There are a lot of fancy things you can do if you want to stay secure online. You can buy a hardware key card and spend hours setting it up so you can use it for two-factor authentication. You can conduct all your financial transactions with Monero. You can delete all your profiles on social media, use Signal instead of text messaging, and do all of your searches with DuckDuckGo instead of Google so that everything you do online is anonymous, encrypted, or both.
Buuuuuuttttttt let’s get real. You’re probably not going to do any of that. I’ve only done the first one and I write a goddamn blog about security. Security often comes at the expense of convenience, and for most people the really secure option that takes hours is just not worth the extra work compared to the less-secure option that they already have.
There are a lot of things you can do to be secure online, but here are the things you have to do. Ignore at your own risk.
- Password-protect your laptop. If someone ever steals your computer, you really don’t want that person to have access to all your files and online accounts. As someone who has had their laptop stolen and didn’t password-protect it, trust me on this one.
- Stop using the same password for multiple sites. 65% of people use the same password for every site. If you are one of these people, you are only one password leak away from letting a hacker take over your entire digital life. You can protect yourself without increasing the number of password you have to remember by using a tool like LastPass to generate long, unique, random passwords for all the sites you visit. With LastPass, all you have to do is enter your LastPass password when you open your browser and then the service will remember and autofill your passwords for all the sites you visit. It’s easier and it’s more secure.
- Whenever you have to actually remember a password, use an xkcd-style password made of four+ random words. Passwords in this format are easy to remember and are actually much more secure than ordinary passwords, even if the attacker knows you are using a password in this format. I recommend generating these kind of passwords with a tool like this and then adding an especially uncommon word and maybe a symbol or two.
- Use Tor or a VPN any time you are on a public network (e.g. the wifi at a coffee shop or hotel). Otherwise a hacker sitting in the coffee shop can fairly easily steal your login credentials, bank account information, and/or nudie pics. Possibly all at once. If you’re cheap and don’t mind slowing down your connection quite a bit, try Tor, which is a free, super-secure browser that you can use instead of Chrome or Firefox to encrypt all of the data you send and receive. If speed is a concern and you don’t mind paying a few bucks a month, a VPN is a great option. I personally use NordVPN which is fast and stupidly simple to use. Either option will work just fine if you’re just trying to keep hackers from intercepting your dick pics and posting them on 4chan.
- Activate two-factor authentication (2FA) on all the accounts you care about. At least do this for your email, as someone gaining control of your email can request password reset emails on other sites and use them to log into basically all of your accounts everywhere. 2FA can be as easy as getting a prompt on your phone verifying that you’re currently trying to log into your account. It’s easy and it goes a long way towards keeping your accounts secure.
- Cover your webcam with tape or a stick-on webcam cover. People like Mark Zuckerberg and James Comey are covering their webcams because if someone manages to break into your computer, it is trivial for them to turn on your camera and start recording. Do you really want the government to see the shameful things you do in the privacy of your own room?
- Before you click on any link, ask yourself, “Does this seem sketchy?” There are a lot of attacks that involve sending someone a malicious link. Protect yourself by stopping to think before you blindly click something. If it seems sketchy, it’s probably sketchy. Here are a few things you can check for if you’re not sure what sketchy URLs look like.
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