October 16, 2018 / by Joyce Varghese / In guides /

DIY Cyber Security for all: 6 Easy ways to stay safe online


We don’t just use technology; we live technology.

A day in your daily life looks like this -

Your battery is running out and you thank your stars when you find the free charging stations at the airport.

You just saw a great deal on an online shopping site. You pick up your phone and transact online to make the purchase.

You watch your favourite Netflix movie on your mobile.

You chat with your friend from US via WhatsApp Video call

It’s all about convenience, or is it?

Technology has changed the way we do things and made our lives easier. But as more devices and people are getting connected to the cyberspace, we are all exposed to online risks.

The internet has become the crime scene of the 21 st century.

Convenience takes away common sense. In the first example, while many public places and airports offer free charging stations to change a variety of smartphones, those stations can be easily rigged by hackers. So, all that you do on your smartphone – email, text, take a selfie and upload on your facebook account - could be easily recorded. These "free charging stations" can be Trojan horses for malware. Not only are you giving free access to your data but also the freedom to infect your device as soon as you plug in your phone.

Take the other example of WhatsApp for video calls. Highly convenient and economical. But only recently (end of August), the developers realised about a bug in the WhatsApp mobile app (both iOS & Android) that allowed hackers to take over the application when users answered an incoming video call.

Here’s a reality check – there’s a flurry of hacking activity happening every second through which cybercriminals cash in on all your personal data – credit card details, login information. A report by Intel Security throws up these scary figures -

  • Credit and debit cards of U.S customers: $5 to $30
  • Bank login credentials for an account with a balance of $2,200 or more: $190
  • Login credentials for content services such as Netflix: $0.55

Stay safe online - Six steps to follow

At DNIF we’ve been helping large enterprises and small companies tackle cybersecurity threats and keep their data safe. To celebrate National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we’ve listed down 6 easy ways you can stay safe online.

1. Choose strong passwords

You are up against tough challenge. Hackers use software that can make as many as 8m guesses a second. But, will we ever learn? Even today, passwords like ‘123456’ and ‘password’ rank at the top of the most commonly used passwords list. Your best defence to safeguard your digital identity starts with a strong password. Some quick tips to creating a secure password –

  • Use phrases instead of words, like ‘DNIFforcybersecurity’
  • Use multiple combinations of alphanumeric and special characters, but smartly so you can always remember. Like always use 1 instead of letter i, $ for s.
  • Choose different passwords for each website you use. Using the same password across services and devices can let hackers take control of your digital identity.

Security Tip: Keep separate passwords for social media accounts, personal bank accounts, shopping accounts etc.

2. Keep your devices and apps up-to-date

How often do you update your app? If your answer is “It depends…”, it’s high time to switch to “As often as possible!” Here's why - Not all software is created perfectly, so vulnerabilities in the software do pop up from time to time. Attackers use these vulnerabilities to infect your computer with malware. This is where software updates come in. This seems like an annoyance to most. However, they are vital to your device’s cyber ‘health’.

Security Tip: App updates take up lot of space. Ensure you only have apps that you frequently use and delete the others. Use a safe wireless connection to update the app.

3. Think before you click

If you’ve an email account, you’ve certainly been on the receiving end of attempts to con you into giving away information. These emails can take the form of too-good-to-be-true schemes such as business or investment opportunities, cure-all or weight-loss products, lotteries or prizes, crisis alerts and so on. These attempts have become increasingly sophisticated. Scammers can create convincing emails impersonating trusted sources including universities and even banks.

Security Tip: If a link looks suspicious, confirm before clicking even if you know the source! Else you may inadvertently download a data-stealing software or give someone complete control over your device.

4. Beware of virus via “free” WiFi

A hacker can clone the name and characteristics of a public network like Starbucks. Once your device is connected to the free WiFi, it is wide open to attacks. The hacker can gain control of your operating system and spam everyone in your contact list with malware. With one accidental click, the recipient is also infected, and their contact list is targeted. This is how viruses can spread very quickly.

Security Tip: Avoid connecting to public WiFi, unless you’re sure that it’s secure. Whether on your phone or at home, always use password-protected WiFi.

5. Use incognito mode

Your ISP is tracking every website that you visit. It logs sites you’ve visited into your history log, along with the date and time of the visit. This data collected by the ISO may be accessed by hackers as well. So how do you safely browse the internet? Most web browsers offer an ‘incognito mode’ option so you can browse privately. There is no storage of data in cookies or flash cookies as they are deleted when you close the incognito window. Disabling cookies and extensions can keep you safe from malicious apps stealing your data. Incognito mode is generally safer when making banking transactions.  

Security Tip: Always use private browsing mode to safely carry out your online financial transactions.

6. Get Internet security software

Back in the 90s, antivirus software was all you needed to keep your computer safe. However, threats have become more sophisticated today and you’ll need much more than a simple anti-virus software to effectively detect and block malware. Think about all the personal information you access across your devices. It’s available through your email, social media, financial accounts, and all the apps you use. Securing just your laptop won’t suffice. You’ll need some sort of security protection on your smartphone or tablet as well as there are security vulnerabilities in these devices.

Security tip: Purchase internet security software that helps you manage all your devices from one place.

As long as you’re aware of the online risks to your personal safety, you can begin protecting yourself from future attacks. Using the Internet more safely, securely and responsibly is a great start. An easy way to stay safe online is to simply remember two important things: Make sure security measures are in place and think about the consequences of your actions and behavior online.

Happy #CyberSecurityAwarenessMonth to you! Stay safe.