As 2010 comes to a close we turn our attention now to the New Year. Since the dawn of the Internet there have been those using it who are up to no good. Whether it be malicious code, phishing schemes, or simple spam – the forces of good on the Internet (us) will continue to battle the forces of evil (them).
To get 2011 off to a more secure start here are a few tips on using the Internet more securely. Many thanks to secure certificate provider Trustwave and credit card processing firm Host Merchant Services for providing some of this security information.
Security Tip Number 1 – House your data in a secure data center. This tip came from UK hosting company 34SP.com. With all the talk of the Cloud these days, there actually is a reason to store your most valuable data in the Cloud – it is secure and a great backup in case your local database becomes corrupted or lost. If you have a large volume of data you may want to consider a service like the Cloud Computing service from Amazon.com. Named the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud – also known as Amazon EC2. Amazon describesEC2 this way, ”Amazon EC2 reduces the time required to obtain and boot new server instances to minutes, allowing you to quickly scale capacity, both up and down, as your computing requirements change. Amazon EC2 changes the economics of computing by allowing you to pay only for capacity that you actually use. Amazon EC2 provides developers the tools to build failure resilient applications and isolate themselves from common failure scenarios.” Alternatively you can just choose to house your data in an ultra secure data center. Check out this link for the Pionen data center in Stockholm. It’s a data center that is not only ultra secure – it just looks cool as well.
Security Tip Number 2 – Look for the ‘Green Bar’ when conducting ecommerce transactions in Internet Explorer. The Green Bar is actually an indication that the website is using an Extended Validation or EV certificate. Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and other browsers have a feature included which turns a browser address bar green if a valid EV SSL certificate is present. This allows even novice users to visually determine which websites they can trust to be secure. The Extended Validation SSL certificates are validated to the highest possible degree by thoroughly vetting the true identity of the certificate holder. This provides consumers with the highest levels of confidence in the identity of the website owner and the security of the transaction.
Security Tip Number 3 – Contact your credit card company to take advantage of any additional security features of your credit card. While almost all credit cards regardless of origin will protect you from unauthorized use and even refund charges made illegally, there are card-specific security measures that you can enact as well. For instance, Host Merchant Services recommends activating and using the ‘Verified by Visa’ feature of your Visa card. According to the Visa website, ”Visa offers comprehensive fraud protection, but Verified by Visa goes even a step further, adding an extra layer of security at the point where you enter credit card information online. The service helps prevent unauthorized online use before it happens by confirming your identity with an additional password.” In other words the credit card company verifies your identity one last time prior to purchase to prevent unauthorized use. This can save you having to report fraud and follow up on a refund. It’s also a good idea to contact your credit card company from time to time to see if there are any other additional security services you can take advantage of, as these programs are evolving quickly.
Security Tip Number 4 – Monitor and protect your private information online. Even those who use the Internet casually are continuously giving out bits of personal data. This data can be collected openly – through online forms for example – or clandestinely via unannounced technologies such as cookies. Take a few minutes to do a web search on yourself and see what information currently exists for you online. Also be aware that information given to one online vendor is commonly shared with other vendors and marketers. This issue is important enough to have an event specifically devoted to protecting your privacy online. Data Privacy Day will be held on January 28, 2011. According to the organization’s website, ”Data Privacy Day is an international celebration of the dignity of the individual expressed through personal information. In this networked world, in which we are thoroughly digitized, with our identities, locations, actions, purchases, associations, movements, and histories stored as so many bits and bytes, we have to ask – who is collecting all of this – what are they doing with it – with whom are they sharing it? Most of all, individuals are asking ?How can I protect my information from being misused?’ These are reasonable questions to ask – we should all want to know the answers.” To learn more please visit, http://dataprivacyday2011.org.
Security Tip Number 5 – Back up all the important data that you own. This falls under the ‘no-brainer’ category. We all know that we should be backing up our data, but how many of us are actually and consistently doing that? There are literally dozens of backup services out there that require very little effort on your part to set up and then simply work in the background when you are connected to the Internet. If you are a bit more hands-on, then you can always buy an external hard drive and back up to that. Alternatively there are myriad creative ways to backup data. For example you can simply email your files to yourself using Google’s Gmail service. You can view the step by step instructions here.