7 Online Security Tips to Save You Time and Money Comments49 Comments

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People around the world are spending more and more time online, and the opportunities for hackers and damaging viruses abound. Taking security precautions when browsing the Web only takes a few moments, these precautions make it harder for a malicious actor to attack your PC. If you fall victim to an attack this could possibly cost you hundreds of hours and dollars.

If you spend any amount of time on the Internet, you should take precautions to protect your PC and your personal information from potential threats. Here are a few tips for maintaining proper security while still taking advantage of all the Web has to offer.

1. Keep your virus protection software up to date.
Anti-virus software can require updates as more threats are identified and security companies develop patches to protect PCs. If you fail to install a critical update, you could be leaving your PC vulnerable to known attacks.

2. Use secure passwords.
Not every network or other password-protected site has strict guidelines on password creation, but you should follow best practices in creating strong passwords regardless of the site. Avoid using the same password on multiple websites, don’t use easy-to-guess combinations such as children’s names or birthdates, and always use a combination of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters and special characters if permitted.

3. Avoid financial transactions when using an unsecured or public network.
If you’re connected via a WiFi connection or public network, avoid making financial transactions as the information you send can be accessed by others. It only takes one use of a credit or debit card over an unsecure public network to open the door to identity theft.

4. Use a credit card when shopping online.
When you’re shopping online, don’t pay with your checking account or debit card. Use a credit card for online transactions, because credit card companies typically provide more protection against theft and fraudulent transactions.

5. Only do business with trusted vendors.
It’s also a good idea to shop only with trusted vendors. It’s not always easy to identify a fraudster, however. Stick with widely known companies with an established reputation when possible. If you must purchase from an unknown vendor, look for signs of trust, such as a Google Trusted Stores badge. Never purchase from a site that offers no contact information and no warranty or return policy.

6. Use a newer up to date browser.
Older browsers tend to have security flaws. If your browser prompts you to install a new version, it’s a good idea to do so because you’ll be getting the most up-to-date security features the company offers. Your surfing time may go faster, too, as some Websites stop optimizing for older browser versions over time.

7. Watch for spoofers masquerading as a site you trust.
If you receive an email from your bank, for instance, don’t follow the link provided in the email. It could be a ruse to track your account information when you login. Instead, type the url directly into your address bar. When in doubt, call the company to find out if the email is legitimate.
Taking proper precautions when surfing the Web will leave you less vulnerable to hacks and security breaches. Whether you’re browsing online for work or for play, taking a few minutes to maintain your security will be well worth your time, avoiding the hours of frustration and expensive repairs often needed should your PC become infected or your personal information stolen.

Author Bio: Fergal Glynn is the Director of Product Marketing at Veracode, an award-winning application security company specializing in the prevention of sql injection attacks and other security breaches with effective risk assessment tools.

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By : Adam | 17 Sep 2012
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49 thoughts on “7 Online Security Tips to Save You Time and Money

  1. John S @ Frugal Rules

    Strong passwords are key. I am always amazed by the number of people I speak with who have their passwords as password or something so easy. I am sure that security is also going to become even more of an issue as we become a more smart phone dependant culture.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      For sure, people just assume that their passwords aren’t too important. They think it is just highly unlikely that they would be targeted. Really though, there is software used by hackers to mass-target countless people. I know my ex lost a couple blogs by not using a secure enough password. They key was that they managed to take over her e-mail address first.

      Reply
      1. John

        Weak passwords are the most susceptible to dictionary and brute force attacks. If you only use the alphabet it’ll be cracked real fast. Adding numbers helps but that only increasese it by 10 characters. The best way is to use alphabet, numbers and special characters.

        Reply
    1. Jeremy

      That’s good that you’re cautious. At the very least you don’t want to make yourself an easy target. Too many people don’t truly appreciate how risky some things are online. They just assume that they are somehow protected.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      You might not be able to truly protect yourself at all times, but that is just the risk of online activity. As long as you are taking some kind of steps to protect yourself, you are at least eliminating the more basic threats.

