Nowadays it’s common to see cyber-attacks and cybersecurity breach becoming a headline. Corporate giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and even Federal government agencies have become prey to malicious attacks by hackers. The infamous Twitter Hack headline in March 2017, still rings in our ears, where thousands of Twitter Accounts belonging to several high-profile individuals from media outlets to celebrities were targeted and hacked.
Although attacks on major corporations and government agencies touch headlines, the attack on normal people and small businesses go unnoticed. The year 2017 was declared as the worst year for network security and data breaches all over the world as per reports by Online Trust Alliance (OTA).
The Cyber Incident & Breach Trends Report published by OTA revealed shocking trends about cyber security all over the world. There were over 160,000 ransomware attacks in the year 2017 as compared to the year 2016, which saw about 82,000 attacks. Moreover, a majority of incidents of cyberattack are never reported which implies that the actual number of attacks could have easily exceeded 350,000 as per reports.
With businesses and individuals being reliant on the internet unlike never before, everybody is exposed to substantial risk. You do not have to be an expert in IT to minimize cybersecurity attacks on you or your business. There are a few simple things that you can do to protect yourself from any cyber attack.
1. Focus on the strength of your password
Remembering passwords can prove to be a daunting task for many. However, it is important that you do not use the same password over and over again. Do not use a password which is easy to guess. The longer your password is, the more difficult it would be for the cybercriminal to hack your account.
As per experts, passwords must contain a minimum of 12 characters if permitted by a particular site or platform. You need to also ensure that you save your passwords safely. Do not use sticky notes and leave it all over your desk at the office. It is better to save them in a file on your computer. Rather than saving the actual password, you can save a clue to your password. You can also consider using a password management program for securely storing your passwords.
2. Always remember to log-off
You are inviting a cyber-criminal to steal your proprietary information from your computer if you do not log-off from your device. If you have the habit of leaving your device logged-on, then think again! A hacker can gain quick and easy access to your social media accounts and even financial information if you leave your device logged in when not in use. Please spare some time and log-off your computer if you want your information to remain secure from cyber-criminals who attack network security.
3. Keep backups
There is always a risk of cyber attack despite doing everything right. Hence, it is best to take periodic backups of all your important information such as legal documents, financial information, customer account information, and databases. It is advised to back-up your data automatically on a regular basis.
Some of the recommended tools for the best Backup Software are:
Acronis True Image – Paid version
StorageCraft ShadowProtect – Paid version
EaseUS Todo Backup Free – Free version
Further Reading suggested understanding the significance of backing up your personal and financial information as it is the best way to ensure network security.
4. Update your system
Cyber attackers are really skilled at their task. Make it a habit to keep all your software up-to-date. Make it a point to update your anti-virus regularly, several times a day, including internet protection software and firewalls as well. This is something which should be on your “must-do” list.
5. Restrict employee access
If you run a business, then this is something that you need to consider. Make sure that you limit the access to critical data only to those who truly need it to get a job done. Ask your employees to set unique passwords which are changed once in sixty to ninety days. Do not permit your employees to install any new programs on their workstations without prior permission as instances of network security breaches can be minimized.
6. Update important software regularly
Browsers may carry vulnerable information which may appear to be lucrative to hackers. Developers of such software keep releasing updates to secure their offerings which hold true for browsers as well. Online wallet apps and other software must also be updated regularly for securing your finances as well as other vulnerable information.
Further Reading suggested knowing how businesses could be left open to cyber attacks if they fail to update their software to the latest versions.
7. Avoid phishing attacks
This is something which can be done easily. Whenever you receive emails claiming that you won a lottery or any other prize, or just anything that sounds too good to be true, it is best not to click on the link sent to your email. The wise move would be reporting such emails as spam.
8. Download software from reliable sources
If you want to download any software, then never rely on torrent sites for the purpose. When downloading software from unreliable sources, you would be left vulnerable to hackers who modify such software for stealing crucial information from people’s devices. Make sure to download software only from verified and reliable sources to improve network security.
9. Use incognito mode on third-party mobiles and computers
When you use incognito mode, the browser won’t store any user credentials or browsing information. This is the best way to guard yourself when you are using public computers or somebody else’s phone or computer to access something important.
10. Use on-screen keyboard for entering sensitive information
The internet is filled with software floating around which can capture sensitive information pertaining to a user entered through a physical keyboard. Thus, it may be possible that the third-party device that you are using may have keyloggers installed on their device. They may steal sensitive information like your username and password. This is the reason why you must always make use of on-screen keyboards for bypassing the keyloggers.
11. Check the URL before logging into any site
It is said that prevention is better than cure. This holds true when you are logging into any website. Make sure to check the site’s URL that you are trying to access. Login with your credentials only if the URL you are trying to access is of the same site you wish to access. Cybercriminals often create fake login web pages resembling standard websites. They do this to steal the information of the person trying to access a particular website. It is not difficult to identify a fake webpage. These web pages carry a different URL from the standard websites.
12. Use the best anti-virus software suite
It would not hurt much to use a paid anti-virus software suite which includes internet protection as well as protection against malware and viruses. Whenever you use a USB stick on your device, be sure to scan it before use. Do not forget to turn on the safe browsing feature offered by antivirus software to avoid being directed to malicious websites.
Here are some recommended Anti-virus software suites –
Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac – only for Mac devices
13. Ensure that the URL of the site has HTTPS
HTTPS is a protocol, that is far more reliable and safe than HTTP, used for internet browsing which makes use of encryption techniques. This is much more secure than HTTP. If you are looking at doing some important work online such as making financial payments, online trading, etc., then make sure that the URL contains ‘https://.’
14. Gmail account protection
This one is quite basic, although most of us use it rarely. Gmail offers Two Factor Authentication to all its users for their safety. When you activate this option, an OTP or One Time Password is sent to a personal registered mobile number. What this means is, suppose your Gmail password gets compromised and someone tries to access it, they still would need the OTP code. This holds true even if you access your Gmail account from a public terminal that is insecure, and keep your account logged in.
You can even try another step. You can log in to your account through a browser and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Click on Details to activate a pop-up. You can then sign out from all the web sessions for enhanced cybersecurity.
15. Read the permissions carefully before installing any software
This is one of the most prominent ways in which you can prevent malicious software or app from compromising your information. This holds true if you download apps from Google Play. A lot of apps seek permission from users. It is important to go through these before allowing them to make changes to your device. It is vital to be aware of the kind of information an app uses to provide you with the best experience such as your device camera, location, and contacts.
Also, do not forget to check for the reliability of app publisher before downloading any app. For instance, during 2012 an imposter app gained a lot of attention as it was pretending to be Temple Run. A quick look revealed that the app was being offered by ‘apk developer’ and not from Imangi Studios.
Remember that danger may lurk around any corner online; thus, following the above-mentioned steps can help you safeguard against a majority of cyber attack instances. Whether you’re a business owner or an individual, these precautions ensure cyber security of every individual who accesses the internet every single day.