The Internet is a rough neighborhood—so rough it seems like WWW could stand for Wild Wild West instead of World Wide Web! Since safety is a concern for author websites, we here at Web Design Relief would love to share some useful tips on how to protect your site, stave off hackers and identity thieves, and keep your computer clean and malware-free.
Hide your email. Allowing your business email to be public is just asking for spam and product advertisements to clog up your inbox. Instead, create a contact form: This prevents others from seeing your email address when they try to contact you and requires the sender to include some form of personal information. While companies can target your email address, it’s much more difficult for bots and spam programs to send you messages without an explicit address to abuse.
Limit access to your personal information. It may seem like a good idea to post all your personal information on your site, but publicly displaying your name, address, date of birth, and phone number makes it that much easier for hackers to gain access to your information and leaves you open to identity theft.
A blog is a good addition to any author website, but revealing too much of your private life can give identity thieves all the information they need to guess a security question or password.
Linking to your personal (private) Facebook or Twitter pages can put you and your friends at risk as well. Create pages and profiles specifically for your public website and link to those instead of your personal accounts. Then update regularly to keep potential visitors interested, but always be mindful of what personal information you’re posting.
Use a pen name. While this offers only minimal protection, using a pen name is another viable way to keep your personal information out of the wrong hands. Every bit helps; preventing the general public from seeing your name keeps identity thieves from using it to access your credit cards or tying it to your home or business mailing address.
Register your domain with privacy protection. Privacy protection is a company-controlled security measure used to mask the identity of your personal information when you register your URL. While you will usually have to pay extra for the service, it is a must if you’re concerned about privacy, hackers, or spam. Any attempt to access your personal information will be filtered through your domain registrar’s proxy servers, which monitor messages and requests to filter out spam mail and malicious emails.
Such services also work to prevent phishing, in which a hacker can redirect visitors of your author website to a fake duplicate and lead unwary link-clickers to unsafe, spyware-ridden ad sites. Those intent on gaining access to your site through your members might also send out official-looking emails asking for personal information.
Free is good. A lot of good can come from even the most basic virus protection. There’s no telling when an identity thief will catch you off guard and trick you into clicking a malicious link, so having anti-virus software is a must. There are many companies offering reliable, free-to-use anti-virus software, including Avira, AVG, and Avast, all of which prevent malware and spyware from infecting your computer and from allowing private companies and hackers to access your personal data. These companies, along with other trustworthy names like Kaspersky, have pay services as well for those who desire more than basic levels of protection.
As a rule, never turn off the default firewall on your computer, whether you’re using a Mac or PC, unless you have a very specific reason. They are designed to keep malicious programs out of the most important parts of your computer, and one mistake can cause all your personal files and data to be deleted or, even worse, stolen. Don’t forget the monetary cost of a new computer!
If your website was built on a particular platform (e.g. WordPress), there may be additional steps you can take to secure your site. Note that the Web Design Relief Hosting Care Package includes several security measures to protect your site against hackers, and we perform regular updates to ensure that the latest WordPress software and security updates are installed.
The main issue to remember is this: If your writing career takes off and your website becomes successful, you will inevitably begin to receive visitors at a rate that will make it impossible to check each and every person.
High levels of traffic mean a greater risk of attack from hackers and spyware. It is imperative that you are cautious when including personal information within your website and never open suspicious emails or email attachments. Make sure to always have some form of virus protection running to keep malware and spyware from infecting your computer.
Remember, all it takes is one hacker to steal your personal information and destroy your website’s credibility. Never visit suspicious websites, never click links from unknown senders, and above all, never give your personal information to anyone without properly identifying them.
QUESTION: Have you ever encountered a fake email or some other form of identity theft? What programs, if any, have helped you defeat hackers or viruses in the past?