6 ways to stay safe this holiday season while shopping online

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With the holiday season already upon us, now is a great time to go over Internet security tips so you and your family can stay safe into the new year and beyond.

If you follow the news, you know that online data theft is a constant threat. The good news is that it’s easy to protect yourself and your family from these attacks by following six simple tips.

Tip #1: Use strong passwords

Even though everyone knows that a weak password is almost as bad as having no password word at all, the most popular password last year was “123456.” Which was the same in 2014 and 2015. Second and third on the list? “123456789” and “qwerty.” When creating a password, follow these rules:

  • Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase numbers
  • Use at least one number and one symbol
  • Use 12 characters or more (the longer the better)
  • Do not use a dictionary word
  • Change your passwords frequently, at least once every 6 months
  • Use a different password on each account

Tip #2: Use a password manager

You probably use the same, easily guessed password on every site because it’s hard to remember multiple ones. The good news is that they have an app for that, and it’s called a password manager.

A password manager creates, stores, and organizes all your passwords on each of your accounts. The only trick is that you have to remember the master password for the password manager itself, so be sure to use one that follows the instructions from the previous tip.

There are many password managers available online, including free ones.

Tip #3: Use two-step verification on all of your accounts

Two-step verification is an extra security layer that keeps all of your online accounts safe. Two-step verification is activated when you (or someone else) tries to access your account from an unknown device. The account automatically sends a text message to your phone with a code. Without this code, neither you (nor anyone else) can access your account.

So go into all of your online accounts (such as Gmail, Facebook, and others) right now and set up two-step verification, if you haven’t already.

Tip #4: Keep your software updated

Hackers are keen on finding and exploiting all the vulnerabilities they can find in software, and so developers push out updates as soon as these vulnerabilities become known. Unfortunately, some people don’t know (or care) that they are in danger, and so do not keep their software up to date.

It’s very important to keep your software and operating system up to date with the latest releases and patches. Sometimes this happens automatically, but not always. So be sure to make sure you check for updates and install them as soon as they are available.

Tip #5: Be careful what you post on social media

Everyone loves to post vacation photos on Facebook and other social media sites. The problem with posting revealing information such as this is that it allows everyone in your network to know exactly when you are not at home.

While you may think you know everyone in your network, it’s possible that anyone in your social media network could have their accounts hacked, and your information could be shared with people who could pay your house an unwelcome visit when you’re not at home.

Tip #6: Use a VPN on public WiFi

When you log onto public WiFi at a coffee shop or hotel, you should remember that anyone else on the same network has the ability to see whatever you do. Antivirus software and firewalls won’t protect you when you use WiFi hotspots. To do that, you need a personal VPN like Private WiFi.

In a 2013 survey conducted by Private WiFi and the Identity Theft Resource Center, 79% of respondents said they don’t use a VPN even though they know they should.

If that sounds like you, give yourself the gift of online security this holiday season with a subscription to Private WiFi.

Get Private Wifi   Protect your personal information.
Get DataCompress   Cut your mobile data usage.

Jared Howe

Jared Howe is PRIVATE WiFi’s Senior Manager, Product Marketing Communications. Working in high tech for over 15 years, Jared currently lives in Seattle with his wife, daughter, and their two cats.