When Stripe Communications got in touch with me and invited me to a secret event in Edinburgh last week I was totally intrigued. As a blogger, I often get invited to all kinds of things, but none as elusive as this. After the invite got posted through my door I discovered I’d be hopping in a Gett taxi and being whisked over to the Dominion cinema for an exclusive preview of Baby Driver for an event they were hosting with Royal Bank of Scotland. But that’s all they would tell me.
Before the film started, the cinema screen got hacked and before you knew it our faces were popping up alongside a bunch of information you’d think was fairly private. We were being given a glimpse into how easy it is for us to be hacked … and I’m not just talking about bloggers in the audience, I’m talking about everyone!
No longer is the fear just having a credit card cloned and our bank accounts drained, with technology and our internet usage we all have a lot more information out there. Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and blogs give away our locations, details of our personal lives and take from us email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and passwords. They link us to our jobs, friends and family and often give a ridiculously good insight into the pattern of our everyday lives. How many clicks do you think it would take for you to be robbed of your savings, given a poor credit rating, have you black listed and your whole world cloned? Upsettingly far less than one would imagine.
As a blogger, I’m not going to let this hold me back from what I get up to online, but what it has made me realise is that I need to take my online activity a lot more seriously. After a discussion with the Royal Bank of Scotland staff, I gathered a few tips for you to try and help prevent cyber hacking…
The Phone Calls: if you ever get a phone call from a company claiming to be your bank (or any other business who would have access to credit cards etc), and they start asking you for passwords / pin numbers / bank details and such, the best thing to do is to hang up and call the company directly. IE: if it is a bank, you can call the number on the back of your card, and go on to ask them if they had contacted you regarding an issue. If it’s a genuine call, they will be able to put you through to the relevant department – and no, there is no need to be embarrassed for your ‘paranoia’, they know more than anyone to be safe than sorry!
The Phone App’s: So, you’ve got a bank account and the phone app downloaded so you can access your finances easily when you’re on the go – but just because you’re using the app with their name on it doesn’t mean it’s secure. If you’re using public wifi your information can still be easily obtained no matter what application you’re using. If you were using a webpage on your phone to access the bank, one thing you should be doing is switching to a private browser. But more importantly, whichever you’re using, you should be using a private internet network to access your information. I think this is the one I’m most guilty of, because I’m always hooked up to free wifi!!
The Passwords: Did you know one in 6 people use their pet names? Duh!! Picking something random is mega important when it comes to passwords, as is changing your passwords for different things. howsecureismypassword.net is an amazing website that will let you see how much time it would take for someone to hack it online. My old password was 42 mins (SHOCK!), but my new one is 10 million years. Take that hackers! Make sure you update your passwords individually to something that’s iron clad when it comes to hackers – it may be irritating to type it out, but it could save you a fortune!
The Emails: Ever wondered if your email address has been abused by someone else? Visit haveibeenpwned.com to find out what websites have been hacked and which of your email addresses are being abused by outside parties illegally. Of my 4 email addresses, one has been hacked 5 times already – and I didn’t even know about it! YIKES!! And if you’ve received a suspicious email don’t open it, just delete it; these things can contain all kinds of nasty surprises for your computer.
The Websites: it goes without saying you shouldn’t be purchasing from any website that looks dodgy. Applications such as Paypal and some credit card companies do help a little with fighting for your money back if you get screwed online, but it’s not always going to be that simple. If you’re making a purchase online, always look for the little padlock that pops up in your browser beside the url – that is key to knowing if the website is secure to start with. And although we’re all lazy and do it often, we need to stop using those ‘auto complete’ options when filling in forms online as the software is super easy for thieves to access. Manual is best kiddies!!
I sincerely hope this blog post hasn’t put the fear into you, because the purpose of it is to help you stay online but stay safer. Unfortunately we can’t always beat the hackers, but we can make their lives as difficult as possible going forward.
Big thanks to Stripe Communications and Royal Bank of Scotland for educating me about all of this, not only did I find it genuinely interesting, but hopefully it’ll save me from a lot of pain and suffering in the future! For those who would like to find out more ways to stay safe, visit Royal Bank of Scotland’s Security Centre