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How to keep your online accounts and data safe.

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Most online attacks can be thwarted with the right security tools, better internet practices and awareness among users

Users can keep their email or social media accounts secure even if their usernames and passwords have been compromised by using two-factor authentication.

Every year, 6 February is celebrated as the Safer Internet Day in 130 countries to promote positive use of internet among people. Tech companies are pitching in with their own initiatives. Google has announced an internet safety campaign, to call users’ attention to its products and features which can add an extra layer of security against online threats.

The increase in cases of malwares and ransomware attacks in the last one year makes following safer internet practice essential.

Here are some tips and products which can help users stay safe while they are online.

Additional layer of security

Users can keep their email or social media accounts secure even if their usernames and passwords have been compromised by using two-factor authentication. It works by adding an additional authentication process over the existing password. If anyone tries to break into your account using another device, they will be asked to furnish the two factor authentication number or fingerprint.

Google’s Advanced Protection Program takes it one step further with Security key, which is basically a small USB device used to authenticate users at the time of login. Users have to plug in the USB device in the PC and type the pin number to login to their Google account, Drive or Gmail. The Advanced Protection Program automatically restricts all third-party apps from accessing anything on Gmail or Drive. To avail its benefits, users need to sign up for the program at https://landing.google.com/advancedprotection/.

New gen security tools

To protect Windows 10 users from malware and ransomware attacks, Microsoft has created its own security tool called Windows Defender, while Google has got Play Protect for Android. Both use AI (artificial Intelligence) to identify new kind of malwares.

Defender uses intelligence generated from Microsoft Intelligence Security Graph to identify malware and create a digital signature which can be used to identify devices which have also been affected by it. This can also identify threats that target the web browser and will not only warn users about them but can isolate them at once, so it won’t harm other devices on the same WiFi network. One can activate the security tool in System Settings->Windows Defender Settings.

Google Play Protect automatically scans your Android device to identify and flag malicious apps. It uses AI to flag apps and app developers seeking permissions that are usually not required by its peer apps. Scanning the Play Store is activated by default, but device scanning and sending unknown apps to Google for better detection are optional. Users can enable them in Play Store->Play Protect.

Encrypt your data

Deploying a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in WiFi networks at home or directly on the device using a VPN app is another effective way of keeping your data secure. VPN adds a layer of security to your online communications by transmitting them through remote servers located in different countries. This not only hides the users’ IP address but also keeps their data encrypted. Some email clients such as ProtonMail and Messengers such as WhatsApp keep user communication secure by encrypting them with public and private keys.

Look for markers

One of the simplest but most effective ways of identifying dangerous websites or emails is by looking for key markers. Most genuine websites rely on universally accepted security protocols such as HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) to protect users and keep their transactions secure. These websites will show a green marker in the browser url and link address will start with https instead of http or www. Always check the name of sender in the email carefully before clicking on any attachment or links. Most malware attacks are sent through bogus email IDs. Downloading apps from third-party app stores is another major source of malware.