Our world becomes increasingly dependent on technology as advancements are made and new features and functions are developed to help make our lives easier. This increasing familiarity with technology makes us feel secure because it is everywhere we turn and so we must know everything about it, right? Wrong. This comfort is exactly what hackers exploit to get access to our data, accounts, and even our identities. So how can we defend ourselves from a cyber-attack when technology is all around us?
Strengthen Your Security
Just because a hacker knows more about cyberspace than you do does not mean that you must suddenly become a tech wiz to fight back. There are tech wiz’s who have done that for you already by developing anti-malware and spyware software. Installing these defenses puts an extra level of protection between your data and a hacker’s attack and can catch them before they have the chance to catch you unawares.
Shiny and New
A google search will tell you which operating system your device uses and will show you how to update it. For example: PC is windows, Apple/Mac is Mac OS. Updates may be annoying since they seem to happen every other day, but they are necessary because they have been built with the bugs and flaws in mind that the old system versions were compromised through. Updates have improvements to your security system that may not have been installed before and older systems are easier to hack because they have been learned and tested on by hackers. Keeping your system up to date means you keep hackers out and keep yourself safe.
Your password is your first line of defense for your accounts and your tech. They protect your phones, your laptops, and the accounts that you use on them. Do not use the same password for every account and tool you own, because if one is uncovered then they all become compromised. Install 2-step verification wherever you can so that you can be sure that only you are accessing your accounts. This will also give you a code prompt when an account is being attempted, which will alert you when someone you don’t know is trying to get in.
Put It in the Vault
Now that you have set up all of your accounts with all of your passwords, now you have to spend hours committing them to memory. Or you could use a password manager, which is a third-party company that keeps all of your accounts’ usernames and passwords secure. They usually have widgets that you can install into your browser of choice to allow easy access when you are logging in, or even an auto-fill feature so that your password is ready to go. These can also have auto-generate capabilities for creating your passwords from randomized letters, numbers and symbols and saving them in order to further eliminate a hacker from guessing your password. Avoid autofill features provided by website memory and your device’s features – these are the easiest for a hacker to access.
Pay Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain
A person’s identity is easily changed online. All it takes is a photo and some basic information that can be found with an online data search and a fake profile can be convincingly made in minutes. If you receive messages asking for money or sensitive information, double check with the actual person you know before trusting it. When answering emails or following links that are sent to you, check the source by hovering over the sender’s name to see the source address the message is coming from. Hackers send PHISHING emails to their targets, which are emails that hide programs that infect your system when you open them, like a hook in a fish’s mouth. Once it is in there, they have you. These are made to look like they come from a contact you know, so always make sure any suspicious email is valid before opening it.
A Risk I Have to Take
If you deal with sensitive data for a living, then you must take even more care with your security. Not only is your job at risk if the data breach is your fault, but the lives of the people who have trusted your employer with their security as well. When transferring sensitive material between yourself and your work, make sure that your malware security is up-to-date and that you have an encryption feature in the software you use to pass that information along. This will scramble the material while it is in transit so that if it is caught by a hacker it is useless. Don’t worry, the same software will unscramble the material when it reaches its intended destination.
Your Mother’s Cousin Twice Removed Who Knows the Name of Your First Pet is a Hacker
Possible but not the point. The point of this title is to bring up the personal facts that you don’t consider being valuable and throw out into the world-wide web of social media. A person’s date of birth, place of birth, family members, area of residence, job, high school and so much more can easily be found on their social media accounts. These are also answers to common password recovery questions. Protect this information by using the most out of your security settings. Make sure that only current friends can see your profile info and that anyone searching for you can only see your name and profile picture. Another tip that is quite novel today is simply NOT sharing every detail about yourself online at all. A little mystery about yourself never hurt anyone.
Using an external hard drive or some other form of system backup that holds your data in a separate location basically keeps a clone version of your system safe should an attack occur. This should be backed up after every update and regularly in between to prevent the loss of new material. Some forms of attack can freeze your system, such as ransomware, and prevent you from having access to it until a demand from the hacker is met. This doesn’t mean that the hacker won’t use this data later or that they’ll return the system to you once they have been paid. Creating this external backup allows you to retain your information while reporting the breach to the appropriate authorities without risk of losing the material in the process.
The Internet Is Not Your Yearbook
You never know how much of yourself is out there until you look. After having social media for several years and creating countless accounts on various websites, it is easy to lose track of everywhere you have been, are, and what you left behind. Google yourself and background search yourself to see how much information is accessible to people who aren’t you. If you come across something you don’t want out in public so easily, you can delete the account or contact the website owner to discuss removal or securing the material.
The Plastic Crunch
You more than likely have your card information saved to your Amazon account, PayPal, Venmo or other easy-pay service. Make sure that you have every security option used on these accounts, if you choose to use them at all. Make sure to check your bank statements regularly to check for suspicious activity- these are not always wipe-out payments, but the occasional spend here or there that goes unnoticed definitely adds up for the hacker making them. Avoid using your debit cards as these funds are nearly never recoverable, but use the most up-to-date version of your credit card whenever possible. Make sure to check for card-scanners on public payment tools like gas pumps and ATMs to further prevent your bank account being breached. If your bank provides it, opt in for the payment notification option to alert you when large or unusual payments are requested from your account.
Public Wireless Internet
This is the suspicious public swimming pool of the internet. Anyone can get in and you have no idea what they’re doing there. When braving these murky waters, turn off the sharing options on your devices and update your firewall settings to let your security know to keep its eyes open. When going onto websites, make sure the site is encrypted by checking for HTTPS:// and the lock icon in the URL.
Now You See Me, Now You Never Did
A strong step in cybersecurity when using wireless networks of any kind is accessing the web network through a VPN. This is a Virtual Private Network which disguises your access point and IP address as being somewhere else entirely. You could be in the same fast food restaurant as a hacker and they wouldn’t be able to see you as an access ping because your VPN has made it look like you are currently accessing the same network as them from another country entirely. A VPN provides both privacy and security as it also encrypts the connection thread between your access point and the host, rendering any information a hacker tries to scoop from your connection during this time useless.
What’s Mine Is Not Yours
Simply put, ALWAYS log out when using a shared device. This doesn’t mean that you don’t trust the person you are letting use it, but they may not be able to see the suspicious signs of an attack like you. Pop-ups and random urgent emails are disguises used by hackers and the person who you lent your device to may not be able to get to you in the time that the urgency demands, and could easily respond for you, thinking that they have helped you out. On the other hand, they could be accessing their emails or any number of things that could leave your device open to attack. It is not a bad thing to protect yourself when being kind to others, and if they get offended by you logging out…then that is a definite red flag.
An Ounce of Protection is Better Than Paying the Pound of Recovery
Finally, whether you are working online for yourself or for an employer, or you are simply wanting to enjoy the wonderful web for yourself, you should always prepare for the worst. Should a cyber-attack occur and you lose valuable data, other people’s sensitive information, or are needing to replace your now-completely-fried device, Cybersecurity Insurance is there for you. There’s a good chance that you won’t be able to comfortably pay for the replacement of your device or repay any damages to lost funds for yourself or others, so this coverage has been made for you so that you don’t have to. It covers many things, such as ransom fees, legal costs, recovery of lost time and wages, and more that could be the result of a cyber attack. Talk with your agent today about getting this protection- we are all on the web now, and it is necessary for us all to protect ourselves.