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Keeping safe online.

A simple way to get started

Dondi Gaite

Chief Operating Officer

From hailing rides to meeting up for dates, technology virtually permeates every aspect of our existence. When we have the option to purchase groceries on an app, live in someone else’s home for a couple of days, or even have a fisherman give us a wake-up call to show us his catch of the day, today’s advancements have made daily life infinitely more interesting. It is hard to go back to a time when our phones just made phone calls.

But as our digital activities become irrevocably intertwined with real life, it is of paramount importance that we protect it as if we are safeguarding our most treasured possession. We cannot afford to remain passive when the electronic devices on our laps and pockets wield immense power. It is our responsibility to ensure that that power does not fall into the wrong hands.

While the consequences of reckless browsing are grave, falling into the trap of the insidious whims of a hacker can be considered exceptions rather than the rule. Similar to the advice you receive before you go backpacking through a foreign country, all you need to do to be safe is to be street smart and cognizant of a few basic principles.

In this article, we’ll show you the most common causes of security issues so you can recognize potential pitfalls on your own. Once you know the problems, we’ll tell you the simplest way to avoid these harmful elements and what to do just in case you fall victim to cybercrime.

In your browser

When you visit certain websites, you may get unsolicited diagnoses of a brewing problem in your computer that, left unchecked, can lead to disastrous ramifications. Some sites show popups to inform you that your device is slow, underperforming, and symptomatic of a grave error on your part. Some even buy banner advertisements on prominent news platforms to disguise themselves as credible sources of information. These errant warnings all require you to do one thing — install a piece of software on your computer or device.

You can rest easy knowing that these fake notices are deluded and incapable of understanding the inner workings of your computer, let alone identifying immediate issues. When you see these notifications, all you have to do is to tap the close button and be on your way. If you want to take a proactive approach and remove these charlatans from your browsing experience altogether, you can install an Adblocker. This program contains a list of all the wrong websites and prevents them from loading on your computer. For iOS devices and Mac users who use Safari, we recommend 1Blocker X. For Google Chrome and Firefox patrons, we have nothing but compliments for uBlock Origin.

In your inbox

You may apply the same degree of skepticism in your inbox. When you receive an email from someone with an attachment that you don’t expect, you should not open it, whether it was sent by a long-time pen pal or an overzealous co-worker. A seemingly innocent PDF file can contain code that, when opened, can wreak havoc on your computer. In a futile bid for self-preservation, some impish attachments can even send itself to the people in your address book.

Avoiding these dire consequences is easy. When you unexpectedly receive an email from an unknown sender that asks you to open an attached file, you may contact that person first via to double check if they, indeed, sent something of interest to you. If that is the case, you may go ahead and open the file. Otherwise, mark the message as spam and tell your friend to change the password of his email account.

Aside from bogus attachments, you should also look out for bogus senders. Some miscreants disguise themselves as your bank, insurance provider, or delivery man to send you an email that asks for your personal information. They can do a pretty good job, too. Their emails can be indistinguishable from the real thing, but the telltale signs are the following:

  • If the email is utterly devoid of any personality (Dear client…)
  • If there are grammatical or spelling errors
  • If random words are capitalized haphazardly
  • If there are shortened links such as http://to.ly/a1B12zz.
  • If the sender’s email address does not match the website of the company. For example, emails from Amazon.com should only be from senders ending with @amazon.com
  • If the email is asking for your personal information. Reputable companies will never ask for sensitive data over email.

On your computer

Most computers do a reasonably decent job of inoculating you against common software maladies. All you need to do is follow the prompts in your laptop when there are software updates available to keep your machine in tiptop shape. If you already have this habit, there’s a high chance that you are safe.

What nullifies these safety protections is when you install pirated software on your computer. Usually, getting these compromised programs onto your machine means disabling the safety protocols that keep you protected in the first place. Hackers sprinkle plundered versions of Photoshop with malicious code so that you will never know you were compromised in the first place. The most egregious software you can pirate is anti-virus programs. Once these are installed on your computer, there’s no way back other than reinstalling the entire operating system.

With pirated software, you get what you pay for. If a computer program is essential to your work, consider it as a necessary investment for the harmonious practice of your profession. In other cases, you may opt for an open-source version, which merely means that programmers from all over the world work on and improve that application.

As we entrust more and more of our sensitive data to our computers, having it compromised with pirated software means that there will be a reckoning sooner rather than later.

When it happens

The foibles of the human condition may lead us to forego the warning signs and to the inevitable question — what will I do if I am compromised? The answer is simple: Don’t panic. Criminals relish on shocking you with dread to lead you to act haphazardly. With a calm disposition, do the following:

  • Change your password. If you use the same password with your other accounts on Facebook, Amazon, or your bank, be sure to change those, too.
  • If you gave financial information over email, get in touch with your bank and tell them the situation to have the compromised card blocked.
  • If you installed pirated software and now your computer is asking you to deposit bitcoin somewhere, consider your computer as a lost cause. Reformat it to get it back to a working state and restore your files there.

Being safe online is all about being street smart, thinking before you click, and refraining from installing pirated software. Now that you know the potential dangers in your browser, inbox, or computer, you can enjoy the conveniences that modern technology affords with peace of mind.