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10 Things You Probably Don't Know About Internet Security

Before you do all of that last-minute online gift shopping and tech support for your fam’s new gadgets, learn how to stay safe online. Take action.

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1. Don't forget to protect your mobile devices.

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If you lose your phone, you don’t want anyone other than you monkeying around on it. Most modern mobile phones and mobile operating systems automatically encrypt the data on your device. But you can maximize security by password- or PIN-protecting your lock screen and enabling two-step authentication.

2. You know the update that your computer keeps bugging you about? Do it.

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This is the easiest way to keep your computer safe from the newest forms of malware out there.

3. Your password? It could probably be better.

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Adding symbols, using a series of at least four random words, or picturing an absurd image and then generating a string of abbreviated words from that keep you much safer from would-be hackers than just using your name and a number. Definitely don’t use “password” as your password.

4. Are the HTTP sites you visit really HTTPS secure, tho?

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HTTPS is the fiercely secure Rottweiler version of the Chihuahua-protected HTTP sites you usually browse. It encrypts all of the information you share with a site, like credit card info or those sexty messages you've been sending on Facebook.

5. So be sure to check if the site you're on starts with HTTPS and not HTTP.

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You can enable HTTPS through most account settings on sites that require a login or by using an HTTPS tool like HTTPS Everywhere.

6. Your home Wi-Fi may not be as safe as you think it is.

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It's important to update your Wi-Fi network settings. You can access your router's settings through its web interface, where you can change its password and IP address from the default.

7. Also make sure your Wi-Fi network is WPA2 secure.

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Don’t leave your Wi-Fi network open. The standards for most Wi-Fi routers are WEP or WPA, but these are outdated and can be cracked in minutes. Always choose WPA2, which can also be done through your router's settings, and if it's available, go for WPA2-PSK (AES), the securest option to date.

8. Protect your email from would-be identity thieves.

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At the very least, you’ll want to use an email provider that encrypts all of your emails in transit between data centers and on their way to your computer. This will keep attachments — like signed tax documents you transmit to your preparer or scanned forms with your credit card number — safe from hijackers looking to steal your information.

9. Encryption makes life a little more convenient for all of us.

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From the joys of holiday shopping to the lows of vehicle registration, encryption makes the internet safe for us to do more in less time. But it also makes life way more inconvenient for bad guys who want to steal your info and shop on your dime.

10. And weakening encryption just makes life more convenient for "bad guys."

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If the "good guys" can access your stuff, so can the "bad guys." Mechanisms that weaken encryption make all of us vulnerable.

Now that you know the basics, join millions of others to take action on policy to protect your digital life.