While the internet might seem paradisiacal, danger lurks in the obscurity of it.

Apart from outsourcing your IT needs to specialists like IT support companies in London, there are immediate measures you can take to ensure your online world is as secure as the home you sleep in.

Types of Threats

No matter how safe you feel online, threats abound. Two examples are phishing and malware; the former is when your personal information is stolen by luring you into giving it. It’s when a fake email or website gets your details because you believed it to be genuine. When you click on a link in an email from – what appears to be – your bank that carries you to a log in page which copies your log in information, you’ve been a victim of phishing. The latter, malware, is when harmful programs damage your system. You could have information lost, held for ransom, or even destroyed, costing you in replacements and/or repairs.

You are a Threat to Yourself

An unlikely threat – but one nonetheless – is you! By not taking proper precautions, there’s only so much anyone can do to protect you. Risky behaviour by internet users contributes to creating an online environment where crime can happen easily. Many would-be criminals are deterred by locks and alarm systems, while a professional thief spends his time finding novel ways of breaking in. Engaging in risky behaviour can encourage would-be criminals. It’s like leaving the door of your shop unlocked or ajar while you pop out for five minutes – anyone can go in to snoop or steal.

Arresting Risky Behaviour

First, let’s establish what risky behaviour is. If you share your passwords with family or with friends, you have your first example. Using the same password for multiple accounts is another. Simply changing one letter or adding a number doesn’t automatically make it safer. Best practice is using unique passwords for every site.

Another example of online behaviour that can do more harm than good is connecting to public Wi-Fi. Now, it might seem safe to you, but it’s not. Hackers, the online thieves/spies/bored geniuses/opportunists and other, can easily sneak into your system if you connect directly to public Wi-Fi. What’s wise to point out is that public Wi-Fi isn’t a problem in itself – it’s only so when it becomes unsecured.

What are the dangers of unsecured public Wi-Fi points? The first danger is someone could set up a fake wireless point. It would look identical to the public network you were expecting to join, but within it you find yourself in a hacker’s domain. The second danger that lies in the use of public Wi-Fi is that your information could be stolen, which can then get sold, or used without your knowledge or permission, i.e. fraud could happen to you.

VPN to the Rescue

It’s because of these risks that Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have become necessary and popular when you go online either privately or publicly. A VPN is like a wall between your log in details, your identity, and the internet.

What makes a VPN useful is your data gets encrypted by the VPN. Thus, when you’re online your ISP is hidden and only the VPN is visible to the online world.

By joining a VPN, you can use public Wi-Fi more safely, as your data is behind a protective VPN wall. Not only is a VPN for public networks, but it’s also useful to have when using your own private networks. When you do your shopping online, or when you log on to your internet banking, your data will be protected by the VPN.

Different VPNs exist for different operating systems. More exist for Microsoft products, but a little bit of research online should guide you to the right product for you.

Minimizing Risks

You might have heard it all before, but if you want to increase your internet security today, you’ll need to ensure your passwords are different for every account and that you change them regularly. If you use anti-virus software, make sure the latest update is running on your systems.

These points should be basic internet safety. The next options you have would be to check that you use two-factor authentication as well as VPNs. Two-factor authentication is when you use two ways to get into your secured online world. A password is one way, but as we know, this same password is fixed and easily stolen. Another step added on top of passwords is what makes it comprised of two factors. It generates a one-time pin or secure code that’s only valid once. Nobody can reuse the pin – not even you – thus your security will have been maximised.

Despite the dangers that lurk on the internet, it’s possible to immediately improve your online security. If you store all your passwords online, use a VPN every time you log on. You should change your passwords and ensure that you have taken advantage of all the safety features your systems offer. With new technology there comes newer opportunities for online thieves, so make sure to cover all bases with two-factor authentication, VPNs, and the latest updates of your software.