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5 unusual cybersecurity tips that actually work

So, you’re on top of your software updates, you use a password manager, you’ve enabled two-factor authentication wherever you can, you’ve got BrowserGuard installed, and you’re running Malwarebytes Premium.

If you’re doing all of that you’re already winning at security. But you want more, because you know that security is a journey and not a destination, and, let’s face it, you’re reading an article about five unusual cybersecurity tips: You’re hooked.

It’s time to innovate and get weird. It’s time to shake off that special feeling, start lying, forget everything you’ve been told about passwords, spin up a million email addresses, and start throwing away computers for fun.

It’s time for five unusual cybersecurity tips that actually work:

1. Lie

Generally speaking, the fewer pieces of data you hand out, the safer you are. If a site is asking for data you don’t want to share, remember: Sometimes it’s OK to lie.

If a site wants a phone number and you don’t want them to call you, fake it. (00000000000 is surprisingly effective.) If the site won’t accept your made up number, don’t worry. Lists of fake numbers that look right for your country but don’t work are a short Google search away. It works for other data too, even fake credit card numbers—you won’t be able to buy anything with one, but neither will anyone who steals it.

2. Stop thinking you’re special

Everyone is a star in their own story, so when we unexpectedly get a message from a lonely young Russian lady who’s recently moved to our town, a Nigerian Prince promises us riches, “Keanu Reeves” follows us on Instagram, or we stumble upon the crypto-opportunity of a lifetime, our exceptionalism can kick in.

If it happened to somebody else, we’d be sceptical, but when it happens to us…well, we had a feeling our luck was about to turn! Burst that bubble. If something looks too good to be true, it isn’t because you’re special, it’s because it IS too good to be true. Sorry.

3. Forget strong passwords

For years you’ve been told to make unreadable passwords with a of mix uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and wacky characters. That is still important, but reusing passwords over and over again is actually much worse than having lots of different, weaker, passwords.

If a thief can steal your password from anywhere, they will try to use it everywhere, and if the same password works everywhere, you’ve lost everything. Your goal should be to create a new password for each service you use. Focus on simply avoiding really awful passwords, like “password” or “12345”, and save the unreadable passwords for things that really matter, like your bank.

4. Use endless email addresses

Look at your inbox for a few minutes and you’ll probably start to wonder “how did they get my email address?” In between the messages from friends and colleagues, and the newsletters you signed up for but never read, there is always a smattering of speculative nonsense from people who have no business using your email address.

One way of getting on top of that problem is to use different email address for each account you sign up for. Apple will do this for you with its Hide My Email feature, and if you use Gmail you can just add a “+” to the name part of your address followed by anything you like, e.g.

Each unique address should only get messages from the site where you used it. If any other sites use it, you know that your data has been leaked, stolen or sold. If that happens, block the email address and consider closing your account on that site.

5. Throw your computer away

If you want to say super-safe, just browse the internet using a computer with no sensitive data on it, and throw it away when you’ve finished, simple!

OK, it sounds expensive, but you can do it for free with tools like Oracle’s VirtualBox. Virtual Machines (VMs) are computers made of software instead of plastic, metal, and silicon, that run on your computer just like any other program. You can run Windows, your web browser of choice, and all your other favourite apps inside a VM, where they are totally isolated from your real computer.

Like trips to Vegas, whatever happens on a VM stays on a VM. And because VMs can be cloned, rolled back, or destroyed with a mouse click, if anything bad happens on yours you can simply trash it and start a new one.

If you’ve got an unusual cybersecurity tip, we’d love to hear it. Leave it in the comments below.

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