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We are living in an era where we store personal and private information digitally on our smartphones, laptops and on “the cloud”. Malicious entities, and even government entities are always looking for ways to get to that information.  You need to take extra steps to ensure your life stays private. Here are some measures you can take to help ensure that:

Use encryption everywhere

Encrypt data on your computer’s hard drive by using file encryption programs, such as Truecrypt. Modern operating systems these days come with built-in filesystem encryption, however, you will most likely need to enable it manually. Use a secure passwords to unlock the file system and be sure to lock the file system whenever you’re not using it. Be careful not to forget the password because these passwords are unrecoverable due to obvious security reasons.

Use different passwords everywhere

Do not use the same password for each website you log into. It is a very bad idea to use the same Facebook password as your online banking password. You can use password management programs, such as 1Password, to securely keep track of your passwords.

Use 2-Factor Authentication if available

2-Factor authentication requires a two-step process (hence its name) to authenticate a user. It usually involves entering a password and a code that changes every 30-60 seconds. Google apps, such as gmail, allow 2-Factor authentication as well many other sites involving a username/password. This prevents others from brute-force guessing your login information, which is becoming easier as computing becomes more powerful.

Encrypt Your chat

Many popular chat platforms such as GTalk and Yahoo Messenger are centralized, meaning, whatever you chat about, is stored on some server. If you’re truly paranoid, use Cryptocat. It does encryption on the client side, so not even the Cryptocat network can see your chats if even it wanted to.

Use HTTPS in the web browser

Before you login or submit any sensitive material via your web browser, check to see that the URL starts with https:// and not just http://. Https:// means that data that your browser sends and receives are encrypted over a Secure Socket Layer (SSL). Otherwise the data is completely visible to whoever is snooping your network.

Avoid Clicking on suspicious links or emails

By clicking on the wrong link or opening the wrong email, malware may be installed on your computer. If malware happens to get on to your computer, any of the above steps will be moot. Frequently scan your computer for viruses and malware. If you can afford it, dedicate one computer with a sole purpose of storing and accessing sensitive data.

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Comment by Joseph Lui on March 19, 2014 at 1:26pm

Scaaaaaaaryyy

Comment by Douglas Ching on March 19, 2014 at 1:14pm
Comment by Douglas Ching on March 17, 2014 at 8:10pm

With the popularity of smart phone apps these days people should also be wary of which apps they install on their phone/tablet and know that entering your username/password into an app may not be secure. It's difficult to resist installing 12 versions of Flappy Bird, but we must remember to be careful.

Comment by Joseph Lui on March 17, 2014 at 5:21pm

Good advice. It's amazing how people don't check for https anymore, and browsers don't make a big fuss pointing out non-encrypted sites anymore. It's also amazing how people might be cognizant of security on their desktop and laptop, but not about their smartphone.

Another obvious one is not to join open WiFi networks. Or if you do, realize what you are doing and not send anything critical over the air.

Virtualization, either at the OS or application level, can play a large role in forming more secure habits too. The virtualization isolation can shield you from exploits, and even if you are infected, you can just throw the image away and start afresh.

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