Sometimes, it’s the simplest cybersecurity tasks that are most easily overlooked. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated or expensive your security software is. If you are not properly protected by a few key methods, then you are at serious risk of hacking. Read on to discover 7 ways that you might be exposed to cyber hacking, and the fast, easy tasks that will help keep you and your data safe online.
In 2017, there were 3.8 billion internet users. By 2020, the amount of online data will be 50 times greater than that of 2016. Also by 2020, there will be an estimated 300 billion online passwords, which will all need cyber-cover. Numbers like these are truly staggering. With a growing internet comes growing cybercrime, and it’s getting worse with every passing year.
If the whole nasty business of cybercrime seems scary and overwhelming, consider this: According to Verizon, 81% of data breaches are a result of hacked passwords. If a simple password is the cause of so much misery, what else might you be missing? Read on to discover 7 critical security tasks that you may have overlooked, but will make all the difference to your cybersecurity status:
#1: Power up your Passwords
Maintaining a strong password policy is the golden rule of cybersecurity. In a world where 35% of people have weak passwords, which are easily hacked, it seems that many just don’t understand the importance of strong, healthy passwords. So what’s the best way to make your passwords more powerful? Firstly, bigger is better. Short passwords made up of whole words or names, or passwords based on personal information that can easily be gleaned from your social media pages (i.e.. birthdate), are an absolute no-no. Make your passwords long, and include random nonsensical combinations of numbers, letters, and symbols to make them even harder to crack. Also, change your passwords frequently. And don’t be tempted to choose short, simple passwords because they are easy to remember. Rather, rely on a password management app that can help you maintain healthy passwords for all your different logins, while also adding an extra password protection layer.
#2: Double Trouble for Hackers: Two-Factor Authentication
Once your passwords are in order, there’s another step you can take to maximize your protection, and it’s highly recommended by IT experts everywhere. It’s called two-factor authentication, or 2FA, and it’s a way to layer your protection over multiple levels, creating a stronger barrier between your data and potential hackers. In fact, 2FA can reduce breaches by 80%. How? Rather than relying on one password for protection, 2FA works by demanding an extra level of verification. It may be an SMS sent to your mobile device, with a verification code that must be entered to finish the login process. It could also be an email with a confirmation link. Two-factor authentication is commonly used by IT managers in company networks to increase protection among large numbers of staff. It is just as important for small businesses and home users to add that extra security level at log-in time.
#3: Don’t Forget Your Endpoints
So you’ve downloaded the latest antivirus software to your PC, and you’re feeling pretty secure. But wait – what about all your other devices? What about your mobile phone, wireless printer, router, and smart TV? According to 84% of IT professionals, the increased number of IoT endpoints is the biggest risk to cybersecurity. And in a 6-month study, 1.8 million cyber attacks were recorded through home network routers. It’s not just your PCs that need protection – not by a long shot. With the proliferation of home and office gadgets that are connected to the internet, there is a massively increased risk of hacking, identity theft, and more. Take an inventory of every endpoint in your home or business network, and check that each one is covered with the latest cybersecurity software and protocols.
#4: Patch up Regularly
Hackers are working 24/7/365 to find cybersecurity holes, and to take advantage of them. In fact, hackers work so fast that OS and software security companies are also working nonstop to keep up. That’s why you are constantly receiving security updates and warnings to your computer – and if you’re like most people, you tend to ignore them. This is a huge cyber security mistake. Unfortunately, only 38% of computer users regularly update their software security. And it’s not just a PC problem. In 2016, only half of Android devices were kept up to date with security software.
If you’re wondering how important it really is to stay up to date with security patches, consider this – in 2017, the huge NHS data breach could have been prevented if the health trusts had paid attention to a patch warning that was sent earlier. When it comes to cybersecurity, it is critical to update your software as soon as you receive the warning – doctor’s orders!
#5: Autorun OFF
There’s a simple way you can stop hackers from getting a leg up on your system, and it’s all about the Autorun feature. When you enable autorun, your computer automatically runs files from a storage device as soon as it’s plugged in – and that means that potential hackers get automatic access to your device. If you disable autorun, it gives you time to scan the USB or memory card before running it, which provides an extra layer of protection. It’s a simple, and long-recommended technique to increase your security. Luckily, Windows 8 and later versions allow you to disable autorun, so do it now!
#6: Be a Limited User
In 2016, a study showed that 93% of Windows 10 vulnerabilities could have been prevented by changing to limited user status. What does it mean to be a limited user? Actually, it’s not a big deal and it’s also a very simple way to make your cybersecurity even stronger.
If you use Windows, your status is probably set to Administrator. Administrator status is necessary for installing new software and hardware, troubleshooting, and other administrative activities you might need to undertake for your system. But for most of your online and computer activity, such as surfing the web, email, and everyday work, it’s enough to be a limited user. The same way a limited user has restricted access to the system, so too it gives hackers a harder time accessing your computer. So make sure to set up a Limited User account for you and any other family members using the network. You can always log in as an Administrator when you need deeper access to your system.
#7: Free Wi-Fi Comes at a Price. Use a VPN Instead
A 2016 survey showed that 87% of Americans have used a public Wi-Fi connection. And, with more than half of American adults having had their data exposed to hackers each year, it’s simply not enough to assume that a few minutes on a public Wi-Fi connection can do no harm.
The fact is, unsecured Wi-Fi connections are not safe. In 2017, the WPA2 protocol used by most Wi-Fi connections was hacked, causing a sense of alarm worldwide. However tempting it may be to check in the free Wi-Fi at the local cafe, it’s just not worth the risk. There are better ways to connect to the internet than exposing your data on a potentially risky internet connection. Get a VPN service, which will allow you to go online anonymously and with maximum security, no matter where you are. For a few dollars a month, it just might be a worthwhile investment. Check out our VPN reviews for more information. And don’t forget your mobile phone. Turn off the Wi-Fi search function so you won’t automatically connect to hotspots, and better yet – invest in a larger data plan with your carrier so you won’t need to rely on Wi-Fi for your phone at all.
The Best Day to Get Your Cybersecurity in Order is Yesterday
The world of cybersecurity is highly complex, constantly changing at a break-neck pace. It can be easy to get caught up in the complexity, when in fact the most important – and simple – cybersecurity rules are forgotten by the wayside. You can instantly reduce your odds of becoming a victim of cyber-hacking by completing the seemingly small, but critically important, tasks above. So don’t delay!