As a month into the new year has passed, one thing that I urge people to do for this new month and onward is have better privacy protection. Every day there are more breaches and hacks happening to people. And what’s worse is that it stems from a poor mindset around cybersecurity.
The beauty about cybersecurity though is that if we change our attitude, our privacy would be in less compromised situations. What’s nice is that these changes are small. All you need to do is consider the following tips.
Don’t Think You’ll Never Be Targeted
We all lead various lives and from that we have perceived notions that our lives aren’t all that important. At least in regards to the world at large. It’s to the point that some of us dismiss the idea that no one would hack into our accounts and steal information or our identity.
The truth of the matter is that’s not true. On the internet hackers and viruses are indiscriminate in who they attack.
Every day there are breaches into big or small companies, malware and more that could provide password details or worse to all kinds of individuals. Because of this, it’s important to not act indifferent but be aware that you could be targeted because you have an account on a specific site.
Don’t Click On Unusual Links
Spam today is part of our lives. We receive a lot of it and it varies in functionality. Sometimes it can be harmless ads, but in some cases it can be more sinister. On my podcast – Synthetic Snake Oil – I’ve talked about how some viruses have spread all because people were clicking on links from these emails.
My point is that many viruses would’ve been contained if people exercised a bit of caution and didn’t click on any links. Instead, practice to pause and consider the email. Look at the senders email address, look at the message as well.
Keep Up To Date
Apps and other programs are regularly updated as more security threats continue to emerge. Because of this often times companies will patch small things in their programs, but also provide tighter security features too underneath.
As a result, it’s important that when there is an update available for anything we have on our computer or phone, make sure it gets updated. Sure it could be annoying at times and it could take a small chunk of your time. But think of it this way:
What is better? Living without your device for about 20 minutes (in some circumstances) or having your device get compromised and having to buy a new one?
That’s not even mentioning the other potential damages that malware or other hacks could induce.
Never Recycle Passwords
We should be recycling other materials, but not passwords. I understand that memorizing passwords can be a pain and so you want to be using the same password for everything. But that’s a terrible idea.
This also applies to making small modifications to that password like changing a character or two or adding a few more to it.
I say this because if someone can crack your password, they not only get access to your account on that site but several others. Not only that but scrambling or adding a few letters and numbers isn’t going to be sturdy either.
Avoid this practice at all costs and consider using a password manager. Often they’ll come with password generators that create random and strong passwords.
Be Sure To Use 2FA
It stands for Two-Factor Authentication. It’s also referred to as multifactor authentication or MFA. As the name suggests, the use of 2FA / TFA is that it adds another layer of security to accounts.
Not only does someone need a password but they may need to enter a code that’s sent to your phone. And in some tighter cases they may need voice or eye authentication. The first option is the most popular one used by most sites today.
Either way having this in place is powerful because it creates extra steps. The more steps there are the more people will get discouraged and go after easier targets.
Avoid Public Wifi In Most Cases
Places like cafes, fast food joints, and other restaurants offer free wifi connections. This can come off as a steal since it’s free and it saves you from using data. But there is always some kind of cost to it.
Since anyone can access public wifi, it’s easy for a hacker to break in on that wifi and install a malware to attack users. Not only that but they can simply break in and steal information with ease.
With this in mind, it’s smart to avoid buying or logging into anything while on public wifi. Either use your phone as a hotspot as needed or consider getting a VPN.
Use A VPN
On the note of VPNs, do consider them. Short for Virtual Private Network, the idea is for them to connect to servers that allow you to use the internet freely and privately. A VPN allows you access to home network as well and they can also limit your internet provider from seeing what you’re doing.
Think of it as opening an incognito window on Google Chrome. No one is getting any information from you from those windows.
What’s also nice about VPNs is that there are various kinds that provide different functions. Look around and see which one works best for you.
Backup And Encrypt
Backing up your computer is another topic I’ve pushed and urged people to do. Similarly, it’s one of those topics people push away like updating apps or other software. Backing up your computer does feel like a chore, but it would be more of a chore to bring everything back the way it was.
As I mentioned in the first point, who gets attacked doesn’t matter. Anyone can get hacked. As for the damages it can vary depending on what you’re doing on your computer.
Regardless, it’s a difficult situation to be in and what’s incredible is that this can be salvaged easily if you take time to back up your computer.
Not only that but getting your backups encrypted too. While it can create some complications when restoring your computer in some circumstances, it also blocks hackers should they ever crack into your devices.
Ensure Downloads Are Official
What I mean by this is when you are installing anything on your phone or computer, make sure it’s coming from an official source you recognize. This may sound obvious but it’s still surprising how many people ignore this advice.
On phones there is something called jailbreaking or rooting. Some people have touted its perks, but there are a lot of risks with doing this too. One such way is that sometimes your phone will add an unofficial app store.
That store isn’t monitored as closely and can compromise your device should you download anything from that unofficial store.
Because it could be riddled with malware.
For desktops there are all kinds of software online. One that’s caused problems in the past has been MacKeeper. It’s software that cleans up Mac computers but in reality causes only problems.
The point of this is that you want to make sure that you’re getting software from verified and reliable sources.
Be Aware Of Permissions
I say this because the permissions can request all kind of things that don’t make sense. Back in 2014 there was a flashlight app that wanted access to location, calendar, camera, and more.
The question is does a flashlight app really need all those things?
While we may not be keen to scan through terms and conditions, companies are still required to mention what they get access to. They’ll have it in a specific section in that agreement so it’ll be easier to spot.
Have Security Software Where You Can
For our computers this is a no brainer. If you want more security, you get software and there is plenty of options.
But one thing people don’t bother though is to have software on their phone. We’re still at a time where people think phones are phones. But we are way passed that.
Today most people browse using their phones and technology has become so advanced are phones are like technology’s Swiss army knife. It can do almost anything at all.
With this in mind, it makes sense for us to start considering putting in more security measures on our phones. Fortunately, much like laptops and desktops, there is plenty of software available to pick from too.
Dispose Devices Safely
It’s not like most to cling to our old devices until they fail on us. Whenever a new phone, tablet, or a laptop or desktop rolls out, we may consider upgrading it. This leaves us with a new one and an old one collecting dust.
Not to leave that device collecting dust, some of us will consider passing the device down or selling it. In those cases while that’s smart, there are a number of privacy issues with that. Before doing any of that, make sure that you have gone through the steps necessary to remove any of your data from it.
You want to make sure that any data that you had on there is wiped clean before it’s in the hands of someone else.
Of course how to properly dispose devices will vary on the brand and product.
It Can Happen To Anyone
It’s good to have a healthy amount of paranoia when it comes to our privacy. Keep your passwords tight and have a rigorous routine with them. Whenever you get something unusual or outside of the norm, ponder on it.
While we won’t have total security or privacy, it’s important for us to at least be vigilant. When you consider these tips and apply them, you will be less likely to fall into any hacks.