Protecting yourself and your online presence isn’t as much of a monster as it might look.
By incorporating cyber hygiene into your day-to-day, whether it be in-office or at home on the couch, you reduce the risk of data and identity theft. And no, doesn’t have to mean buying the latest and greatest antivirus software or investing in a new terabyte hard drive; cybersecurity all starts with awareness and preparation.
In other words, you can begin to secure your online perusing with just a little common sense and healthy digital practices. Once you recognize the patterns of what suspicious activity looks like, you’ll never be able to unsee it.
To help you get started, here are five basic tips for effective online safety.
Create unique, complex passwords
Passwords will either be your shield against cybercriminals, or a knife in your back. Although many users would agree that it’s easier to just reuse the same password over and over again, you’ll regret the convenience when a threat actor eventually cracks the code. If you think you’re too unimportant to be worth hacking, you’re wrong. You have an identity, a bank account, and personal information—all goldmines to them.
By making your password longer (more than 12 characters) and more complex, you’re protecting yourself from even the most powerful automation. According to Security.org, “a 12-character password containing at least one upper case letter, one symbol and one number takes 34,000 years for a computer to crack.”
Our blog post, 4 Ways to Create (And Remember) Complex Passwords, covers this in more detail.
Enable MFA (multi-factor authentication)
Multi-factor authentication, also known as 2-factor authentication, is essentially an extra layer of protection for your account. Using additional authentication methods, besides entering a password, such as biometrics (think Apple’s FaceID feature) or a one-time code forwarded via text or email, MFA is a huge curveball for threat actors. Even if they do end up cracking your password, with MFA it won’t matter as much unless they can access the extra security requirements.
You’re probably already familiar with MFA because many websites are starting to adopt it as a required security measure, and for good reason; Microsoft reported MFA was not used by 99.9% of hacked accounts. If you come across any opportunity to set up MFA, always accept it.
Conduct business on secure Wi-Fi only
Working from your laptop at a coffee shop for the day has its appeal, but unfortunately, it’s extremely risky.
At home or on a secure Wi-Fi network, users are unable to join unless they have express permission via password. On public wireless networks, anyone’s allowed as easily as hitting the “join” button. This is, in many ways, awesome and convenient. But in many more, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. With anyone allowed on, that means anything goes—cybercriminals can and will monitor all activity for “valuable” information.
Don’t use public Wi-Fi for anything — even simple tasks like scrolling social media or texting — unless you are using a secure virtual private network (VPN).
Update now, not later
It’s annoying and disruptive for many people to be interrupted by an update notification. But, ignoring it so you can get back online only does more harm than good.
Threat actors and criminals are constantly adapting their tactics—an out-of-date operating system or program is much, much easier to infect with malware. Technology companies regularly roll out patches and updates to address newly discovered bugs and internal issues, including security flaws and vulnerabilities. If left unchecked, you are choosing to keep using a broken lock for your front door.
Stay ahead of the risk by keeping all owned devices and software, from computers all the way down to phones, on the current version. Nowadays, you even have the option to set everything to auto-update, no hassle necessary.
Listen to your gut—if it looks weird, it is weird
Your inbox is probably flooded with lopsided text and links from unknown emails. You haven’t clicked on any of them, or maybe you deleted them, because you knew it was strange.
Threat actors and criminals vary in how good they are at disguising their intent, but ultimately, their goal is to get you to click something you shouldn’t have. Sometimes, their links look obvious, but other times they’re almost identical to a company you know.
When you get that uneasy feeling when reading an urgent email, usually asking you to sign into an account and confirm your password, listen to your gut; it’s there for a reason. Don’t be like the thousands of unfortunate people that fall for their gambit every single day. Don’t click links or download anything unless you’re absolutely expecting something of the sort.
Stay safe, and happy browsing!
By practicing online awareness and setting up the proper safeguards, you’re already on the safer side of the internet. Although these are surface-level steps to protecting yourself, they’re just as effective as any piece of security software or equipment because they depend on you, the human behind it all.
For a more in-depth walkthrough on keeping your data and online activity secure in the workplace, contact us. Our recognized team of experts are more than happy to help!