Another New Year’s day has come and gone. As the holiday merriment all but fades away it’s time to start thinking about 2016. ‘Tis is the season when people solemnly swear to themselves to never eat another chocolate chip cookie and to start calling Grandma at least once a week. Great aspirations, to be sure but there is one area that’s often times overlooked when it comes to new year resolutions and it can have huge implications – The resolution to take the safety of your digital identity and assets more seriously in 2016.
As our lives get more digitally-centered by the day, the New Year is the perfect opportunity to assess old habits, ramping up the good ones and throwing out the bad ones. Isn’t your personal information worth just as much pause for thought as that cookie in your hand?
Here are tips to help make sure you are set up for security in 2016.
Tip #1: Always update your software
Have you ever seen a Windows notice that tells you to download a system patch or have you ever been alerted to update software you have running?
Going out on a limb here, let’s assume that:
- a) you have seen them and
- b) you closed them out, just like most non-expert computer users do.
Well, if you did choose to ignore the notices by closing them, that was a bad idea. Patches, just like the ones you had on your jeans when you were a kid are there to protect and reinforce something that has a hole. In other words, when software or operating system developers find a vulnerability or a hole in their system they issue a patch or update to close the hole. When you ignore the patch you leave that hole wide open for hackers.
Updates ensure that you are running the most current version of a program. If you fail to update you’ll be running an older, less supported and more vulnerable version of the program, which leaves you more open to hacks.
Patching and updating on a regular basis are some of the most effective tools to stay safe from hackers and crooks. In 2016 get into the habit of patching and updating rather than closing those little notices.
Tip #2: Don’t underrate your passwords
You probably already know how important it is to use strong, random and unique passwords. But did you know that just because a website’s password strength indicator tool tells you that your password is a-okay, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually a solid one?
Creating solid passwords involves a lot more than just using as many characters as possible, which is generally all that password strength indicators are looking at. A real solid password meets 3 criteria:
- It has at least 12 characters
- It includes uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols
- It does not contain words that can be found in the dictionary
Once you have a collection of passwords that fulfil the above features, you’ll need a way to remember them. After all you’ll be needing one of those pumped up, individual passwords for every login you create so you’re going to need some help here. No fear, that’s where password managers come in. Password managers are basically a secured vault for your array of wacky passwords. There are a bunch of good choices out there like Keepass, LastPass and Dashlane. Pick the one that sounds best to you, set it up and actually stick to using it in 2016.
Tip #3: Fortify your sensitive accounts
To be brutally honest about it, passwords are important, but their effectiveness is inherently limited and there have been occasions where even the most double-barred password has been hacked. That’s why you need to use two-factor authentication as well as those amazing passwords described above.
Also called 2FA and multi-factor authentication, two-factor authentication proves to be more effective than passwords alone, simply because it adds another element to the login process. And this additional element is more than just another security question, it’s something that only you should have. According to Neil Rubenking of PCMag “there are three generally recognized factors for authentication: something you know (such as a password), something you have (such as a hardware token or cell phone), and something you are (such as your fingerprint). Two-factor means the system is using two of these options.”
Lots of sites you already have accounts with allow (and even encourage) users to turn on 2FA, like Gmail, Twitter and PayPal. Chances are your bank has it too. You don’t need to set it up everywhere, just at your most important and sensitive accounts like PayPal or your bank. Turnon2FA.com shows you where and how to set it up on lots of popular websites. So no excuses, 2FA in 2016!
Tip #4: Backup, backup, backup!
Here is the pretty harsh reality – one day, you might just lose your data. Perhaps your hard drive will go kaput. Or maybe you (or your kid) will accidentally erase your data. Or you might lose your computer or device all together. Not a fun thought but this is just reality talking here, folks.
Losing your data can be catastrophic but if you have a backup of that data then it’s not such a big deal. So about that back up… Do you backup your files on a regular basis? It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that not many people actually take the time to back up on a regular basis, even though it could save them from losing all their data. Setting up a backup plan doesn’t even have to take so long though – it’s just a matter of getting used to it.
The good news is that ZoneAlarm comes with a built-in automated backup system. Set your backups for as often as you want and forget about it. And user-defined encryption means that you and only you can access your files. Oh by the way, if your computer or device gets lost or stolen, ZoneAlarm shuts it down remotely and will then locate it using wifi signals to ensure your total security. Either way, make 2016 the year you start backing up your files.
Now you know what you need to do to make your new year a digitally secure one. Now all you need to do is take your hand out of that cookie jar and you’ll be on your way to a great 2016.
Tip #5: Check if your anti-virus is actually protecting you
You already know that installing a solid anti-virus program is one of your best defenses against malware and other creepy intruders. But installing anti-virus isn’t enough. Just like those patches and updates, you need to make sure your anti-virus is running at its most current version to know that it’s fully protecting your digital assets. That’s because one method antivirus programs use is to scan new threats against existing threats. Some programs rely on this method alone, which means in case of a zero-day threat, which is previously unknown threat, they are limited in their ability to recognize and stop it from reaching computers.
That’s why ZoneAlarm developed Threat Emulation, protecting users from these zero-day attacks by opening all files and attachments in a fully protected and enclosed environment, keeping your computer safe until it has been determined that the file or program is indeed safe. At the same time, our advanced real-time system checks threats in the cloud as another layer of protection, from moment to moment.
Take a few minutes to learn about your current anti-virus program and see how it’s protecting you. If it’s not protecting you from zero-day threats, then it’s not really protecting you at all.
Don’t miss this opportunity, get your free 30-days trial of ZoneAlarm Extreme Security now!
Here is to a happy and digitally secure year from Zone Alarm!