Every Big Tech company you are associated with (and even some you’re not) has at least some information on you. But what exactly do they know? Tap or click here to find out what Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter know about you.
It’s important to keep up basic tech privacy and security practices at all times, but in case you’ve been slacking, why not get a good start as we enter the new year?
Here are five critical steps to take to protect yourself as we enter 2023.
1. Use strong and unique passwords for all your accounts
How many online accounts do you have? It’s not easy to keep up with all those login credentials, but among the worst things you can do is reuse the same password for multiple accounts. A hacker needs to get it right just once and they can cause some severe damage.
You want to use a different password for each account, and each should be complex and difficult to guess or, even better, completely random.
Here are some more password tips:
- Use a combination of letters, numbers and alternating capitalization: Don’t just create a password like “glitteringprizes123” — that’s far too easy to figure out. For that example, something like this would be better: “gL1trngpRzs3764” — the casing is alternated among the letters, and the numbers don’t follow a sequence.
- Don’t make it personal: Your name, birthday, user name, or email address are often publicly available, which makes it easier for someone to guess your password. Tap or click here to remove your information from creepy people search sites.
- Leave your interests out of it: Are you a baseball fan? A bad password would be “diamondbacksforlife.” Save your love for the team by cheering them on. Someone can deduce your passion by seeing your social media posts or snooping on your internet activity. It won’t take long for them to guess your password. The same goes for using your favorite songs, bands or celebrity names in your passwords. Don’t do it!
- Use a password generator: Can’t come up with a good password? Random.org takes the guesswork out of password creation.
- Use a password manager: A password manager stores and generates login information for all your devices and accounts. These programs can be installed as software or accessed through a website, browser extension or the cloud. Tap or click here for six hidden uses for password managers.
RELATED: 10 tips to secure your accounts with strong passwords
2. Use two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, adds another layer of security to your accounts. This consists of something you only know (such as an answer to a question), something you have (your smartphone) or something that identifies you as a person (fingerprint, voice pattern or facial scan).
Here’s how to set up 2FA for some of the world’s most popular operating systems:
- Go to the Security basics page in your Microsoft account at account.microsoft.com/security.
- Select Advanced security options.
- Verify your identity as directed.
- Under Additional security, you’ll see an option to turn on Two-step verification.
- Click the Next button and follow the onscreen instructions.
- Choose the Apple menu, then System Preferences.
- Click Apple ID, then select Password & Security in the sidebar.
- Click Set Up Two-Factor Authentication, then click Continue.
- Answer the verification questions and click Verify.
- Enter your phone number for verification, select a verification method, then click Continue.
- Verify your identity with the six-digit verification code sent to your trusted phone.
- Go to Settings > [your name] > Password & Security.
- Tap Turn On Two-Factor Authentication.
- Tap Continue.
- Enter the phone number where you want to receive verification codes when you sign in. You can receive the codes by text message or automated phone call.
- Tap Next.
- Enter the verification code to verify your phone number and turn on 2FA.
- Open your Google Account at myaccount.google.com.
- In the navigation panel, select Security.
- Under Signing in to Google, select 2-Step Verification, then Get started.
- Follow the onscreen steps.
- To help protect your account, Google will ask that you complete a specific second step. We recommend using Google prompts. Follow the instructions for setting up prompts for your Android, computer or iOS device.
You can use an authenticator app, which generates one-time passcodes every 30 seconds. The code expires after half a minute, so if someone manages to get a hold of it, it won’t work after that time has passed. You don’t need to provide a phone number to the app, which is unique to your phone.
Microsoft has its own authenticator app for iOS and Android:
Google also has an authenticator app for mobile operating systems:
Tap or click here for more information on 2FA and other important security practices.
3. Commit to Apple and Android security features
Whether you’re team Apple or Android, your phone has tools and features to keep you safe. Let’s go over some of them.
Apple’s Passkey system is a quick and easy way to get into your accounts using Face ID or Touch ID. There’s no need to create or manage passwords. Because passkeys are synced with your iCloud Keychain, you can use them across your Apple devices.
You must have iCloud Keychain turned on and two-factor authentication enabled to use passkeys.
Depending on the website, browser, or app you’re using, saving a passkey to your iPhone and iCloud Keychain usually consists of these steps:
- For a new account: Enter an account name on the sign-up screen.
- For an existing account: Sign in with your password, then go to the account management screen.
- When you see the option to save a passkey for the account, tap Continue.
Apple Safety Check
Safety Check can be used to modify information associated with your Apple ID. Here’s how to use Safety Check to review the information you’re sharing:
- Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Safety Check.
- Tap Manage Sharing & Access. Progress is saved as you go.
- Do one of the following to stop sharing information with other people:
- Tap People, select people in the list, review the information shared with people, then decide which information you want to stop sharing with selected people.
- Tap Information, select apps in the list, review the information shared with people, then decide which information you want to stop sharing with selected people.
- Do one of the following to stop sharing information with other apps:
- Tap Apps, select apps in the list, review the information shared with them, then decide which information you want to stop sharing with the selected apps.
- Tap Information, select the information being shared in the list, review the information shared with apps, then decide which information you want to stop sharing with the selected apps.
- Tap Continue, then do any of the following:
- Review and remove devices signed into your account.
- Review and update trusted phone numbers.
- Change your Apple ID password.
- Update your emergency contacts.
- Update your device passcode or Face ID or Touch ID information.
- Click Done.
- When you’ve finished, make sure you stopped certain sharing and reset specific settings. See verify you’ve stopped sharing.
Tap or click here for more information on Safety Check.
Android’s permission tool
Android’s Privacy dashboard has been updated to show you which apps have used permissions over the past seven days. This is a big step up from the previous limit of just 24 hours.
- Go to Settings > Privacy to check out the permissions you have given to apps.
Android’s Photo Picker
When you want to share an image on your social media profile or with a friend, your Android uses Photo Picker. You get a screen showing all your photos and the option to use them. With Android 13, apps don’t get access to all your photos and videos — just the ones you allow.
Tap or click here for more information on Apple and Android security features.
4. Use a VPN
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a layer of protection between your devices and the internet. It hides your IP address and location and encrypts your data.
A VPN protects you and your online traffic from interference by hackers, scammers and even governments. This helpful tool keeps your online activity private and allows you to access sites and services that may be restricted in certain areas.
A VPN also stops your internet provider from tracking you and lets you unblock websites and bypass filters. You need it on your computer, laptop, tablet and phone.
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RELATED: Does a VPN slow down your connection? Answers to 6 common VPN questions
5. Always use an antivirus program
A reliable antivirus program is among your first defense against viruses, malware and other cyberattacks. No matter what you use your devices for — work, school, personal, banking, socializing — you’re always vulnerable to attack.
Antivirus software scans programs and files as they enter your device and scans those already on your device, looking for any suspicious behavior. These critical programs detect malicious code and quarantine or delete it to protect you and your device.
NOTE: Antivirus products need to be updated to protect against the latest viruses and other types of malware.
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