October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Here are 20 Cybersecurity Tips Anyone Can Apply
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so it’s a great time to learn about what you can do to protect yourself and your business from cyber threats of any and every kind.
In our technologically advancing society, cybercrimes and intrusions are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Prevention starts with every user of a connected device to be educated and aware.
What everyone needs to understand is that you are an attractive target for cybercriminals. If you have money (any amount, really), data (emails, documents, passwords, usernames) or a place to work, you’re a target. It’s that simple. Don’t ever think it won’t happen to you, because it most definitely can.
You’ll be surprised how easy it is to better protect yourself and your data from cybercrime. All it takes is some time educating yourself and adjusting a few habits in your routine. Here are 20 cybersecurity tips everyone should apply to improve their online safety:
Tip #1: Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Be cautious when connected to public Wi-Fi. If you have to connect, make sure not to type out any personal information, especially credit card or bank account information. Free Public Wi-Fi is all around us, making it easy for hackers to get unrestricted access to unsecured devices on the same network. Your best bet is to avoid it altogether, if possible.
Tip #2: Update
Always keep everything up to date to ensure the latest security. To most, software updates may not seem that important but putting off these updates makes the door to your private information easier for hackers to open.
Tip #3: Be Safe Online Shopping
Never online shop from a device that isn’t yours or an unsecured network you don’t trust. While online shopping is convenient, it’s also easier for a cybercriminal to get their hands on your credit card information if you aren’t smart about it. When shopping online, follow these simple steps to ensure security:
- Use a safe, secure and trusted network
- Implement strong passwords
- Be picky about which websites you shop at (https vs http, not providing info about the company, etc.)
- Don’t save your card information in an online shopping account
- Verify your account activity and transactions regularly
Tip #4: USBe Careful
Be cautious about what you plug into your computer. Never use a USB or external hard-drive from an unknown source. It could be infected with malware, viruses, etc.
Tip #5: Keep Up With Your Bank Activity
Check your bank and credit/debit card activity regularly to confirm transactions and monitor for any suspicious activity. Frequently checking activity and statements will better ensure that no fraudulent transactions have been made. Online banking makes it easier and faster to monitor your account, so there’s no reason you should not be keeping up with your activity. The sooner you can detect any sketchy activity, the easier it should be to fix it.
Tip #6: Check for the ‘S’
How can you tell if a website can securely handle your data? Check for the ‘s’ in https. This added ‘s’ stands for ‘secure.’ Https encrypts the data you put on the website and the data you get from it so that no one can intrude or tamper with the data flow. If a website starts with http instead of https, don’t give them any personal information and get off the site to stay safe.
Tip #7: Don’t Mindlessly Click
Pay attention to what you’re clicking on! Nowadays, humans are so distracted by the Internet and our devices, sometimes mindlessly clicking on things that might not be as secure as it looks. It only takes one misfortunate click to end up with a malware infection. Remember to avoid clicking on:
- Short links with a questionable destination
- Links or attachments in emails that you never expected (even if it seems urgent)
- Misleading pop-ups on web pages
Tip #8: Be Aware of Malvertising
Malvertising is a tactic where hackers inject malicious code or malware-filled ads onto legit online advertising networks and websites. When you see ads on your favorite websites, be wary. Just one out of the many ads on the site could be infected, searching your device for vulnerabilities and potentially leaving your computer with a serious infection. Use an ad-blocker and a reliable antivirus to safeguard your device. If you see an ad you feel tempted to click on, try typing in the website on another tab yourself, instead of clicking on what could be an infected advertisement.
Tip #9: Cover Your Cam
Cover your computer or laptop’s webcam when you’re not using it. It may seem silly, but you never know who’s watching you. There have been many instances where people’s computers/laptops have been hacked with intent to spy. These criminals will watch and/or listen to what you do in your personal space. While it may seem unreasonable to most, it’s always a good idea to cover your webcam when not in use. Better safe than sorry, right?
