Turned Off By Online Exposure? 7 Ways To Protect Your Cyber-Self

From the moment you turn on any device, be it your phone, desktop or streaming television, you're vulnerable to hackers, spammers, thieves and other types of criminals who can turn your life upside down in a nanosecond. Don't become a victim, be informed and alert, instead. Don't turn on that device until you know how to keep you and your data safe. The following information will set you up for a safer experience online.

1. Create A Fake Persona

Although it can be confusing for you and people legitimately trying to contact you, creating a fake persona, completely detached from the "real" you can keep you real safe online. Especially if you have an unusual name, tracking you down can be quite simple. If, on the other hand, you go by the name "JohnDoe923232", tracking you down is going to pose more of a challenge. Make up a name, list your location as "happyville" or "The Hundred Acre Woods" and take a few minutes to connect with people you want in your online life. Since it's common to use part of all of your real name on sites like PayPal, Amazon or even Facebook, people have access to the real you in all kinds of ways; thus, making that data scarce on the web means you're less likely to be targeted.

2. Check The Location And Sharing Settings On ALL Your Devices

A real criminal, such as someone who might stalk you in person, can hunt you down through your Geo-location. While the fine folks at Google aren't going to make prey of you, the Google settings can reveal much more about you than you might think. For example, if you're not careful with your picture settings, anyone can have access to them, including people just doing a general internet search. That all-important location setting can lead anyone right to you, quite literally, and all it takes is a little bit of technical prowess. Also keep in mind that many of the apps you love have access to your device data, and although the app company may not be out to get you, if that info is hackable, you're vulnerable.

3. Make Sure The Kids Are Following Protocol, Too

Most households have WiFi and if everyone isn't on the same page with security, everyone may be compromised. Supervise the un-boxing of all new devices and installation of all new software, so that you know what data is coming in and going out of your family network.

4. Check In With The Uber-Smart Anonymous Crowd

Although the "Anonymous" group is often synonymous with shady code and treacherous technological tricks, it pays to pay attention to them. Not all of them are up to shenanigans and you can quietly observe them on Twitter without consequence. They'll often let people know when sites are down, under attack or even when a hacking is rumored to be in the works somewhere. Watching them, you can also learn about different terms important to your online presence, like DDoS attacks. You might also pick up some interesting points on protecting your privacy, something the group is really enthusiastic about.

5. Examine Certificates Prior To Downloading

No matter what device you're using, you should be able to set the browser to offer you the option of inspecting important certificates before you download anything. Looking at this document, you can tell exactly who produced the code and if they're up-to-date registering themselves as legit. Don't forget to control where the d/l goes, too, so you can inspect it with some type of virus program before it's run; the desktop is a handy location, where you can inspect, then delete the setup files. When you're working with files from emails, such as attachments, always hover links before clicking them, so you can determine who they come from before allowing them to execute. It's easy to mimic a YouTube video with something more sinister, but at first glance, you'd swear it was authentic. Taking the time to check the link could save you from identity theft or at the very least, unleashing a virus on your machine.

6. Never Mix Business With Pleasure

Whatever accounts and contacts you have for business purposes, keep them separate from your personal activity. Even if you have to create different social media accounts to keep up with folks at work, you want to keep as much accurate information out of the hands of would-be bad guys (and girls), so don't attach your name to your profession or the company you work for.

Also, if your personal email is ever hacked and you have your boss and co-workers listed as contacts, they could be ridiculously spammed, on your behalf, creating all kinds of havoc for you.

7. Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Being paranoid online isn't a bad thing and if you look at every link, attachment and download as potentially nefarious, you'll always be thinking about your cyber identity security. Make sites prove they're trustworthy before you buy with them, like announcing themselves as approved by Google and by displaying a green padlock up in the location bar. If you're not sure about a site even though it looks legit, run the URL for it through a safety check, such as Web Inspector, by the popular security firm Comodo.

If you ever suspect your hardware or software has been penetrated by anyone unauthorized, run immediate scans and contact someone who can tell you for sure what's going on. Don't be worried that you'll be judged technically-challenged, because most people really don't know the difference between authentic links and the kind that can steal your life. The risk is too great to take any chances and once your data is hacked, you never know what will happen to it or you.

For more information, contact a service like Silent Security 1.