Whether you’re using a computer at work, in your home or a mobile device, it is imperative that you take digital security seriously. According to A Clark School study at the University of Maryland, there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds.
It’s easy to assume that you will never be affected, but the reality is that everyone is at risk. According to the IBM Security Services 2014 Cyber Security Intelligence Index report, 95% of cyber security breaches are due to human error. That is why our team of experts have created this list of 10 simple things you can do to keep your devices protected.
Perform Software & Hardware Updates
All operating systems offer updates. Many times, it’s to add additional ease of functionality assets, but most of the time it’s to add security patches in discovered vulnerabilities. We know it’s a small inconvenience, but we suggest checking your system once a week to see if there are new updates.
More often than not your device will prompt you to install the new update. You can either choose to delay it to a later time or have it automatically installed.
When it comes to application or third-party updates, make sure it comes from a trusted source. If you want to be extra cautious you can perform a quick search to see if it is a known malicious file or if it’s safe and trusted.
Sure, these updates will protect your individual devices, but what about the overall network. It is common practice for routers to have firewalls built-in. Often your router’s firewall is inactive and if that’s the case we suggest configuring your routers settings and taking advantage of that added security. You can also update your physical router to one with added protection and reliability.
Install Decent Anti-virus Software
Every operating system requires anti-virus software. It is true that Windows is the most targeted OS system because it is the most widely used. Albeit less common, Apple, Linux and Android still have use for anti-virus software.
There are free options out there which may not be as effective as a paid option, but it’s certainly better than nothing. You can make an educated decision by comparing the latest anti-virus software’s on the market. This article on comparitech.com is a great resource and a good place to begin.
Adjust Your Browser Settings
Adjusting the privacy and security options on your browser can help lower the risk of malicious infections and hackers reaching your device. However, many options are disabled by default leaving you more exposed than you would prefer each time you browse.
Be Smart About Your Passwords
There is a popular phishing scam whose sole purpose is to obtain your password so they can sell it online. A powerful resource to see if your email or passwords have been breached is haveibeenpwned.com.
Create strong passwords using a combination of letters, both capitalized and lower case, numbers, and symbols. We suggest creating a new password for each website and using a password manager like LastPass. LastPass also gives you the option to generate new, strong passwords.
Don’t Visit Malicious Sites
Websites now use two protocols HTTP and HTTPS. What is the difference? When browsing online on a website using an HTTP protocol your connection is unsecured and unencrypted. This means that any data you put into that website like a password is unencrypted and is clear for any malicious user to see.
Chrome has expressed that using an HTTPS protocol is highly preferred and will damage a website’s trust factor if it does not. It will indicate if a website is using the secure protocol by showing a green lock in the left-hand corner of the website address. You can be assured that if you see this icon your data is being encrypted and is not exposed.
According to Cisco, Most malicious domains, about 60%, are associated with spam campaigns.
This also applies to any links you click that will take you to new websites. Always use caution while surfing the internet, there is no such thing as being too suspicious. For instance, it is reported that 50% of websites regarding updates and news about the COVID-19 virus are malicious. Always hover on a link to verify that the address you are about to click is from a trusted source.
Avoid Phishing Scams
According to Verizon, 94% of malware was delivered by email.
Phishing scam artists are becoming more and more clever. They take their time composing fake emails copying businesses’ look and feel. These are often emails prompting you to change your password or about a fake service that is being provided to you without your consent. All to create a panic reaction so that the viewers click on the fake link and install a malicious program on their computers.
Be cautious if you are ever faced with one of these emails. Check the recipient’s email to make sure it comes from a trusted source, check the spelling for grammatical errors, and most importantly, hover over the link and check in the lower left-hand corner to see where the link is going to take you and if it can be trusted. According to Symantec, 48% of malicious email attachments are office files.
Never Leave Devices Unattended
By 2020 there will be roughly 200 billion connected devices. According to figures compiled within a recent Symantec Internet Security Threat Report, there are 25 connected devices per 100 inhabitants in the US.
Depending on where you are and who you’re around, you may feel the need to keep your devices safeguarded. This goes without saying that when you’re in a public area to make sure you never leave your devices unattended. A person with malicious intent could put an infected hard drive into your computer or worst case you have to deal with theft.
If you in a work setting, make sure to lock your computer or devices whenever you leave your desk. Best case scenario you end up with an office prank of someone flipping your desktop upside down. Worse case you get a virus installed. Keep the security of your devices always at the forefront of your mind.
Use Caution Around Public Wi-Fi
It is tempting to log onto your local coffee shops or malls free Wi-Fi, but we suggest using extreme caution when you do so. Most public Wi-Fi networks are unsecured and your browsing data could be sent over the connection unencrypted. This means any malicious user nearby could be listening for passwords or other sensitive data.
A way to avoid this is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. This encrypts your data by connecting to a secure server in between your device and the public Wi-Fi. A VPN will also mask your IP so that your activity is no longer monitorable.
Always Create Backups
Whether its sensitive work data or precious photos and videos, if the content is important to you back up your information. My personal backup rule is two is one and one is none. It’s really simple, if the content would be sorely missed make sure it’s in multiple locations whether that be on a cloud service or in a physical external hard drive.
That way if your computer or device does get breached you always have retrievable data as a recovery option.
Use Data Encryption Services
Another way to secure your data is to encrypt your data. Once initialized it will require resources to decrypt, making it less attractive to hackers.
There are many tools available to help you achieve encryption, including full device data encryption, cloud data encryption, internet traffic, emails, and SMS. There are various apps available for Android and iOS for mobile device encryption.
In order to keep your data safe and secure, you must take an active role in protecting it. In reality, it sounds like a lot more work than it is. Although nothing is ever completely secure, using the above steps will go a long way to protecting your sensitive data and online presence.
Take your security knowledge to the next level and learn 10 things your IT technician wants you to know. You can never be too safe in this digital era, and by acting proactively you can prevent emergency situations that would cost your company time and money.