox for years but switched to Chrome about a year ago.

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