As more and more of our personal lives are stored digitally, our computers can effectively become extensions of ourselves.
Everything from our fondest memories to our darkest secrets can be stored digitally.
The issue arises then with making sure that this data is secure from any would-be intruders.
The information has always been a commodity that rivals gold and precious stones.
Your private data can be sold to advertisers, those wishing to blackmail you, or even directly used by the intruder to take on your identity for their own nefarious purposes.
That means it is of the utmost importance to properly secure anything you have stored in a digital medium against attackers.
Best Ways to Data Stays Safe Online:
Don’t Download Anything From An Untrusted Source
It’s important to be careful about what you download onto your computer since most malware and spyware is willingly put onto the target’s computer without them fully understanding what it is they’ve just done.
Always check the file extensions of what’s being downloaded to make sure everything adds up.
For instance, if you’re downloading songs, they should be in an audio format such as .mp4 and not as an executable such as a .exe.
These executable files can install just about anything on your computer while being extremely difficult to remove once installed.
So, long as you always download from trustworthy sources, you can rest easy knowing you’re going to receive exactly what you asked for with no strings attached.
Be wary of user-uploaded files since there’s often no way for websites to vet these files ahead of time.
Use The Cloud To Your Advantage
Cloud storage is an extremely effective way to safeguard your files against intruders since access to your portion of the cloud will be tightly controlled by the organization operating the service.
It’s essentially impossible to hack into any of the reputable cloud-based services; they’ll need your password if they ever expect to access your files.
That means the onus is on you to have a strong password that isn’t easy to guess as well as strong security questions that only you know.
You can even take things a step further and require 2-factor authentication where after logging in, you’ll be sent a code to your cell phone that must be entered to gain access.
Besides the added security, 2FA will also let you know if anyone is trying to access your account even when you aren’t at your computer.
Get An External Hard Drive
If your files are stored on something that doesn’t even have internet access, there’s no way for unscrupulous individuals to access them whatsoever.
An external hard drive works great for securing files precisely because the only time any intruders would be able to access them is if the device the external drive is plugged into is compromised as well as broadcasting to the internet at large.
The extremely paranoid among us can simply disconnect from the internet and then plug in their external drive to access the files they’re looking for without any worry of intrusion.
Burn Your Files To A DVD
If you don’t want to go out and get an external hard drive for whatever reason, DVDs are also a very effective method of storing sensitive files.
There’s a wide array of different software out there that will both transfer your files onto a DVD as well as retrieve them at a later date.
One such piece of software is Free DVD Ripper; it works well since just about any file type can be put onto a DVD then ripped back off of one when necessary.
The files will be completely safe while on the DVD since it is physically removed from the computer itself while still being ludicrously easy to access should you ever require it again.
Encrypt Your Files
Encryption acts as an extra layer of security that prevents people from accessing your files without your consent.
Properly encrypted files would take years to brute-force into even using an advanced supercomputer.
Essentially, encrypted data can only be accessed by people who have access to the specific code used to decrypt the files when they need them.
This decryption code should be kept off of the computer itself, ideally written down on a piece of paper only you have access to.
Windows computers come with a built-in tool for encryption called BitLocker, which removes the possibility of an outside service knowing all of your codes because they’re stored in their servers somewhere.
Use Strong, Unique Passwords & A Password Manager
One of the biggest security errors commonly made by individuals today is using the same password for absolutely everything.
All it takes is for an intruder to gain access to your password from the least secure site/service you use and then make use of that password to access the entirety of your digital life.
That is exactly why it is important to use different passwords for each service as well as passwords that are complex.
A good password has at least one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter, and numbers that aren’t just 123.
To lower the burden caused by having to remember all of these passwords, a simple password manager can help you keep them all safe.
Simply make a more memorable password for accessing the manager and then copy and paste the passwords as needed.
By copy and pasting the passwords, you insulate yourself from the harmful effects of keyloggers.
Intruders will only have the password to your manager overall if you do have keylogging software installed and most managers are completely offline anyways, which makes it worthless information to them.
With all of these different methods available, there’s very little reason for anyone not to have some kind of data protection scheme in effect.
Most data thieves are simply looking for low-hanging fruit, any level of security whatsoever makes the level of effort required to compromise you simply not worth it when easier targets can be found.
You should always be mindful of your technical hygiene by not following links from suspicious emails as well as not divulging your password unless you’re absolutely certain you’re on a legitimate iteration of any site.
Remember, nearly all breaches are directly attributable to poor decision making online versus actual “hacking,” at the end of the day, you yourself are the biggest threat to your files. Stay safe online and always be mindful of what you’re up to.