The Science of Sustainability

Five Tips To Protect Yourself From Being Hacked

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Photo by Trevor Blake via Flickr

I was hacked this weekend.

If you've ever had a car stolen, your house broken into or your bike wheel "roll off" you know the feeling — you're exposed, vulnerable and looking for answers as to how this could have happened.

I've never been hacked before (at least to my knowledge) and immediately researched what to do and how to guard against it happening again.

Not all hackers are malicious, but those bent on ill will are usually exploiting security loopholes in the websites we use. While the average user can't do much about lax security on the site itself, we can make our browsing experience safer. Here are five tips for doing so:

Use HTTPS Everywhere

When using public wifi, your computer and login credentials can be "sniffed" by malicious hackers on the same network. Always use HTTPS to secure your information. HTTPS Everywhere automatically forces HTTPS onto hundreds of popular sites, thus ensuring your safety. You can download the free plugin here.

Careful where you click

Most of us are well acquainted with not clicking of fishy links in email. But if you happen to use sites such as Twitter or Facebook, you're not out of the dark. If links from friends look "spammy", it's often the case that their account has been phished. Avoid clicking on the link (or even hovering over it, in some cases). Whenever in doubt, don't click!

Create a different secure password for each account

The truth about passwords is that we are horrible at creating good ones. Too often, it's your cat's name, your wife's maiden name or your favorite celebrity. Secure passwords should be a random combination of letters, symbols and numbers. Applications such as 1Password are excellent at generating random passwords and keeping a list of them so you never have to wonder. Best of all, 1Password syncs on the Mac, PC, Android and iOS with Dropbox, so you can store your passwords and always have them synced with your devices. I highly recommend using this application or something similar.

And remember, don't give your password to ANYONE!

Encrypt your data

In the case that you are hacked, you'll want to make sure your important data is safe. TrueCrypt, free and open source encryption software, is available for Mac and PC and can do just that.

Shop safely online with temporary credit card numbers

Worried about giving your credit card number to some no-name guy in Florida in exchange for sending you some rad Ghostbusters patches? Well I sure was! Most, if not all, banks offer the ability to create a temporary credit card number. This number can only be used once. It links directly to your credit card, so you can keep your actual number safe.

I hope these tips have been helpful. If you've got your own to share, please let us know how you keep safe in the comments.

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Category: Engineering

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Laura Khalil

About the Author ()

Laura is a marketer by day and nerd by night. She's the Chief Nerd Herder for Dorkbyte, a blog devoted to art, technology and science. She's been named one of the most engaging women to speak about technology and has been featured on The Setup. A member of Noisebridge, she is working on two robotics challenges, leading a puzzle team that competes in a variety of puzzle challenges throughout the US and monkeys around on ham amateur radio. She loves astronomy, Making and hardware hacking. She was most recently involved in teaching hardware circuitry at Maker Faire.Laura has executed marketing strategies and campaigns for tech startups in the Bay Area. Her work with social media has been inducted into the Viral Marketing Hall of Fame.
  • felipe

    Don't say PC when you actually mean windows.

  • Dan

    Using a password of random characters is not really much more secure than a word unless it's fairly long. What is very secure, as well as far simpler to memorize, is a phrase – even one that makes sense would take quite some time to crack.

  • http://dorkbyte.com Laura Khalil

    @Dan Memorizing nonsensical phrases is another great idea. If you can remember a different phrase for all the sites you visit, more power to ya!