The internet is the source of an amazing amount of information and opportunities for connection. It also makes many different aspects of day to day life simpler and easier. But being active online isn’t without its risks. Whether you’re sending emails, making purchases, or doing your banking, it’s important to take steps to keep your information secure and prevent threats to your identity. Here are a range of steps that you can take to make sure hackers don’t get your information.

Follow a Password Management Strategy

As the recent Heartbleed bug issues illustrate, your passwords are never truly safe. The issue had to do with safe encryption solutions that actually had imbedded security holes. But it threw the importance of using a strong password into stark relief. Here are some best practices for choosing a password:

–          Longer passwords are better and harder to crack.

–          Don’t use any obvious things such as children’s or pet names; your phone number; birthdays or anniversaries; your street name; or any other detail that would be easily recognized from you.

–          Always change generic passwords that are issued to you, such as Password1 or Welcome1.

–          Aim for a mix of capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

–          Choose different passwords for each of the sites that you use regularly.

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Use a Password Protection Software

 Password manager software is another strategy that can help keep your information safe. It does this by storing the passwords for sites that you regularly visit while only requiring that you enter one master password. It simplifies the process of good password management while helping protect your data.

Password Protect Your Network

If you use a wireless network at home, ensure that it is fully encrypted. Two best practices can help you ensure the security of your home network. The first is to avoid giving your network a cutesy or identifying name, and instead go with the generic name that your internet service provider (ISP) assigns you. The second is then to go with an extremely long and complex password. For example, one ISP assigns mandatory passwords that are sixteen character combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols to make it harder to hack into them.

Consider Using a VPN

VPNs, or virtual private networks, offer an additional layer of protection to what you do online. Many VPNs are free or available for a modest monthly fee. They changes your IP address to increase your anonymity while making it harder to break into your home network. If the VPN you’re using also comes with firewall technology, consider turning that on for an additional layer of security.

Install a Good Virus Protection and Anti-Malware Programs

Many security holes come as the results of viruses or tracking mechanisms that are installed on your computer through emails and web browsing. A commercial grade virus protection program that’s run to regularly scan your computer closes the loop on exposure to viruses. By installing and running a malware program, you’ll remove pesky cookies and other tricks that track your activity, slows down your computer, and puts your information at risk.

There are several steps that everyone who goes online should take. While protecting your identity may not be a priority until something bad happens, you can save thousands of dollars and untold amounts of stress by observing good habits before problems occur. What steps are you taking to protect your identity online? Let us know in the comments below.