Digital crime and internet fraud are running rampant. Hacks and cyber-attacks are a daily occurrence. Not a day goes by without another massive cyber breach exposed.
The digital age has provided conveniences at a hefty price. Our privacy and personal data are vulnerable. The sheer number of disclosures can feel overwhelming.
But don’t panic! Here are 6 easy steps you can do today to help protect yourself.
1. Don’t chain all of your accounts together.
Use different email addresses for all your different logins and for all sites that you access, including your social media accounts. If you have everything tied to a single login such as your Gmail account – everything gets hacked if that account gets hacked,
2. Use strong passwords.
This ones seems obvious but so many users still rely on easily hack-able passwords because they’re easy to remember. Common passwords make use of dictionary words, the name of a pet, a child’s birthday or a sequential sets of numbers or characters. Hackers know this and simple passwords make it easy even for novice hackers.
Randomly generated combination of letters, symbols, and numbers are best. Again, don’t use the same passwords across different sites. If one gets hacked, they all get hacked.
If you have trouble remembering passwords – and that’s likely if they’re randomly generated and complex, use a password manager. Although password managers aren’t full proof they are better than nothing. PC Mag has done a comparison of the best password managers.
Some users write their passwords on paper. If you do that then don’t leave it lying around on your desk! Place it somewhere secure. I’ve worked in office environments that had passwords pinned to a notice board for convenience. I’ve worked in offices that used the same standard password on all desktops! Password management is still an issue for many workplaces and individuals but it’s an issue that’s easily remedied.
3. Use two factor authentication.
Standard login procedures require that you only use a username and password. Two factor authentication (2FA), adds an extra layer of security by adding an additional step into the login process. Most social media and email services offer 2FA via SMS. It might be a pain to get an SMS and secret pin every time you login to your email, but it will provide a higher level of security. Consider implementing it for those high value targets like twitter accounts. 2FA like most security measures is not impervious to hackers but again it will help.
4. Back it up!
Right now at this very moment are your computer files backed up? If you answered yes, that’s great. If your device ever goes down you’ll have preserved your life history. You’ll still have copies of all your photos and music. You can still hand in your school homework on time because all the blood, sweat and tears haven’t been lost forever in the blink of an eye.
If you answered no, then it’s time to invest in an external hard drive and create a backup. There are online services – such as drop box or google docs for your paperwork. Apple iCloud and other paid services are available for file storage. Again if its online there’s a chance it can be compromised so having two backups, online and offline isn’t overkill. Be selective of what you store online.
5. Keep your computer software up to date.
Hackers use weaknesses in your software to access the stuff on your devices. Staying smart online means keeping your software up to date. It’s easy to protect yourself by automatically updating your operating system and software. Software providers release regular patches and security updates for their products. All major vendors Apple, Windows and Android are releasing patches continuously.
One of the major reasons given by users as to why they don’t update their software is “it takes too long”. Not true. Scheduling automatic updates only takes a few minutes to set up. By not updating your out-of-date software, you’re exposing yourself to security problems that are known and have already been fixed in the latest updated version.
6. Anti-Virus Software.
If you haven’t invested in antivirus software you’re overdue. Cyber threats are here to stay and they present an ever evolving landscape with new attacks and exploits a constant menace. PC Mag has provides a comprehensive review of the best antivirus software. Modern antivirus software will help prevent against prevalent attacks such as Trojans, ransomware, spyware rootkits and adware.
Most of us are aware of the ongoing cyber-security threats and risks we’re vulnerable to in our digital lives so don’t sit back and wait to get hacked. Maintaining your security is an ongoing effort. Make it a part of your routine to back up, maintain and update your devices. Use good password practices. While nothing’s a guarantee these are simple steps that you can take to make it more difficult for hackers to access your information.