The year is 2019. The news keeps screaming about data breaches of staggering magnitude happening every few days, putting hundreds of millions of people at risk. With our dependence on digital technology, having one’s personal data stolen can have consequences that are nothing short of catastrophic. Yet people still make the same face-palm-inducing mistakes: for example, the 25 worst weak passwords still constitute up to 10% of all passwords used worldwide.
Do you want to stay safe online? Then read on – we will tell you about the most critical cyber-security rules.
1. Remember that you are the target
It is not paranoia: They really are after you. Many individuals and small business owners are pretty laid back about online security because they believe that only big corporations become hackers’ targets. In reality, quite often the opposite is true. Big companies have enormous security budgets, which makes them tough nuts to crack. That’s why hackers turn their attention to small businesses en masse – exactly because they are easier targets.
2. Use a VPN
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a tool that allows you to create a secure and, ideally, untraceable connection to another network using the regular Internet. Many people still do not realize this, but when you use the Internet, all your activity is completely transparent for many different parties: your Internet provider, your boss, the owner of the website you are visiting and, with a little effort, a hacker trying to steal your personal and financial data.
VPNs have multiple uses, from accessing region-locked websites to hiding your identity on the web. From the security perspective, its most important abilities are protection from tracing and data collection. It gives you a significant degree of anonymity and prevents hackers from spying on you while, for example, you use a dubious Wi-Fi hotspot.
However, not all VPNs are created equal. Some are registered in the countries that actively try to undermine the idea of anonymity on the Internet. Free VPNs can collect your data themselves and sell it to third parties. It is essential to use a trustworthy VPN with a long-standing reputation.
3. Use proper password hygiene
Have an individual strong password (longer than eight symbols, containing lowercase and uppercase letters, figures, and symbols) for each service you are using. If you use the same password in all your registrations, it means that if one of them gets hacked, your entire online presence will be at risk. Taking into account that an average person today is registered on dozens and probably hundreds of different websites, services, and apps, the only way to go is to use a password manager. To protect your account on a password manager itself, make sure you use two-factor authentication.
4. Do not overshare on social media
Not all people out there are your friends. When hackers target individuals rather than randomly collect information, they often use social media accounts to gather personal data. It can be used for a variety of purposes – for example, to answer a security question on your email. If hackers really want to get to you, they can even befriend you on social media to have you tell them a vital piece of information.
5. Follow the rules of physical cyber security
Hacking does not necessarily happen over the web. You can just as easily compromise your data by allowing physical access to your devices. Therefore, always lock your mobile devices and use access passwords on laptop computers, especially if you have a habit of leaving them unattended.
It does not matter whether you are acting as a private person or a business owner. Hackers can find a use for any personal and financial information they can get their hands on. If you do not follow at least the basic rules of cyber security, you turn your data into a low-hanging fruit – and if you become a victim of identity theft, there will be nobody to blame but yourself.
For more on cybersecurity, see “Staying Ahead Of Insidious New Breeds Of Cyber Attacks.”