3 steps you can take to protect yourself online right now

You may not realize it, but you’re almost assuredly under attack right now.  And we don’t mean in an abstract sense. No, you and your Internet-accessible devices are very likely under attack as you read these words if you’re not actively protecting yourself online.

A University of Maryland study found the rate of hacker attacks on any web-enabled device is near-constant. In fact, your computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone is attacked on average every 39 seconds by someone trying to get at your system and all your most vital information.

That is frightening. To put it mildly.

A common instinct is to sink your head in the sand and ignore the problem. That’s ill-advised, considering Cybersecurity Ventures estimates ransomware attacks alone were expected to cost users $5 billion last year — and they’re currently growing at a rate of about 350% each year, according to Cisco.

Another typical response is to want to bail from the web altogether. While understandable, that’s not terribly practical either personally or professionally in our ultra-linked-in 2018 world.

So beyond self-delusional ignorance or adopting an Amish lifestyle, what’s the alternative? Your last, best option is to fight. Beyond the pure satisfaction of combating evil, there are three proven concrete measures that you can take right now to help make sure you don’t end up on the wrong end of cybercrime.

Conveniently enough, we’ve gathered them all here to form a killer online security starter pack for those rightfully taking their tech security very, VERY seriously.

1. Protect your Internet connection with a VPN

What’s the most effective strategy for keeping yourself safe online? When no one knows you’re there in the first place. That’s the job of a Virtual Private Network (or VPN).

Rather than just plunging on to the web straight from your Internet Service Provider (which allows virtually anyone to find your IP address and start unlocking who you are, where you are and tracking where you go online), a VPN effectively cloaks you and all of your online activity from any prying eyes.

When you sign up for a VPN service, you’re essentially using them as your portal to the web, employing an ultra-shielded connection to safeguard all your identifying information safely behind their encrypted firewalls. Consider it your own personal Iron Man suit for all your web travels, even if you’re logged into sometime hinky public WiFi networks.

VPNs have the added benefit of allowing you to bypass regional geo-locking and bandwidth throttling, but strictly from a security standpoint, it’s still an all but essential precaution these days.

With a sea of VPN providers out there, it’s always best to go with one of the handful of trusted, long-standing providers sporting plenty of positive reviews like VPN Unlimited (currently discounted to $39.99 for a lifetime subscription, over 90 percent off its regular price).

2. Protect yourself from malware with an ad blocker

We all know pop-up ads are a nuisance. But in reality, they’re a lot more insidious than that. An increasing number are actually just conveyors of malware, including crippling ransomware attacks. They’re also capable of disabling your malware and anti-virus software, essentially tearing down all of your protection to the most destructive worms, viruses, and cyber-terrorism.

When you install a quality ad blocker (such as Adguard Premium, $29.99, 74% off for lifetime access), your program will sniff out and stifle pop-ups, spyware, and other dangerous online elements before they’re allowed to open on your device.

In addition to serving as a defacto cop monitoring everything and everyone trying to reach you on the web, ad blockers deflect so much junk that you’ll actually see faster load times, increased bandwidth and ultimately, better performance from your entire system.

3. Protect your passwords with a password manager

Last year, hackers made off with information on 6 million accounts from online survey company CashCrate. While unfortunate and potentially costly for those customers, perhaps the most interesting fact about the entire theft is that of the 6 million passwords stolen in that attack, 86% were passwords so easy to determine that they’d been previously stolen or cracked in other cyber-crimes.

Users create simple, often repeated passwords for very logical reasons: they’re easy to remember and we’ve already got literally dozens of passwords we’re responsible for knowing. With an effective password manager, none of your passwords will be simple, repeating, easily compromised sequences — and you don’t have to remember any of them.

Installing a program like the longtime password manager SplashID (lifetime plans are currently only $19.95) means you enter an email address, a single password to remember…and that’s it. SplashID does the rest, creating random, uncrackable passwords to be used on every site that requires you to log in.

With a password manager, every site you use will have its own strong, unique password that SplashID will automatically use when you need it. You get virtually impenetrable password protection and all you have to remember is on.