      Reply
  2. Jason @ WorkSaveLive

    I’m fairly weary of accessing my banking or other financial information when I’m out-and-about at Starbucks or something. Since we don’t have smartphones or phones with internet, we also don’t have an issue checking those things through our cell phones either. I have a pretty good anti-virus and it’s done wonders for my computer.

    Thanks for all of the great tips!

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Sounds like you do a good job of protecting yourself. Just don’t get too confident in your setup & practices. Hackers are always finding new ways to get access to your information. Something as simple as not updating software can be risky.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I totally just rely on credit cards wherever I can partly because I know they will provide another level of protection. If anything happens to my credit card, the card issuer will have my back and handle any fraudulent charges. That’s usually not the case with debit.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      That’s probably best. It is often easy for hackers to check dictionary words automatically. These days many systems even force you to use both letters and numbers, as well as using upper & lower case and something needing some kind of punctuation.

      Reply
  3. Jacob @ iheartbudgets

    You forgot the tip “buy a Mac”. Haha. Though, I haven’t had any cirus issues on my PC’s since switching to Windows 7 a few years back. I’m already the most aprehensive guy in the world when it comes to emails and contact from people I don’t know, so I don’t really fall into any of those traps, but the password thing kills me. I hate updating my password so often because I always forget!

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Personally I don’t buy the line about macs being so much safer. With all the years of those claims it has just got more hackers wanting to target them. Hackers also know that mac users have spent much more on their computers. So it’s logical to assume that they might have more to gain from hacking those people’s computers. Plus they develop this sense of confidence that their computer is protected and that they don’t need any kind of anti-virus software.

      Reply
  4. Jason Clayton | frugal habits

    Strong passwords are huge, but not using debit cards may be even bigger. Using a credit card always gets you out of a mess if its stolen. The bank will refund the money (or deny payment) and set you up with a new one – no harm done.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I wonder if banks will ever start offering similar protection for debit cards. They seem to be more popular with online shopping these days, but people just don’t understand the risk.

      Reply
  5. Perjan

    Thanks for the article. We all need to be more proactive about our personal account security. One thing you failed to mention is to take advantage of the 2FA (2-Factor Authentication). Although it’s been around for a while, more and more sites are starting to offer and promote this option. 2-Factor Authentication for email wins every day. I feel suspicious when I am not asked to telesign into my account by way of 2FA, it just feels as if they are not offering me enough protection. I know some will claim this make things more complicated, but the slight inconvenience each time you log in is worth the confidence of knowing your info is secure. This should be a prerequisite to any system that wants to promote itself as being secure.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I think you’re referring to the systems that force you to verify logins via phone. Personally I would not use something so inconvenient. So I really don’t see it gaining in popularity anytime soon. I’d think there are easier ways to keep things secure.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I don’t know if they really do have the same kind of protection since there are so many more issuers. With credit cards there are relatively few main credit card companies that allows them to mostly all offer similar protection. I’d look into the details of your specific debit card before just assuming it’s safe.

      Reply
  6. Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies

    I would also suggest that you create fictitious but memorable answers to security questions.

    Given how prolific social media has become it’s not too hard for someone to figure out what city you were born in or what your high school mascot was. These aren’t secure questions and given a few minutes, most people who know you even a little bit could probably figure out the answers…

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Great point. Some of those verification questions really are too obvious or easy to figure out. Sometimes I feel those questions are only in place to help build profiles for each internet user. It’s just random information that those companies can add to your overall personal footprint. I hadn’t thought of using fake info for some of those, but I think it’s a good idea.

      Reply
  7. John

    One of the best free AV’s is actually Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s AV and Anti Spyware. I’ve been using it for years and haven’t had any problems. Steve Gibson (Security Now) tested it couple years back and recommends it also.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      That’s actually what I use too. It seems to be doing it’s job well without causing any kind of problems. Since it’s free, people don’t have an excuse to not be protected.

