From Target to Equifax, it seems no company is safe from big security breaches. But what about your personal devices? How safe are they from getting hacked?
Let’s start with a review of some basic best practices to help your information stay secure, and then take a closer look at a few security software tools.
Best practices for online security
Your own actions are the first line of defense against many common security risks.
First, commit to an annual review of your personal digital life. Start with any online accounts you have that require a username and password. This might be a longer list than you’d think. Look at all the apps on your phone, any marketing emails you get, and a list of any passwords saved on your browser to get a complete list of all the places you likely have an online account. Delete or cancel any accounts that you no longer use. (This could help clear out your email, too!) If you actively use those accounts and want to keep them, be sure you have a secure password on each. Change any passwords that are not sufficiently secure. The use of an online password manager tool can help make this task easier (more about these tools below).
Follow these tips to create a secure password:
- 16+ characters with uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols
- Do not use birthdays, addresses or other easy-to-guess information
- Use a different password for every account
- Don’t let your browser remember passwords
- Change all passwords at least once a year
- Always use two-factor authentication if it’s an option
There are a few additional personal security steps to take: review spam settings on your email program, check your privacy settings on social media accounts, and avoid sharing any more personal details (such as birthday, address, phone number, etc.) than required on online accounts. Be wary of any online accounts that ask for your social security number, and make sure there’s a legitimate need to provide it.
Now that you’ve reviewed some best practices, let’s look at specific security programs and tools that can provide you even more safeguards against online threats.
CenturyLink Security by McAfee
CenturyLink takes customer security seriously and offers access to McAfee security software. This cloud-based security program continually updates itself against existing and emerging threats, and keeps your devices protected with ongoing scans. All CenturyLink customers with high-speed internet can download this program for no additional cost on at least two devices (PC, Mac, Android, or iOS computers, phones and tablets).
The use of a reputable anti-virus program, whether you choose to use McAfee or another program, is a crucial step to increasing your online security.
The Internet of Things is growing quickly, with more and more households installing smart devices. But many of these devices aren’t built with security in mind. And anything that connects to the internet can pose a threat to your personal data. Secure WiFi is a tool that protects all your connected devices right at your modem. It also provides other network and device management features, such as the ability to create device groups and pause devices and groups. These features allow you to see all the devices connected to your network and disconnect any you don’t recognize.
Bark is a software program designed to help families protect their kids’ online lives by monitoring your child’s apps, social media, texts and emails for any dangerous or risky content.
Adults can customize the filters and limits, making Bark one of the best ways to ensure your kids are safer as they navigate the internet. And the best part? CenturyLink offers this program at a discount to our customers.
Managing a lot of passwords doesn’t have to be difficult. Online password managers are programs that securely store, and in some cases, help you create strong account passwords. You create an account with a master password, and then save the login information for all your online accounts, from email to banking to shopping. Most programs offer a mobile app and a browser extension that will auto-fill your login information when you visit a site and offer to save any new passwords you create. Some will also let you do a security scan of all your passwords and alert you to any that are not secure enough. Popular programs include LastPass, Dashlane, Keeper, and 1Password. They each offer different pricing structures (some have free versions), features and levels.
As you work, learn, and play online, always keep your safety in mind. Start your own cybersecurity plan as soon as you can and do whatever you feel you can easily tackle first. Consider using some of the tools described here, and remember to stay aware and be cautious in your online actions.