Staying Safe Online: A Guide for Beginners and Non-Technical People

Perhaps you’re worried about being doxxed, perhaps you’ve received some specific threats, maybe you just want to increase your security. No matter the reason, this article is for you! Below I will list a collection of good practices to keep you and your accounts safe online. I fully expect to update this post as things change in the future.

I have tried to put things in a logical order, with some later steps depending on earlier steps, and some things that may be considered “controversial” towards the end.

This post was last updated on Jan 2, 2020.


Passwords

Let’s start with passwords. I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will do so anyway: do not reuse passwords. Reusing passwords mean that if a single account provider is breached and your plaintext password is recovered, you now have additional accounts at risk of compromise. This has happened before.

Anyone in a hoodie is NOT to be trusted.

I recommend using a password manager such as LastPass to keep track of your passwords. While having your passwords stored in an app that uploads them somewhere increases your risk slightly, I feel it is outweighed by using a different password for each service. For passwords themselves, you can use random characters or a system such as Diceware to create long passwords that are easier to remember. While the latter is slightly less secure, a password that can be remembered is one less password to store into a password manager.

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The Importance of Having More Than One Backup

Many years ago, I wanted to make sure my data was secure, so I purchased a fireproof media safe from a (now defunct) company called FireCooler. I thought it would be a good idea to have a UL 125-rated safe which could keep an internal temperature of less than 125 degrees over an hour long fire. I regularly made backups to DVD and stored them in the safe.

Well, sometimes the best laid plans can go awry, and that was the case the other day when I went to put something in my safe, and found that it was flooded with water:

IMG_3372 IMG_3374

How did this happen? Did something in the safe suck in tons of moisture? Did the basement somehow flood and not cause water damage elsewhere? To this day, I am still not sure. I did not see any evidence of flooding in my storage area–nothing else was damaged.

Before I switched over to WordPress, one person pointed out that the safe my have been insulted with “water glass”, specifically from US Patent US7459190:

Outer wall composed of water glass sodium silicate solution that is 40% solids, 60% water, and having a silicon oxide:sodium oxide ratio in the range of 2:1 to 4:1, calcium chloride, and an additive chosen from calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide […] After curing, water released from the solidified insulation can migrate to and leak from pinhole defects which sometimes occur in the plastic shell.

Patent US7459190

So that’s a possibility, but I am not a chemist, so proving such a thing would be beyond me.

The takeaway here is that I had backups stored elsewhere so no actual data was lost. I recommend that everyone reading this, if they care about their data, to do the exact same thing. Here are a few resources for backups:

Happy Backups!