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Secure your digital life in 12 easy steps

Lock down your PC, home network, ID and phone

Good security advice can be hard to find. We've assembled a dozen simple but essential tips - a 12-step security program - to keep your PC, smartphone, gadgets and identity safe. The steps are practical and fairly easy to perform, so you can strengthen your security without losing your mind in the process

8. Don't neglect physical security

A thief can snatch an unattended laptop from a desk and walk away in a matter of seconds. And a thief who has your laptop may have access to your files and personal information. A notebook lock won't prevent someone from cutting the cable, but it can deter crimes of opportunity.

Kensington is probably best-known for its laptop locks; it offers an array of locks for laptops and desktops. Targus is a second vendor that specialises in laptop security gear, including one lock that sounds an alarm when someone tries to pick up the attached laptop or cut the lock cable.

Prying eyes are a common security hazard. To prevent unauthorised viewing of your data when you step away from your desk, always lock your screen before leaving your PC unattended. To do this, simply hold down the Windows key and type the letter L. This will bring up the lock screen. To get back to work, press Ctrl-Alt-Delete, and enter your login password at the prompt.

Another way to shield your screen is to install a privacy filter over the display. These filters fit directly on a monitor so other people can't peer over your shoulder and see what's on the screen. A privacy filter may be particularly useful if you work in an open-plan office that lacks cubicle walls.

9. HTTPS is your friend

When you're browsing the web, protect yourself by using HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) whenever possible. HTTPS encrypts the connection between your PC and the website you're visiting. Though HTTPS doesn't guarantee that a site is secure, it can help prevent other parties from hacking into the network and gaining access to your account.

Many sites use HTTPS by default: When you purchase an item online or log in to online banking, for instance, your browser will probably connect to the site via HTTPS automatically. But you can go one step further by enabling HTTPS on Facebook, Twitter and Gmail.

To use Facebook's HTTPS feature, log in to Facebook and click Account in the upper-right corner. Select Account Settings from the drop-down menu, and look for 'Account Security' on the resulting page. Under the Account Security heading, click Change, check the box next to Browse Facebook on a secure connection (https) whenever possible, and click Save.

For Twitter, first log in to your account. If you're using the new Twitter interface, click your account name in the upper-right part of the screen, and select settings. (If you're still using the old Twitter interface, click the Settings link in the upper right of the window.) From there, scroll down to the bottom of the resulting page, check the box next to Always use HTTPS, and click Save.

To enable HTTPS on Gmail, log in to your account, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner, and select Mail Settings from the drop-down menu. Next, under the Browser Connection heading, select the button labelled Always use https. When you're all set, scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes. To learn more about Gmail security, visit Google's Gmail Security Checklist page.

NEXT PAGE: Avoid public computers and Wi-Fi

  1. Lock down your devices
  2. Encrypt your hard drive
  3. Lock down your smartphone
  4. Don't neglect physical security
  5. Avoid public computers and Wi-Fi

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