Tip #10: Think Again Before You Accept That Friend Request
Cybercriminals often create fake profiles to befriend you and get you to share confidential information about you or your company. They will also have access to whatever personal information you share with your friends, like your workplace, where you live, where you went to school, etc. which can make it easier for them to crack your passwords. It’s best not to accept friend requests from people you don’t know in real life.
Tip #11: Remove That App
Device manufacturers love to stuff your brand new device full of “free” applications, but clutter is the enemy of a speedy computer or device; outdated apps are a breeding ground for hackers. So, if you’re not using them regularly, it’s best to remove it completely. This way you don’t have it sucking up processing speed AND leaving the door open to hackers and malware.
Tip #12: Stop Saving Your Card Details
Don’t be lazy! Stop saving your credit or debit card information on online accounts, ESPECIALLY untrustworthy ones. If you want to buy something online, take the few extra seconds to fill out your card details every time. It may seem like a pain in the…fingertips…but card fraud is 100 times more of a pain!
Tip #13: Be Wary During Sports Seasons
Different sports seasons and events are a prime opportunity for cyber attackers. These scammers will use the hype to their advantage and attempt to expose sports fans to cyber risks. With football and basketball season in full swing, be cautious of links you click on, sporting apps you download, where you give your credentials to and especially of where you place your sporting bets.
Tip #14: Alert Yourself
Set up withdrawal and transaction alerts for your bank accounts. Having these notifications will allow you to spot and report fraudulent activity before the money has already been siphoned into a cybercriminal’s hands.
Tip #15: Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Require 2FA to access your online banking accounts. Most banks have this as a security setting for your account. This will prevent a hacker from accessing your account and obtaining your information EVEN IF they crack your password.
Tip #16: Stop Reusing Your Passwords
No, seriously. STOP. Let’s say a hacker cracks your Facebook password. Darn, right? Guess you have to make a new Facebook account. No. Think for a second: Are you using that same password on any other accounts? How many accounts would that hacker be able to access? What information of yours could be stolen or compromised? Is it the same password as your bank accounts? Bet I made you worry there for a second.
It may seem inconvenient to have to keep up with different passwords for all of your accounts, but it will be even more of an inconvenience when you wake up one morning to multiple of your accounts in jeopardy.
Tip #17: Pay Attention to Permission
Not only should you be careful about what apps you install on your devices and where you download them from, but you should pay attention to what permissions these apps ask for. Don’t mindlessly click accept when a weather app asks for permission to access your camera roll. That doesn’t add up, does it?
Tip #18: Lock Your Device
Never leave your smartphone or any of your devices unattended without a security passcode in place. Leaving your devices unlocked leaves all of your information available to whoever walks past. It’s a good idea to activate your device to auto-lock the screen after a short period of inactivity.
Locking your phone or device is one of the most simple security measures, yet many don’t utilize a screen lock. Nowadays, devices have fingerprint and face authentication to unlock your screen, making it more effortless than ever; there is no excuse to not have a passcode or some form of authentication in place. It’s not worth the risk.
Tip #19: Back it Up
Back up NOW. Not just your computer but your phone and any other devices you have. Make sure you are implementing automatic back-ups for the best protection of your information and data. You might not think you’ll ever be in the situation where you’ll have to retrieve your data from a back-up, but hey, IT happens.
Tip #20: Be a Little Paranoid
Yes, I said it. It is okay to be a little paranoid and suspicious. Being aware of what’s going on online can help keep you safe from compromise. Follow these last simple tips to live by online:
- If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not true
- If it looks fishy, stay away
- If someone asks for your confidential data, don’t give it to them unless they are a trusted source
There are plenty more cybersecurity tips and advice to keep you better protected from cyber threats. Applying what you’ve read here is just the start. You should constantly be educating yourself on cybersecurity, as there are always new scams and tactics these cybercriminals use. It’s a scary world we live in, but as long as you stay aware and practice cybersecurity, you’ll be better off than the majority.