10 commandments of online safety

The recent rash of hacking threats have left us more vulnerable than ever

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File photo of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia <strong>Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune</strong>

Neon Brand

The pandemic has entirely changed the way we use the internet. When Covid-19 shut everything down, the Internet stepped up and enabled us to work from home, watch newly released movies without going to the theatre, learn online, work together while apart within version sharing software, or even jump on a quick meeting from the comfort of our home via zoom. Parents went from ‘too much iPad’ to practically begging kids to get on their tablets so they could catch a break. Whether we like it or not, we are almost always online these days. We are using it a lot, and a whole lot more dependent on it. That raises the stake. Hacks are happening more frequently than ever. We stand to lose more than a little information. That’s why it’s imperative we have the talk: Are we being safe online?


Read on to find out some super basic ways you can avoid getting hacked. And don’t worry. I know that our brains are fried from trying to understand Google classroom and how to screen share, I will keep this simple.


Use something unconventional as your password:


Believe it or not, your name + the year you opened your account or your university roll number is a terrible password combo, doesn’t matter how strong the computer thinks it is. Hackers are going to try these combinations first. While we are on the topic, avoid using your first pet’s name or someone’s birthday or the last digits of your phone number. They are not as smart as you think.


Change your password every two months: 


At this rate, you are most likely to forget your own password so I highly doubt the hackers will be able to crack it. Jokes apart, you can save your passwords in a note app on your phone to avoid getting locked out. 


Don't share your password with anyone: 


I get it, kind of. For a while, my sister and I knew each other’s passwords and it didn’t bother us. Not because we used each other’s account, but because we knew we wouldn't. You could argue that you have nothing to hide or really trust that person or it proves for your love (it doesn’t), having that kind of trust is great but it's not a matter of trust. Ask yourself, if it'll hurt you if you lose this account. If not, share away! If the answer is yes, don't share.


Turn on two-factor authentication: 


If you activate this feature, every time you log in to your account from an unrecognizable device, it texts you a code. They don’t approve the login if you fail to provide the code. Almost all apps have this feature right now, and honestly, it’s a lifesaver. This prevents any attempts of hackers to log in to your account.


Secure the email address you used to open your account:


If someone has access to your email, they can change your login information and take over all your social accounts and information linked to it. Use one valid email to sign up for all the apps you use, and never share that email with anyone else. Keep your official email address for correspondence separate. Use Gmail as it's more secure and harder to hack than the others.


Check your logged devices information every week: 


This is applicable to your Facebook and Instagram account. If it shows logged in from a place it shouldn't, change your password immediately. Just to be safe, it’s a personal trick, change the password three times back to back, and don’t forget to check the ‘log out of all other devices’ box.


Do not click a link unless you are sure it's legit:


A friend has Whatsapped you a link? Ask your friend about it before you click on it. It often leads to a loop of spam messages. Don’t impulsively click on any link from suspicious-looking accounts no matter what they say. They might promise you thousands of dollars or warn you of a privacy leak, please keep your cool and ask the whys and hows. Never login to any of your social media accounts from any suspicious-looking links, always log in from the platform's own site/app.


Don't forget to untick the remember me box when you log out from your account on a shared device: 


Better yet, use the incognito tab if you are logging in from someone else's device. Incognito mode doesn't keep track of your online footprints. That way, you don’t have to remember to clear browser history or cookies. 


Don't use sketchy apps: 


Not all apps on your Play Store are authentic. Be careful while using third-party apps, always read what you are authorizing before installing.


Antivirus software is always a good idea:


If you get a good one, it will keep your device clean, warn you when you enter unsecured cyberspace, and protect your files.


Lastly, let me give you the advice my father gave me when we got our first internet connection in the 90s--- if you wouldn’t want someone knowing/seeing something, don’t put it out on the internet. It’s a generic piece of advice but saved me on more than one occasion. Mindful usage of the Internet is important, especially during this prolonged lockdown time. While the Internet may have saved us, there must be a balance. Remember to take a break too. Hit pause, water your plants, take a walk or say hi to your dog for me.

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