      Reply
  8. Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves

    I agree with use strong passwords – Here is another thing i have seen MANY people do… When using “another” computer (like one at a hotel office center or one in a company lobby) make sure you store NOTHING on the computer, ie, boarding passes, reservations, travel plans that you were printing out. Also make sure to LOG OUT of everything, clear the browser history and cache!

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Hackers must love those shared computers. I suspect that 99% of the people using them don’t think of clearing the cache and lots probably even forget to log out of some websites.

      Reply
  9. Pauline

    I agree with the credit card use, although many sites now (like low cost airlines) charge a fee for using credit and a debit card transaction will be free.

    Also, do you have a solution for storing passwords online? Like a SAFE place where you can access all of your passwords?

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I’ve never come across an online company that did charge extra for credit card usage. It is just a standard online payment method that it wouldn’t make sense for most companies to do something like that.

      There are secure solutions for storing passwords, but I’ve been using a less secure solution even though I should know better. It’s worked fine so far though.

      Reply
  10. Canadianbudgetbinder

    All good points to remember indeed and worth sharing this post with all of your friends and family. I remember there was a time where we would get this phone call by some call center agent who barely spoke English and said that our computer was infected and that they needed me to turn it on and that they could help me get rid of the virus. Sadly, people fall for that rubbish and allow these scammers remote access to their computer and all of their personal information. If you want to use the computer.. protect yourself. It’s as easy as reading a post like this. Cheers Jeremy. Mr.CBB

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      That’s true. Some hackers did resort to tricking people over the phone or via e-mail. These days it is much easier for them to mass infect countless computers by getting them to visit an infected website. So you really need to be wary of clicking on unfamiliar links as well as installing software to help protect yourself.

      Reply
  11. Shannon-ReadyForZero

    Thanks for sharing these tips. After reading this, I realize that there are a few habits that I should definitely change to protect my identity better. It’s so easy to think that something won’t happen to you and then you’re unprepared if it does.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Usually most people have some kind of vulnerability exposed. They might be careful in certain areas, but few people have all their bases covered. So people really should be periodically checking for new ways to protect themselves.

      Reply
  12. Edward Antrobus

    With phishing emails, I always Hoover the mouse over the link to say what it says. Over the weekend, I got an email supposedly from Paypal saying there was there was a problem with the credit card linked to my account. Silly identity thief, I don’t have any credit cards linked to that account!

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Luckily gmail seems to do a good job of detecting those phishing e-mails. Back when I was using outlook I remember having to wade through so many of them, but most of the time it would be for places that I don’t even have an account. I could see people falling for the ones that are linked to a company they have an account with though.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I wonder how many people don’t even know about the extra protection their credit card provides. A lot would know you could dispute fraudulent charges, but they probably wouldn’t know about extended warranties and other protection.

      Reply
  13. Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    I need to be better about not using my debit card online. I don’t remember sometimes to use a credit card. My passwords are actually pretty funny. If you have to make a long one, you might as well get a laught out of it.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I’m guessing the humor makes it a little easier for yourself to remember too. My problem is that I just have too many different passwords. So I often have to reference my password list when logging in somewhere that I don’t go to regularly.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I’d think Chrome would be pretty secure since it’s fairly new. I’m sure Google invests a whole lot in keeping it secure to protect their reputation. As for IE, I gave up on them a long time ago. Now I only use it for testing designs.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I get those most days too, but they automatically end up in my gmail spam folder. Not everyone is so lucky though. For some people they’d just see an e-mail from their bank and think they need to deal with it right away.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      There is all kind of nasty stuff in your e-mail junk mail folder, but I do see some legit e-mails end up in there. It’s the ones in there claiming to be from a big company that are often the more dangerous ones.

      Reply
  14. CreditDonkey

    I just use PayPay for my online shopping. I may be a paranoid but I just can’t trust to give out my debit or credit card to any site, even those I know are legitimate ones. Can’t be too careful nowadays.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      That probably is a lot safer. While a credit card issuer will protect you from unauthorized purchases, a stolen credit card number could be used to help steal someone’s identity.

      Reply

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