The number of successful cyberattacks in the U.S. has grown 144% in the past four years. Attacks are happening daily, with 62% targeting small to midsized businesses. Have you taken steps to protect your digital life? If you answered no, you’re at risk of losing a lot should a breach or attack happen. So what are some habits that can help you become cyber secure?
#1 Always use complex passwords Sure, you’ve heard this before – make your passwords complex and use a different one for every website and application. The longer and more complex the password, the more difficult it is to hack. Choose something that is easy to remember, like your favorite song lyric, or a sentence, so that you won’t easily forget it. Interested in testing how secure your passwords really are? Go to howsecureismypassword.net and test it out! But wait; don’t test your actual password. Use one that is of a similar length and nature. Giving your actual password out to a third party website, even just to test its strength… not a good idea!
#2 Two is always better than one When it comes to securing your online data, setting up 2 factor authentication (2FA) is one of the most effective steps you can take. While most of the websites these days allow you to use 2FA, it does not come enabled by default. Whether it is your Gmail account or your bank account, the OTP (one time password) you receive via text message creates another layer of security that goes a long way in preventing unauthorized access.
#3 Avoid public Wifi Public Wi-Fi is great. You can sign on while on the go – from the coffee shop, hotel or airport. But, using unsecured, public Wi-Fi comes with risk. Hackers can act as the “middle man” between you and the connection point, seeing all traffic and files you’re sharing. To prevent this, avoid using public Wifi if whenever you can. In cases where you need to use public Wifi, there are steps to stay secure.
#4 Alexa, are you secure? With the invasion of smart devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple Home pod into our living rooms, we now have to strike a balance between convenience and privacy/security. Be it Alexa or Siri, for the technology to work, it requires the device to listen to the conversations and process data locally, and sometimes remotely in the cloud. This creates a bigger attack surface that hackers can now exploit to get access to your life. Avoiding use of such devices is definitely a more secure choice. However, if you just can’t live without Alexa’s or Siri’s assistance, then it is prudent to take additional measures to secure their use by configuring the security of the device and related account to better protect you.
#5 Think before you click Don’t fall for a “phishing attack”. Never click a link or open an attachment that you did not expect to receive. Scams today look very convincing, coming in the form of voicemails, eFaxes, invoices, social media, ADP theme, or from the IRS. If you’re not expecting something or have to think twice about the contents, don’t open it. If you have to, it may be a good idea to do so on your phone instead of your laptop, as chances are that the malware (which are usually designed to work on windows) may not work on iOS.
#6 Patch your way to security Did you know that the majority of attacks rely on un-patched operating system vulnerabilities? Protecting your computers against such attacks and making them secure is as simple as turning on “auto updates” for your computers operating system. If you use Microsoft Windows, this can be done by choosing to “automate installation” of all “important updates”.
#7 Don’t fall for ‘free’ USB drives Who doesn’t like free stuff! It is nearly impossible to go around a trade fair today without walking out with a bag full of “free” USB drives. While there is no harm in collecting them and handing them over to your kids as a toy, it might not be a very good idea to actually plug them in your home or work computer. If you don’t trust the source of the USB drive, don’t plug it in. These drives can very easily be used to carry and deliver a malware or virus onto your computer, allowing someone else access to your important information. In fact, this technique was used to perpetrate the “worst breach of U.S. military computers in history”. In 2008, a USB flash drive infected by a foreign intelligence agency was left in the parking lot of a Department of Defense facility at a base in the Middle East. This impacted the network of United States Central Command and it took 14 months to clean the network and the systems.
These seven simple habits can get you started on keeping you and your precious data protected. Don’t want until you’ve already been breached, start taking the precautions today.