NetworkTigers cybersecurity tips for non-techies.
Maintaining good personal cybersecurity doesn’t require a degree in computer science, nor does it take a lot of time or money. While being a security expert means navigating the shifting sands of threat actors, phishing efforts, ransomware gangs, and data vulnerabilities, many breaches result from human error in the form of neglected updates, gullibility or misconfigured settings. Thankfully, maintaining good personal cybersecurity is more about common sense and diligence than hard data and analytics.
1. Update your software
Maintaining updated software is a foundational component of solid cybersecurity from smartphones and tablets to the computers you use for work or play. As threats are discovered, developers release patches and updates that close the door on would-be hackers.
Remembering to check for updates periodically is cumbersome and leaves room for items to slip through the cracks. Turn on automatic updates wherever possible so that you are best protected. Ensure that every connected device you use runs the most current operating system and firmware. Neglecting any one component in your network is akin to installing a cutting edge security system in your home only to leave the back door open.
2. Update your hardware
Don’t forget your hardware. If you’re using an old router or other devices, make sure that the manufacturer with updates and patches is still supporting them. In the fast-paced world of technology, legacy equipment quickly fades into the rearview.
3. Maintain good password habits
While keeping things simple makes your online life convenient in the short term, poor password hygiene is a major headache for cybersecurity experts and a big advantage for hackers. To make sure that your passwords are up to the task of protecting your data privacy, keep these tips in mind:
- Use a password generator to create randomized passwords that are impossible to guess.
- Avoid using names, dates or other personal information in your password.
- Instead of a password, come up with a “passphrase” that is a short, easy-to-remember sentence in which you swap letters and numbers for symbols and punctuation.
- Try not to repeat characters in your password.
- Never use the same password twice.
4. Use anti-virus protection
Anti-virus protection can detect and isolate malicious software that enters your network or computer. It works in the background and should be configured to regularly scan your system for malware, trojans and viruses. There are many options when it comes to anti-virus software. Choose a program that will adequately protect you but won’t overwhelm you with complexity that is best reserved for major networks.
5. Use a firewall
A firewall filters web traffic, blocking hackers, malicious software and viruses from your device or network. Hardware firewalls are commonplace in control rooms, but software firewalls are also regularly employed. Both Windows and Mac operating systems include built-in firewall options that can be configured to suit your needs. Your internet router should also feature a built-in firewall to restrict access to your systems and devices.
6. Beware of public wifi
Using publicly available Wi-Fi, whether in a hotel or coffee shop, can be dangerous. Use a VPN if you must access the internet from a public location. You can also hotspot your phone or other wireless devices so that you are accessing the internet via your cellular service provider, as opposed to through a heavily trafficked router.
7. Enable multi-factor authentication
An account locked behind a single username and password could be easy to crack, even if your password hygiene is on-point. While not perfect, multi-factor authentication remains an effective way to put an obstacle between your data and hackers. From providing a second password via another device to using biometric facial or fingerprint data, adding a layer of security will prevent you from becoming low-hanging fruit.
8. Know how to spot scams
The days of obvious scam emails aren’t over, but sophisticated phishing attempts are a modern cybersecurity scourge. Today’s savvy threat actors can craft fraudulent messages almost indistinguishable from legitimate messages.
Anyone who has spent a year using email knows that impersonating financial companies like PayPal and eBay is common practice. If a hacker can take control of a colleague or friend’s account, however, they may send messages to that person’s contacts that recipients are already primed to trust.
Scammers are becoming more brazen, and some efforts even involve social engineering tactics that see victims interacting with an actual person who directs them to download malware or turn over login credentials.
Know how to identify scam attempts and never open emails or texts that include attachments or links without verifying their validity first. If a coworker or family member sends you a message with an unusual request, confirm that they are the sender through a different avenue.
9. Backup your data
If you suffer a cyberattack, restoring your system or device to the condition it was in before being hacked saves time and stress.
Keep your data backed up on your local hard drive, an externally connected one, and in another off-site location such as the cloud. Regularly update your data backups so that you don’t lose a more significant amount of time than necessary if you have to perform a restore.
10. Never leave a device unattended
A stolen phone, tablet or laptop is a treasure trove of data, passwords, credit card numbers and other information that can be used against you and to stage further scams or attacks.
If you have to leave a device for an extended period, make sure it is password protected and locked up safely where no one else can access it. USB drives and other external storage devices should be encrypted to prevent thieves from accessing your data.
Both Windows and Mac operating systems feature native encryption tools, BitLocker and FileVault, which you can use to secure an external drive without having to do much more than click a few boxes.