The recent Sony hack confirms to us that hacking is a growing and persistent threat. When both individuals and businesses alike become victims of cyber security crimes on a regular basis, it’s time for businesses and individuals to seriously consider upping their cyber security games.
Computer and smartphone users should implement a combination of security measures, using both technology-based and training-based methods. Read on for eight ways to combat cyber security issues.
As one of the oldest methods for combating cyber security issues, anti-virus software should be a no-brainer. Many computer users, however, simply don’t install it or neglect to update the software they do have. Start by installing reputable, effective anti-virus software on each laptop and desktop computer.
When the antivirus program prompts you to download an update, don’t just ignore it. Viruses, spyware, and malware evolve very quickly, so antivirus software requires constant updates to stay ahead. Download each update immediately to ensure that you’re protected from the latest cyber security threats.
Virtual locks are simple but effective ways to add an extra layer of security to your computer or mobile device. Set a password on your desktop or laptop computer to require users to log in after each period of inactivity, to ensure that a thief or a passerby can’t access your data quickly. Do the same for each mobile device, and be sure not to use patterns or numeric passwords that are easy to guess.
Set up a firewall in your home or business in order to protect your network and computers from outside attackers. These devices can come in either hardware or software formats, and both can be quite effective in filtering out unnecessary traffic. Firewalls in hardware form can be placed between your computer and your modem in order to prevent malicious code or viruses from getting through. Firewalls in software format can be installed on nearly any operating system and can also effectively block cyber security risks from attacking your computer or network.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
If you use the Internet at coffee shops or at hotels/airports, it is best to use a VPNto protect yourself. The security of the WiFi at these public places can be shoddy. A VPN helps secure your internet connection so that data traveling in/out of your computer is encrypted.
With single-factor authentication, users simply enter a username and password in order to access an account or information online. Two-factor authentication, however, effectively doubles the security you have in place when you login to an online account. Instead of the basic username and password combination, this secure format requires additional information that theoretically only the user knows or has access to.
The second level of authentication may require a user to enter a Personal Identification Number (PIN) in addition to a password. Alternatively, it may demand an object in the user’s possession, such as a smartphone or a credit card. Otherwise, it may require biometric data, such as a fingerprint. Answering an additional question or producing an extra piece of information may seem like an inconvenience, but the added peace of mind it offers is well worth the effort.
Strong, Unique Passwords
If you use the same predictable password for every online login and account, no matter whether it’s your primary email or your favorite shopping site, it’s time to change that. Cyber security threats are the greatest when their effects can balloon quickly. If a hacker steals your email password and finds that the same code works to log in to your bank account and shopping websites, a small problem will quickly spiral out of control.
Start by compiling your most sensitive online accounts, and address those first. Make a list of your healthcare accounts, including logins for insurance, doctors’ offices, and pharmacies, and your finance accounts, including banks, credit cards, and investments.
Create a new, unique password for each account and keep track of the login information offline. Update your security questions so that your answers are unique and memorable instead of accurate and easy to guess. Follow that by updating login information for less sensitive accounts.
No one wants to be caught without access to email accounts or funds when hackers strike. To make sure you’re not stuck between a rock and a hard place, make a disaster plan in advance. First, compose a list of all of your credit card numbers and bank account numbers, along with phone numbers to call in case of an emergency. If you find out that your credit card number has been stolen online, the last thing you’ll want to do is spend unnecessary time tracking down your account numbers and your bank’s phone number.
Next, create a system for routinely monitoring your credit card transactions. Start a practice of combing through your transactions online once or twice a week, and make sure each transaction that posts corresponds with one that you made yourself. If you spot suspicious activity, call your financial institution immediately.
For businesses, consider purchasing a cyber insurance policy. Typically, if hackers attack your business’s network, that’s only the beginning of your problems. When cyber security threats compromise your website, you’ll have to shut down your online presence until security can be restored, which can take days. A specialized insurance policy will shield you from all of the lost business, data, and trust, ultimately saving you money.
Sensitive Data Training
At many organizations and institutions, entry-level employees take on large amounts security-related responsibility. While the majority of these employees likely do not intend to perform malicious actions, the reality is that many may do so unwittingly. When employees who are charged with data security don’t receive necessary training to show them how to handle information securely, unpleasant results can occur.
Instead of providing entry-level employees with only minimal training, make a point of establishing more elaborate protocols. Consider only allowing mid-level employees access to sensitive information. Require employees who deal with sensitive data to complete a series of training sessions that prove they know how to handle information discreetly. Perform regular checks to ensure that data is secure, and employees distribute it properly.
Given the increasing number of attacks on sensitive data, it’s likely that everyone will become the victim of hackers at some time. To best protect yourself, implement all of the above cyber security measures. Take on the individual methods yourself, and encourage the companies with which you do business to train their employees to the best of their ability. Only by combining methods can you prevent cyber security breaches from wreaking havoc in your online life.