By Dana Barrett
It’s a new year, and if you’re like me – you’ll want to check out some new strategies for keeping your internet data safe. Rama Arya, Founder of Elevated Life Solutions is an IT specialist mastering the world of technology for the last 30 years. Here are his original tips for 2022 to stay ahead of the corporations and hackers who are desperate for your personal information.
1. Password Safety
Now’s the time to refresh and retire some of those password favorites you’ve been using – like forever. I know it’s a no-brainer, but when creating new passwords, don’t use easily decipherable personal information. Reworking the umpteenth version of your cat’s name with new symbols and numbers simply won’t cut it.
The best password strategy is to use unique passwords for all your apps and websites. I know what you’re thinking – how will I remember all those passwords? Rama highly recommends enlisting the help of a Password Manager or a Password Keeper. Rama’s favorite is an app called Dashlane. Their free version stores 50 passwords for one device, and premium versions have more options. My teenager is a big fan of Lastpass which is a free Google extension. It also has a free plan. This one allows unlimited password storage for one device. Again the premium versions offer more options.
2. Browser and Search Engine Privacy
Do you use Google Chrome or Safari for most of your web surfing? You probably do. I do. 66% of the global desktop population uses Chrome. 18% of the global population uses Safari. That’s 84% of the market! It’s time to learn some new tricks! It may sound like a headache – but you should consider using browsers that don’t track your activity for daily use and for different types of searches. You know how you might search for towels to buy, and then you are inundated with towel ads on every site you visit thereafter for days? That’s because your search was tracked by Google or Apple and immediately sold to advertisers in real time. We like Firefox as a very safe and popular browser option. Rama particularly recommends Vivaldi. Vivaldi is Chromium based browser, without the tracking. Founded in Norway, the designers are much more privacy conscious than their American counterparts. Additional good news is that Vivaldi will work with just about every extension built for Chrome, as it’s modeled on Chrome.
For search engines Rama ditches Google (because he doesn’t want them to know when he’s buying towels) and he suggests Startpage which is a search engine that dubs itself ‘The world’s private search engine’. Startpage was founded in Europe, where they are equally security and privacy conscious as their Norwegian neighbors.
For an added level of privacy, Rama recommends multiple browsers for different types of searches.
3. Avoid Phish Traps!
Have you heard of phishing? It’s a technique that cybercriminals use to attempt to access personal and private information. You may not realize it but somewhere across the globe, people are getting paid a dollar a day to try to hack you.
96% of phishing attacks are delivered via email so you need to be extremely careful when scrolling through emails that are new, some may seem business oriented and innocent, some may shout a warning, and some will be completely unfamiliar. Even worse, some will feel safe and familiar – like an email from a trusted friend – BUT if there is no message – just a hyperlink that you can click…? DO NOT CLICK IT. Cybercriminals use sophisticated techniques that can mimic anyone’s email address – including those of your closest friends and family. They can also hijack a friend’s computer so that it sends out phishing emails using the friend’s address book One never knows.
And if you take the bait, and click the link, what’s downloaded is malware that hackers can use to infiltrate your PC. It might be spyware or ransomware, either of which can steal personal info or worse – completely corrupt all your data. One of my co-workers had his entire desktop computer completely wiped out by a seemingly innocent email he clicked the link of which came from a client. In retrospect what was odd, was that there was no message, just a clickable hyperlink. When his entire computer was locked down a message demanding a ransom to liberate his data appeared with instructions to pay in cryptocurrency. Of course he didn’t pay. Sadly, he lost everything – invaluable documents and the worst, 20 years of digital pictures of his kids. So please be careful!
When it comes to email – you can never be too safe. Remember:
• Never click on links or attachments from unknown sources
• Don’t download or open content that looks suspicious
• Don’t ever give out personal information to anyone who contacts you via email, or otherwise with any kind of threat! F.Y.I. the I.R.S., the Social Security Administration, PayPal, cell phone companies, banks, any financial institution will NEVER EVER send out emails with warnings to reset your password or request personal information to secure your account, period.
Best practice tip! If you come across a questionable email – forward it to a tech- savvy friend so they can check out the headers to determine whether the note is legit.
Rama’s Email Rule of Thumb: If in doubt – don’t.
4. Remember your Backups!
If you haven’t heard of cloud backups – now’s the time to get on board! There are many great options to choose from, and they all offer different plans and pricing. Rama uses pCloud.
pCloud’s home base is Switzerland, so the storage service must adhere to stringent Swiss privacy laws. I’m on an annual storage plan with the highly-rated Carbonite service.
Whichever cloud storage you decide to go with – make certain that your back-ups are fully encrypted.
Additional Back-up Tips:
• Use an old computer and/or cell phone to back up your current computer and cell phone. If you don’t have old hardware – look to eBay for economical backup devices.
• Have multiple email accounts from different providers.
• Be sure to back up your bookmarks so you can always find your work.
• If you are backing up to an external hard drive – disconnect it after your backup is complete.
5. Get Familiar with Technology – Make it your Friend, not your Enemy
Just like in the real world, internet privacy is something that you need to be constantly conscious of – It’s not on the internet companies to keep you safe – it’s up to you to protect your data.
We at Elevated Life Solutions are passionate about sharing technology and education with those who are underserved. In 2021 – ELS gave away 120 laptops that were refurbished and donated to disadvantaged families and students in Los Angeles County (a great way of reducing our carbon footprint while helping those in need). Here are the highlights!
• 35 laptops went to Augustus Hawkins High School students as Black Achievement Awards
• 55 total were presented at other graduation ceremonies
• 30 were donated to support a new S.T.E.M. program at the New Power of Love Church in South Central L.A. supervised by Bishop Edward Turner.
Any donation you make is tax-deductible! And can put technology in the hands of those in need without today. We call it a gift to uplift, because you’re helping others to get elevated. And we believe when you elevate others, you elevate yourself. Your gift can give kids and families opportunities they might never have had otherwise.