You have heard the threats of hackers. While you’ll likely be unaffected, there are easy steps you can take to improve your security online.
There has been a great deal of talk about attempts to attack Israeli sites beginning on 07.04.2013. While the main targets of these hackers will likely be Israeli government, non-profit, and corporate websites, it is wise to evaluate your online presence and see what you can do to better secure yourself anyway.
Steps to take with every site you login to
When you pick logins and passwords for websites, do the following:
- Pick strong passwords – It is remarkable how many simple passwords are in use. Pick a unique password. A very secure password, as suggested by the popular webcomic xkcd below, can be made by stringing together four words.
- Don’t use the same password on every site – If a hacker successfully cracks one site you belong to and you use the same username and password on other sites, he can easily login using those credentials elsewhere. Make it harder for him by shaking things up and using different passwords.
Use two-factor authentication where possible
Two-factor authentication adds extra security by requiring not only that you have a password but that you can receive or generate a code on a known device. For example, when logging into your email on a new computer, you might be sent an SMS to your cell phone with a code you would have to input as well. This, of course, makes it much more challenging for someone to hack your account.
Gmail / Google
- Google offers further explanation of its two-step verification process.
- You will need to login to the 2-Step Verification home to get started.
- If you are going the SMS / voice call route to receive codes, make sure you add additional backup phones such as your spouse’s number, your home number, and a friend or relative’s number.
- Some smartphones and other applications may require an application-specific password.
- Lastly, it might be a good idea to see what services, applications, and sites have been granted access to your Google account. You should consider revoking access for any that should no longer have it.
- Facebook explains its Login Approval system.
- You will need to go your Security Settings area. Once there, activate Login Approvals.
Note: I was unable to get an SMS confirmation on my phone. This seems to have been reported by others in Israel, though some have been able to receive SMSs. If you have the same problem of not being able to receive an SMS confirmation, you can report the problem (though it is hard to know what will come of it). One workaround could be to use their Code Generator instead.
- Other steps you can take to make your account more secure include enabling Secure Browsing and deleting any unnecessary Recognized Devices.
Dropbox, Yahoo Mail, and some other services offer two-factor authentication, too.
Your computers, devices
There are steps you can take when using any desktop, laptop, or mobile device to ensure your security.
- Ensure your software is up to do – Don’t keep postponing updates. Make sure your software is up to date so that you are protected against the latest security threats.
- Have updated antivirus software – You should have antivirus software that is regularly updated. There are lots of free options if you don’t have antivirus software already.
- Don’t click that! – If there is a strange or suspicious link on Facebook, don’t click it! If you get a strange or suspicious email, avoid opening it and don’t click on its contents.
- Backup regularly – If you are unfortunately affected in some way, a separate backup (e.g., on a USB, CD, external hard drive, or online) can help you recover more quickly. Windows comes built-in with backup software, and there are a lot of free alternatives.
If you’ve been hacked…
In the unfortunate case that you believe you have been hacked, the Israel Internet Association operates a hotline at 03-970-0911 for members of the public needing assistance. Normal hours of operation are from 09:00 to 17:00, but they will open beginning after Shabbat on 06.04.2013. They also promise to update their home page as the current situation develops.
Good luck, and stay safe online!