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This is how you make sure everything you have online stays safe

Or at the very least, make it very difficult to be compromised.

Image: Shutterstock/wk1003mike

YOU CAN NEVER place too much importance on your security online. We choose convenience so much that we rarely bother checking what measures we have in place to keep our information safe.

It’s best to take a proactive approach to this and implement a number of measures yourself so the chance of any of your accounts being compromised is lessened.

This will take a bit of time to complete (which is why we’ve split it up into steps) and there’s never any guarantee that you’re 100% safe, but you can at least make it much harder for anyone on the outside to access your accounts.

Note: it’s recommended that you carry out these steps on desktop, simply because it’s easier and faster than on your smartphone.

1) Check what apps you’ve signed up to

Chances are you’ve signed up to a large number of apps in the last few years. Some you might still be using while others may have fallen to the wayside.

But something you may have signed up to a few years ago may be a potential risk meaning it’s better to check what apps you’ve signed up to and which ones have access to your accounts.

In the case of your phone, all app stores have a list of all the apps you’ve downloaded in your history (for iPhone/iPad, it’s under updates in the App Store while Android/Windows Phone have a My Apps section). If you’ve deleted an app, that doesn’t mean you’ve removed your account.

The first (and easier) way to check this by looking at your apps list on Facebook, Twitter and Google. If you used any of these services to sign into an app, the data for each one will still be there. Here’s how you can find a list of apps you’ve signed up to with each service.

Facebook apps: Settings > Apps
Twitter apps: Settings > Apps
Google apps: Dashboard > Account settings > Connected apps and services 

Facebook apps It's likely you've signed up to more accounts through your Facebook account than you might think. Source: Facebook

For email, you will have to be more creative and search for terms that companies use when you sign up like “welcome to”, “congratulations”, sign up, and “get started”. It’s recommended you check your phone as well so you’re not missing anything.

2) Close any apps/services you don’t use

If there are any apps you haven’t used in a while, get rid of it. This might not be the most immediate concern, but considering how much of a treasure trove your Facebook, Twitter and Google accounts are, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Also, the fewer accounts you have activated, the less you have to worry about. Only keep the services you really trust and still use keep access.

If you’re using email, it might be worth setting up another account solely for signing up to services and your personal one for more important stuff. That way if an account is compromised, you’re limiting the damage caused. Ideally, the fewer services that are reliant on Facebook, Twitter, or Google logins, the better.

3) Get a password manager

We’ve spoken about the importance of getting a password manager here before, and the good news is there are some great free versions out there. KeePass, 1Password and LastPass are three password managers worth looking at and not only can they store your passwords, but create long, random complex versions for you.

Their main purpose is to ensure you don’t reuse the same password for your accounts, which can lead to trouble if someone manages to get into any of your accounts.

Source: LastPass Password Manager/YouTube

4) Change your passwords to more complex versions

And when we say complex, we don’t mean add a capital letter and a number. We mean long, varied passwords and if you’ve removed accounts, you should have fewer passwords to use.

Also, take into account other devices you will have to log in through like your smartphone or work computer. If you change a password for any account, you will need to log in again using the new password. If you have to log into accounts again in work, write down your passwords, and dispose of them when you’re finished.

And because it cannot be stressed enough, don’t reuse passwords. Seriously, don’t do it.

5) Add two-factor authentication to all accounts

Another element that will give you an extra layer of security, two-factor authentication prevents anyone from a different computer or device from logging into your account.

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Alongside your username and password, it sends a code to your phone to enter in as well, meaning anyone trying to access your account needs your phone as well to succeed. If someone tries getting into your account, you’ll know as it will alert you.

Most major services like Facebook, Twitter, iCloud, and Gmail offer this functionality so activate it when you get the chance, and will be easier once you’ve limited the number of accounts you use to a few instead of many.

Source: Google/YouTube

6) Remove (or hide) any unnecessary details about yourself online

We share a lot about ourselves online, and we usually don’t realise it until something happens. Much like that, it’s good to review the information you reveal on your profile and who can see it. In the case of Facebook, you can decide who gets to see what information, but is it really necessary to have included it in the first place? The answer is likely no.

This may seem trivial, but it ties into things like security questions which ask you for your mother’s maiden name, the name of your first pet, or hometown. Security questions are rather general by nature and while the idea made sense a few years ago, our sharing on social media means it’s now a bigger risk than ever.

More importantly, there’s nothing to say you have to tell the truth when answering these questions. Just choose an answer you will likely remember.

7) Check what information you’ve saved on the cloud

You’ve likely seen incidents where credit card details and other sensitive information was exposed after a security breach making it more important than ever not to save any personal or sensitive information online.

Instead, it’s better to save any important documents, files or information on your computer or a local hard drive instead. This would also include your smartphone data as well so avoid auto-backup.

8) And above all else…

Stay vigilant. Just because you have these measures in place doesn’t mean you’re safe.

Most incidents happen because of a moment of carelessness or absent-mindedness so don’t browse unsafe websites (your browser will warn you in advance) don’t click on pop-up ads and don’t click on links from any suspicious emails. Also, don’t rely on free WiFi spots as they’re actually rather easy to compromise.

Read: Want to watch US Netflix in Ireland? It could be on the cards >

Read: Want to separate work and play on your browser? Set up different profiles >

About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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