Give your cybersecurity an overhaul for the new year

Give your cybersecurity an overhaul for the new year
© iStock/Marco_Piunti

When it comes to cybersecurity of course you do. In this post, we’ll give you tips about keeping yourself and your business safe from cybercriminals.

In this guest post, Mila Bera will be going through some common myths about cybercrime and explores how to shore up defences against it.

Common myths about cybercrime

I’m not a valuable target

We understand the logic here – you don’t have much worth stealing, so why worry? Here’s why. It’s true that most hackers drool over the thought of breaching top companies like Google. In reality, though, Google employs some of the most advanced cybersecurity measures in the world. Hacking them is difficult.

Hacking your computer is far less lucrative, perhaps, but it’s a lot easier. The hacker can:

  • Steal information like names, addresses, credit card information, and so on. These all have value on the dark web;
  • Plant key loggers so that they can suss out your passwords for your banking and so on;
  • Take over control of your system and demand a ransom to restore it; and
  • Or simply just destroy your system – a competitor might pay well a hacker to cause chaos for your company.

You’re a lot more lucrative to a hacker than you think because you’re an easier target. It’s better to assume that someone out there wants to hack you.

I’ve got an antivirus programme

Great – that’s an excellent place to start. Can your antivirus program stop you from opening a phishing email? Or downloading a funny meme that has a virus attached? Is your antivirus program up to date? An antivirus program on its own is not enough.

I’ve got a super strong password

Fantastic. Just what exactly does ‘super strong’ mean in this instance? Is your password at least 16 characters long? Is it a random mix of numbers and letters? Do you use it on most of the sites that you visit? If the answer to that last question is, ‘Yes,’ your password may already be compromised.

Why? Credential stuffing attacks. Hackers might attack smaller, less secure websites and gather all the usernames, emails, and passwords. They’ll then create a bot that will test those passwords across a range of different sites.

If you were registered with one of the sites breached, your username, email address, and password are up for grabs on the dark web.

Make yourself a hard target

The best defence against cybercriminals is to make it as difficult as possible for them. Most criminals look for soft targets because they’re easier to hit. Make yourself a hard target to become less appealing. Here’s how.

Consider using a top-notch AntiVirus and email scanning software

These will be your first line of defence. The antivirus will provide real-time protection. The email scanning software will identify potentially malicious emails and quarantine them for you. You’ll still be able to check them in case they’re legitimate, but you’ll be more careful.
Update software regularly

Software is seldom released in a perfect state. A company may have to rush development to get their product to market before a competitor can. That means that bugs can creep in. This is not a huge issue – companies will usually release patches later to fix the problem.

In the meantime, though, those bugs might be something that a hacker can exploit. That’s why it’s essential to update every program that you use regularly.

Choose strong passwords

Yes, you read that correctly – “passwords.” You should have a different password for every site that you register with. At the very least, create unique passwords for sites with sensitive information. Your online banking, business password, tax agency password, and so on are examples of sites with sensitive information.

Worried about how you’ll remember all the passwords? Find a good password keeper. That way, you just have to remember your master password and the password keeper does the rest.

What makes a password strong?

Your password should:

  • Be 16 characters or longer;
  • Have letters – upper and lower case, numbers, and special characters; and
  • The password should be completely random and shouldn’t spell out any words.

Enable two-factor authentication

Don’t just rely on your password. Enabling two-factor authentication puts one more barrier in the cybercriminal’s way. It’ll also alert you if someone tries to log into your account.
Encrypt the files on your PC

That way, even if the hacker does breach your system, there’s yet another obstacle in their way.

Conduct regular backups

That way, if your computer is infected with ransomware, you still have access to your data.

Limit access to sensitive information over insecure networks or devices

Your computer might have state of the art technology. That won’t do a bit of good if you’re accessing your work emails via a less secure phone or if you’re using a public network.

As a rule, avoid using public networks and be careful what you access via your phone.

Final notes

A hacker might be able to find a way around an antivirus program. They might be able to crack your password. On their own, each of the measures listed above are useful, but not fool-proof. Used together, though, they create a far higher level of defence. The trick to dealing with cybercrime is in ensuring that you have several backup defences.

Mila Bera
Contributing Writer


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