Today’s practice: Tighten your online security.

You’d think that writing a dissertation about political computer hacking would make a girl sensitive to the challenges of online security. And it has, up to a point. But I recently decided to up my level of tech security, and in the process discovered some handy new tools that make good security easier to achieve.Securing your computer, accounts and home against these security threats can take some work, but it’s well worth the effort, particularly if any of the following risk factors apply to you:

  • You work with sensitive data (like health, legal or financial records)
  • You are a public figure or work with/for a public figure
  • You have a current or past relationship with someone who has harassed or stalked you on- or offline
  • You have a friend or family member who has been harassed or stalked
  • You work in or with organizations and countries where cyber-surveillance or hacking is common (like China, Russia and Iran)
  • You or someone in your household has been a victim of identity theft at any time
If you do only 5 things (yes, it’s a lot — but they all matter!) make them these:
  1. Install anti-malware software to catch any spyware on your computer and prevent future intrusions. Quick pick: Norton Internet Security 2012 for Windows. DO THIS BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE.
  2. Use a strong password. Test its strength on a trusted site like this one.
  3. Setup phone verification for your e-mail account, like Gmail’s two-step verification.
  4. If your email account is linked to a second, recovery account, make sure it’s secure too — otherwise anyone who has access to that recovery account can get access to your primary account.
  5. If someone else has ever had access to your phone, wipe it and reinstall your software from your computer. Only install applications you know and use; it’s possible someone else has installed an application that is spyware.