24 days - 24 security tips

G Data's Advent Calendar for a secure pre-Christmas period

11/26/2013 | Bochum 

December 1st is traditionally the day when the first window on the Advent Calendar is opened. This year, G Data has put together a special calendar, providing 24 security tips. The German IT security provider is using this method to show Internet users how they can have a trouble-free, tranquil run-up to Christmas and concentrate fully on the preparations for the Big Day. It will enable users to easily make their computers, smartphones and tablet PCs secure, leaving no opportunities for cyber criminals to carry out successful attacks and data theft.



G Data's Advent Calendar 2013

Window 1: Close security gaps
Use updates to ensure that your operating system, software and apps are always fully up-to-date. This applies not only to PC users, but equally to smartphone and tablet users.

Window 2: Protect with security software
A powerful security solution should be part of everyone's basic equipment. This should include not only virus protection, but also a firewall and real-time protection against spam and online threats. To achieve this, the security software must use regular updates to stay fully up-to-date and reliably fend off current risks.

Window 3: Use secure passwords
Every user account on the Internet should be protected with a secure password. To do this, users should choose a random sequence of numbers, special characters and upper and lower case characters, and avoid terms that are also found in dictionaries. This will make it especially hard for attackers to hack the password.

Window 4: Send it straight into the digital recycle bin
Ideally, all spam email should be deleted without being read. Users should not open integrated links or file attachments under any circumstances. Links to online banking sites, online shops or payment services should ideally be typed into the browser manually.

Window 5: Protect tablets and smartphones
Mobile devices, as well as PCs, must be protected with security software, so cyber criminals no longer have any opportunity to smuggle malware on to your smartphone or tablet PC. Additionally, the security app should offer protection against the dire consequences of having the device stolen. It should also be capable of using passwords to protect important apps and be able to block unwanted callers and messages.

Window 6: Be safe on social networks
Social networks are extremely popular for exchanging news or finding new and old friends - and not just at Christmas time. No-one using Facebook and suchlike should reveal too much personal information about themselves. Users should refrain from making their postal or email address publicly visible on their profile. Criminals can exploit this information for attacks and break-ins.

Window 7: December: keep your eyes open
Examine online shops before purchasing and take note of their reputation. This includes reading the general terms and conditions, the legal notice, and checking shipping and any additional costs. Users can also do research on whether the respective online shop or vendor is a known "black sheep".

Window 8: Look out for dangerous greetings cards!
Sending Christmas greetings to friends and acquaintances by e-greeting card or email is becoming ever more popular. Criminals are aware of this as well and send their own fake Christmas cards with dangerous file attachments. Digital greetings cards and Christmas greetings via email from people you don't know should therefore be deleted without being read, and file attachments should not be opened under any circumstances.

Window 9: Beware of short links!
Short URLs are becoming increasingly popular. These days, they are not just commonplace on Twitter - more and more frequently, messages containing greatly shortened links are being posted on Facebook and other social networks as well. It is not uncommon for these to lead directly to malware traps. Thus, users should be wary if they receive messages containing short URLs.

Window 10: Pay securely over the Internet
During the payment process, users should pay attention to their browser's security instructions to ensure that data is being transferred in encrypted form. The important things to look out for are: the padlock in the status bar or address line, the 'https' abbreviation before the address you entered, the green background in the address line in most modern browsers and the right top level domain being displayed.

Window 11: Use secure apps for mobile devices
Smartphone and tablet users should only get apps from trustworthy sources, e.g. from Google Play for Android devices or from device manufacturers' websites. When selecting the app they want, users should watch out for any permissions these include and only install apps that actually need them.

Window 12: Clean the hard disk
Users should regularly clean up their programme directory and uninstall out-of-date and unused programmes as they do so. If a provider is no longer giving support for your software, it can no longer be updated either. This makes it easy for online criminals to exploit unclosed security gaps and attack users.

Window 13: Look out for spelling mistakes!
When entering a web address in the browser address line, users should take care not to make spelling mistakes. For example, if a German user enters "facbook.de" instead of "facebook.de", they are taken to an infected website and unintentionally infect their own computer with malware.

Window 14: Make online banking secure
When using online banking services, you should make sure that you use a two-way authentication procedure that is as safe as possible. G Data BankGuard – the only protection against known and unknown banking Trojans – provides additional protection during online payment transactions. Shoppers using a payment service provider to pay bills should use a provider that offers buyer protection.

Window 15: Keep minors secure
The Internet is highly popular amongst children and teenagers. However, there are a number of cyber traps and websites lurking on the net that contain bogus content such as violence, sex and drugs. To protect young people against such things, parents should surf the net together with their children to find non-risky websites that are suitable for children. Furthermore, they should make them aware of the dangers on the Internet. A security solution with integrated parental controls and a powerful web filter will help parents keep their children safe.

Window 16: Stay alert when shopping online
People with several credit cards should generally only use one for online purchases. In this way, it's easy to keep track of what's going on and, if error or fraud occurs, there is only one card to take care of. Users can store the telephone number for blocking their credit card on their smartphone, for example.

Window 17: Back up data
Losing digital family photos or videos is very annoying and upsetting. Users should therefore back up anything important, so they can restore all their data following infection or a system crash. Comprehensive security solutions frequently contain a backup module.

Window 18: Have a safe Christmas away
Many people like going away for Christmas and heading for the sun or snow-covered slopes. Here again, users should be mindful of IT security. They should not only be sure to use an effective security solution, but also avoid using the public WLAN networks often provided in hotels, Internet cafés or airports. These are often inadequately secured, meaning that criminals can spy on data traffic.

Window 19: Beware of photo printer malware traps
Instant photo printers are becoming increasingly popular. They quickly turn digital images stored on an SD card or USB stick into hard copy format. However, caution should be used: dangerous malware could be lurking on printers and get quietly transferred to the storage medium being used. Consequently, when they get back home, users should first virus scan the stick or SD card before using it as normal.

Window 20: Surf in safety
Internet users should install a firewall on their computer and always have this enabled when surfing. This ensures that they are effectively protected at all times online. A firewall is often included in security suites.

Window 21: Protect against data theft on your smartphone
Smartphones are easily lost or stolen in the Christmas hubbub - what to do then? Users should prepare for this eventuality and install anti-theft data protection. This should include remote locking, device location, and data deletion. This means that, even if the smartphone should fall into the wrong hands, third parties are unable to access the personal data on it. G Data InternetSecurity for Android, for example, offers such anti-theft protection.

Window 22: Clear out the hard drive
Users should delete data that is no longer needed or is duplicated from the hard drive and wipe clean all other data media to make more room for photos of Christmas Day or for creating other data. Users can use freeware to locate duplicated files.

Window 23: Delete data securely
Anyone wanting to sell their old hard disk or delete important files from it should not just move data to the recycle bin but remove them completely. Otherwise the files can be reconstructed and restored by unauthorised individuals. Data shredders and eraser programmes can help with this: these also form part of comprehensive security packages.

Window 24: Block the way to important files
Access to important digital documents, such as contracts, insurance policies or scanned certificates, should be securely blocked by users. A digital data safe can help here: it will securely encrypt the files and only release them when the correct password is entered. G Data TotalProtection 2014 includes a data safe.

Kathrin Beckert