Updated August 2016
Ignore everything you hear about privacy and technology from your nightly news, It's all A BUNCH OF ABSOLUTE nonsense.
Believe it or not, you've actually got a lot of privacy online, and I mean A LOT. All it takes is a little research of some reputable sources to understand it all. By reputable sources, I mean websites about technology. Your television, and everything on it, is the wikipedia of garbage.
I'll start with the nightly news. News networks always make stories sound worse than they actually are because it makes it more interesting to watch, and because it increases their views. When it comes to stories about technology, the networks don't actually agree with what they say, because they are very technologically advanced themselves and know very well that they're twisting the facts.
Let's Talk About Some Scenarios
If someone were to walk up to you in person and ask you for your bank information, residential address or email and password to an online account, would you give it to them? You probably wouldn't. So when you receive an email, phone call or private message from someone asking the same thing, why would you give out your information? If you didn't approach them, it's a scam. People do this all the time not knowing that they are being phished (the act of attempting to acquire information by posing as a trustworthy entity). The one common misconception people have is that companies can see your computer/call history/power consumption and call you if something is wrong. They can not!
Telstra is a big target in this respect; you may have received calls from someone claiming they work for Telstra or your local electricity company telling you that they've noticed some unusual activity on your computer, then asking for account details to prevent an attack or further activity. What they're actually doing is pretending to be a trusted company to gain access to your accounts and hack into your computer. Or online banking, phone accounts, electricity accounts etc. No one can see you or your computer; so please do not give out your information. Do you give your keys to every one that comes to your house asking about you? No, of course you don't. SO DON'T DO IT OVER THE PHONE!
A more in-depth article about keeping your computer up-to-date and secure.
Another point I want to make is about your password. What do you think your password is for? Answer the question in your mind quietly before reading on..
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If you said to keep people out of your accounts and to remain secure online (or something similar) then you're absolutely correct. So why on earth would you make your password the name of your children? Or the date of your birth? Or something easy to guess? You may as well leave a spare key to your house underneath the door mat (and if you do that then you're an idiot). If you want to keep your accounts secure and out of reach of attackers you need to make sure that it's difficult for people to get into them. And it all starts with a strong password. A good example of a weak password is anything that may come up in a normal conversation with you.
So how do we make our passwords strong?
1. MAKE IT SOMETHING THAT HAS NO AFFILIATION WITH YOU. If I'm going to try and guess your password I'm going to start with things that are related to you. So If your password has nothing to do with you, then it's going to take a lot longer to get into your account. If you like dogs, don't make it something about dogs.
2. THE LONGER THE PASSWORD. THE MORE SECURE. A password that is 18 characters or longer is a sufficiently more secure password than a five or six character password. The majority of my passwords are over 30 characters long.
3. USE CAPITALS, lower case AND SP3CIAL CH4RACTER$. If your password looks like this: collingwoodforlife, You could change it too look more like this: Coll1ngW0@d4L!f3 (Yes I barack for Collingwood, and no that isn't a password of mine).
4. USE MORE THAN ONE PASSWORD. You should have one password per website/account. If someone hacks into your Facebook account and you use the same password for your online banking, they could get into that as well. A Facebook breach may be minor, but if someone gains access to your emails or banking, it could be catastrophic.
CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS EVERY THREE MONTHS! AND NEVER REUSE OLD PASSWORDS!
It's time to protect yourself.
The best and (in my opinion) the only way to work with passwords is to use a password manager. There are so many out there but my favourite is LastPass.
LastPass is a very secure password manager. It stores your login information inside your secure vault that is on your computer, encrypted and only you can access it. Only you can access it. You use it to create long, complicated passwords that you would never have any hope of remembering and it stores them in software called a vault. When you visit a website, LastPass will automatically log in for you, saving you from having to remember your passwords. The only password you'll ever have to remember is a master password that you'll use to login to your LastPass vault. This password must be strong.
LastPass also has a mobile app for your smart phone so you're able to log in to all your accounts on the go. Speaking of phones. Make sure the passwords to unlock your smart phone and computer are strong as well. And if you don't have passwords for those, then get them. Most smartphones have a built in fingerprint scanner, so it makes it impossible to unlock without a correct finger print.
I encourage you to visit the LastPass website and learn all about it and get as much information as you can. It's perfectly safe and incredibly secure. I wouldn't suggest it if it wasn't... And I wouldn't use it either. LastPass is also FREE! You can upgrade to a Premium account for $12 a year. Worth it.
No one can access your details, including LastPass themselves.
IS THERE A BETTER WAY TO LOGIN THAN JUST EMAIL AND PASSWORD?
Two-step verification is the perfect way to keep hackers out. Essentially it requires two ways of identifying you. Email and password is only one-step verification.
Email, password and verification code sent to your phone or email inbox is known as two-step verification. You'll login to your account as you normally would. But after you click that log in button you'll receive a text message or email with a one-time-use security code that you'll need to enter into the site to allow access. Unless that code is entered, your account remains locked. This means if you get an email or text message with that code and you didn't login to an account, someone is trying to get in. But unless they have a phone connected to your phone number or have access to your emails, they won't be able to get in. A list of popular websites that offer two-step authentication can be found here.
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