Carl’s noddy guide to staying safer online

If the endless news stories about people and companies being hacked makes you go "la la la not listening" then you probably need to pay more attention to staying safe online. Identity theft is a real drag. In any case, I hope you find these suggestions useful:

Stop reusing passwords

The worst thing you can do is use the same password on any old "funny quiz" type of site that you do for Amazon or Deliveroo etc. When the insecure fun site gets compromised (I.e. the data is stolen), the thieves take the password list and try it on all the legit sites looking for password re-users. They get many matches. Don't do it.

Stop making up passwords yourself

It's not enough to use different passwords, they need to be good, strong passwords too. Don't think of passwords as "no-one will ever guess that" as no-one does guess them – hackers use massive computer networks to try millions of guesses per second. Bottom line – you can't use a regular word or phrase. It has to be truly random.

So use a password manager

You really should use a piece of software called 1Password. It does the following:

  • generates different uncrackable passwords for every site you visit
  • stores them securely
  • enters them for you (no typing)
  • accessible from phone, tablet and computer

Other things you should do

Set up "two factor authentication" (2FA)on your email account.

  • Wait, wait – it's not as awful as it sounds. But it is important.
  • The number one thing a thief wants is your email password. Once they have that, they can ask for a password reset from all your sites as they go to your email.
  • 2FA works on the principle of "something only you know (password) plus something only you have (your phone)"
  • once set up, when you log into your email on a strange computer, you'll be prompted to enter a one-off code that you get from your phone.
  • services like Gmail do this, so google "set up gmail two factor authentication" and you'll automatically be much safer than 99% of people

Encrypt your disk

Don't use public wifi without protection

  • the wifi in shops, airports and hotels can sometimes be fake (set up by the shady guy in the corner) or just easily hackable.
  • the good news is, if you use a VPN (I use this) then you just switch it on and use whatever wifi you like. Using a VPN is like driving around the internet in a bullet proof car.

So in summary

  1. Get a password manager
  2. Set up 2FA on your email account
  3. Encrypt your disk
  4. Get a VPN for when out and about