The hacking of e-mails of Rahul Gandhi, Barkha Dutt, Ravish Kumar etc has brought into focus the need for cyber safety.
An e-mail account is a gateway into one’s person life. Sadly it also means that it can be a target for hacker and cyber criminal on Twitter, Facebook logins to bank account information. The common e-mail inbox can be exploited to make all your sensitive data open to compromise. Attacks on e-mail accounts are common and complex spear-phishing to malicious documents to social engineering are all used by the hackers.
It has to be understood that an e-mail account is a fundamental identifying element in the internet. The e-mail accounts are the easiest one to hack into.
So what can be done to ensure personal cyber safety?
Use a robust and reputed e-mail client. Popular and reputed e-mail clients are Gmail, Yahoo mail, Microsoft’s Hotmail and Outlook. It is advisable to create e-mail ids on these e-mail clients. The emails hacked were on email client servers @inc.in ,@ndtv.com. Organizations give email IDs to their employees. But if the server of the organization is not protected well, then the hackers can break into the organization’s server and get access to the email IDs of the employees. After the e-mail accounts were compromised, “Twitter accounts were legitimately logged into after gaining credentials via email”. Net4, is a network service provider on which INC is hosted. On the other hand NDTV hosts its own email server, though it is a customer of Net4.
One’s unique email should have a password that is lengthy, original and difficult to crack. The password should be kept secret and it should not be reused for every account. Passwords are your first defence against hacker. A secure password should include a symbol, upper lower case letters and numbers.
emember the most complex and unique to you your password is, the harder it is to crack. Do not use real words in your passwords. The majority of hacking attacks cycle through dictionary words, which means if you use a real word in your password it is more likely to be broken.
It’s best to change your password every few months. You should never give your password out to anyone and if you really have to give it out, change it as soon as possible. Treat your email as if it’s your safety deposit box. You wouldn’t give the keys to your safety deposit box to just anyone and you should be even more cautious with your email account. Never use the same password for different accounts. Have different passwords for Facebook, twitter,Linkedin.
Once you have a strong password and robust e-mail client take advantage of two factor authentication (2 FA) to add another layer of protection to your account. 2FA allows you to add a second method of verification usually in the form of a text message or secondary e-mail code and it is easy to use feature that can add an extra wall of security to your personal data. Set your e-mail account to require a second form of authentication in addition to your password whenever you login into your e-mail account from a new device. When you login, you will also need to enter a special onetime use code the site will text to your phone or generated via an app. Checkout to step authentication setup instruction for Gmail, Microsofts Outlook.com and Hotmail and Yahoo. Enabling 2FA is one of the best ways to make sure your account does not get hacked. 2FA is a feature that asks more than just your password. It require both “something you know” (like a password) and something you have (like your phone). Most e-mail clients provide this feature and have step by step instruction how to use it.
Whenever possible, configure your Internet connection to always use HTTPS. This is the “https” that appears before the “www” in a Web address, and the https is preceded by a padlock icon. For example in Gmail, this works by clicking Settings in the top right; select the General tab, then hit Always use HTTPS, then save this setting.
Never ever click on suspicious, unwarranted links. Don’t login into linked accounts via your e-mail client and beware of malicious spam while most modern browser will intercept many of these thread before you see them, some will inevitably slip through. If you receive an e-mail from a sender you don’t recognize don’t click on any links or download any attachment. Hackers will often try to trick you into revealing your password or downloading a virus on to your device to gain access to your account. Additionally have antivirus installed on your device and keep it upto date.
It is imperative to limit the applications that have access to your personal information. Each time you sign up for an app that requires Google account authorization, you’re providing that app with access to your information. Even if you don’t use the app anymore, the information is still available to them.
It would be a good idea to scan your computer for malware regularly.
It is important to be beware of public Wifi. It is highly advised never to login to sensitive accounts on open network. However if you are on the move and simply has to use public wifi, at the very least use the good virtual private network (VPN) to provide a good degree of protection. Hence avoid login into from public computer i.e. hotel, coffee shop, internet café as it could be infected with spyware. Additionally, do not connect to unsecure public wifi. Use mobile data services such as 2G, 3G, 4G to access your accounts. By using a VPN you will encrypting all your data that passes through the network.
Hacking is a clear and present danger. Adoption of cyber safety and protection is essential to overcome the danger. It cannot be taken lightly. Safety of your sensitive data is in your hands, to a great extent.
(The author is NewsMobile iJourno. Ideas expressed are personal)