Finger touching lock screen on a phone

9 online security tips even your grandma can handle


Fail to protect yourself online and you’ll pick up a one-way ticket to a whole lot of bad.

But more specifically, you’ll end up in a place where your company’s reputation and future look very, very bleak.

Which is something we want to help you avoid.

So to steer you in the right direction, here are 9 online security tips that can help anyone (even your grandma) make it out of the digital realm alive and well.  

1.) The good kind of paranoia

Like a jealous ex-boyfriend in a 1999 Lifetime special, be suspicious of everything. With a lethal dose of suspicion, you can realistically avoid online threats like phishing and other forms of social engineering.

However, while suspicion might seem simple enough, people struggle with it … mostly because they’re moving too fast for their own good.

And to make matters even worse, it only takes an average of one minute and 22 seconds for the first person to take the bait of a malicious email.

2.) Access denied.

If you’re like a quarter of smartphone users, then you like things easy. You keep things wide open and grant unrestricted smartphone access to anyone and everyone. In other words, you don’t believe in passwords, pin codes, patterns, or fingerprints … which is problematic.

Keep your connected devices unlocked, and it’ll only be a matter of time before you’re hacked, breached, and thrown into a deep, dark hole of data loss and despair. The moment someone picks up your unlocked device, they’ll have easy access to everything inside it … or even worse, they can just install something on your device that tracks everything you type and everywhere you tap.

So do yourself a favor. Lock those devices.

3.) A Pinto body, with a Civic mind

There are these things called “updates,” and when life throws them your way, you should really go for it. Just do it. No holds barred. All the way. No looking back. You got it.

Why is this, you say?

Well, when you fail to update your devices in a timely manner, what you’re really doing is creating large heaping gaps of vulnerability. Hackers, viruses, and other cyber threats can use these “large heaping gaps of vulnerability” to slip into your devices and wreak havoc. Don’t give cyber threats this opportunity.

Sure, you aren’t upgrading an iPhone 6 to an iPhone 7, but what you are doing is patching holes and tweaking software to get a smarter, safer iPhone 6.  

Related: The 3 reasons your business will never be totally secure

4.) All hail the mighty password.

The average online user in America has over 130 accounts … which means, the average online user has over 130 passwords to secure these 130 accounts. There is no part of that statement that sounds fun. Absolutely all of it sounds terrible.

HOWEVER. This does not mean for one second that it’s acceptable to create weak passwords. If you ever expect to stay secure online, then you need to start with a solid password strategy. And if you know for certain that you won’t be able to remember strong passwords, then you need to adopt a password manager like LastPass, Dashlane, or 1Password.

5.) Please, don’t leave me here alone.

Your phone, laptop, and tablet have been nothing but loyal to you. They do what they’re supposed to do, when they’re supposed to do it, and ask nothing from you in return.

And how do you repay them?

By forgetting them in a grocery cart. Leaving them in a public restroom. Setting them on a table at the local coffee shop and then walking away. You leave them alone, and as a result, they’re stolen.

Because of this, two things become incredibly important:

  1. Refer to section #2.
  2. You have device-finding, data-wiping software installed on your devices. For example, an app like Lookout or Prey can track down a missing device, turn on features remotely (like the camera or alarm), and remotely wipe any sensitive data.

6.) We back things up around these parts.

At the end of the day, some threats are simply unavoidable. A hacker picks up a new trick. An evolved form of malware sweeps the country. An employee gets angry. It happens, and it happens a lot.

Related: 6 frightening data backup stats

In these instances, your greatest defense will be your backups. Whether we’re talking about personal data or professional data, make sure everything that matters is backed up (and backed up properly). One of the most disheartening things to encounter is when you come across data loss, run to your backups, only to find out that your backups weren’t backing anything up. In other words, make sure you’re testing and verifying the job of your backup solution. That is a must.

7.) Think before you click, tap, swipe, or download.

Before you do anything “out of the ordinary” online (like downloading something from a strange email or clicking an ad on a sketchy website), take about 60 seconds to think it through. During these 60 seconds, ask yourself a series of questions.

Is this normal? Is this too good to be true? Do people usually do this type of thing? Is this how stuff like this is typically handled? Why would this be happening now?

These are the sorts of questions that will make everything “click” for you. Suddenly, one answer to one of these questions will make you go, “Wait. This isn’t right.” And because of the answer to this question and because of those 60 seconds you took to stop and think, you successfully avoided a cyber threat.

Good for you.  

8.) A little knowledge never hurt nobody.

When it comes to online security, the more you know, the better. But unfortunately, most people know diddly squat about the do’s and don’ts of online security. And this is a real bummer.

You see, even if you know the absolute basics of common cyber threats, you’ll be far more likely to avoid these threats when (not if) they come your way. This is true for a handful of reasons, but mostly because:

  1. You know they exist.
  2. You know what they want.
  3. You know how to respond.

9.) Keep some things to yourself. Please.

Sure, social media is fun. But – and this is a big but – there is a point at which you can share a little too much. Cyber criminals are getting smarter, and they’re finding new ways to infiltrate your online world. Part of this can involve your social media accounts, and this can play out in a variety of ways.

As an example, cyber criminals can rely on social engineering tactics to manipulate you. In this case, they might pose as an old friend, potential employer, or long-lost relative and send you malicious messages to extract sensitive information out of you.

Or, what’s happening more frequently, is that cyber criminals can hunt down the information you supply on your social media profiles (like your date of birth, hometown, maiden name, and favorite football team … all of which are answers to typical security questions). Then, they’ll use this information to hack into your other online accounts.

DNG has decades of combined experience providing professional network security solutions to businesses in the Metro Denver area. If you’d like to know more about network security or if you’d like more tips on how to stay safe online, send us a message. We’d love to answer your questions.

But before you go, don’t forget to check out our definitive guide to business data.