The internet is both a blessing and curse in the way it provides innovative methods to refine everyday activities. It can expose sensitive information in a centralized location. Cybersecurity, the act of protecting computer systems and personal data, is a relatively new and developing industry. It protects internet users against the illegal access of critical systems and private information stored there. It also authorizes you to securely use sensitive data online.
Cybersecurity is often overlooked as it can be an overwhelming subject seemingly in a foreign language that can be deciphered with this glossary by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies.
The onsight of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many businesses in levels of productivity and overall workflow. As companies move towards hybrid schedules allowing their personnel to work-from-home, there is an urgent need to maintain literacy and awareness in cybersecurity trends. Cybercriminals defraud many people, but also there is a major shift in focus towards small businesses. E-commerce and online payments are powerful tools when established with lines of defense against hackers. Adding protection protocols to your personal identity and business network can save you from the arduous process of reporting and recovering your stolen property.
Now, what does all of this mean for your data protection?
The internet was not originally intended for public use, but rather a secure way for the military to communicate. No one could have foreseen the outcome of the internet’s commercialization. The mobility of the internet provides flexibility and freedom, but at the potential risk of data breaches.
Before you delete all your devices and go off-the-grid, though, check out our best practices in cybersecurity for managing your personal and professional data.
Keep your personal data to yourself
This seems obvious, but your personal data is extremely sensitive and corruptible so don’t share it to prevent account takeover schemes. Recovering it after a breach is a frustrating process. To avoid such inconveniences, make sure anyone (business, person, or website) that you give access to is a familiar and secure source. Never have data like passwords or debit card numbers easily accessible in a congregated location like iPhone notes. Rather, password management applications store all login credentials in an encrypted, secure format with warnings for any data leaks.
Get creative with passwords
Having a diverse set of passwords is essential to protecting different types of data. Hackers rely on the fact that individuals reuse passwords so through the use of bots, they can determine that password from a less sensitive site to access more sensitive website information in a process called account takeover (ATO). Using long, non-chronological passwords with uncommonly used symbols and impersonal phrases can strengthen your password defense against random bots. Even if a password is strong, it is essential to change them periodically. While this may seem like a headache, changing your passwords quarterly saves you from the trouble of recovering your identity and assets later, which is much more difficult.
Setup multi-factor authentication to secure logins
Many sensitive password portals also require multi-factor authentication (MFA) which makes sure that if a password is compromised, your account is still protected. A code will be requested which is supplied as a push notification, text message, email, or phone call to confirm you are the one logging in. Make sure to set this up so you can receive alerts for any suspicious activities. With a variety of applications available, having at least one ensures that when a hacker is attacking your data, you get notified as quick as a text message.
Install security software (and don’t forget to enable your operating system’s firewall!)
There are so many resources available to protect your hardware and cloud to maintain the purity of your data. These softwares will alert you of any suspicious activity. Also, it is essential that you update these security measures periodically. While most operating systems like Mac OS X and Windows 10 have a basic firewall, hackers are getting more refined and the data is so sensitive you must instate more than one line of defense.
Know where you’re surfing
When accessing different websites and applications, verify the legitimacy and safety of the source that security software warns against accessing. Some best practices include indicators from web browsers that identify the legitimacy of a site as well as using https sites rather than http, but even these practices are not foolproof. Many phishing websites and emails have extremely similar domains and data available which can allow malware to access your personal data. Most businesses and government services that do need access to your sensitive information will request your information in a more sophisticated manner than an email, call, or text. Just like they are asking to verify who you are, verify who they are before giving any sensitive information.
Work remotely using a virtual private network (VPN)
Use an encrypted connection when accessing sensitive information to ensure safe transmission of data. VPNs work over public networks by extending the private network to allow access to resources otherwise not available. This is essential for work-from-home employees in the pandemic era.
Take the time to backup your work
While there are many lines of protection you can implement, there is always the risk of a sophisticated attack so make sure your files are available elsewhere. For more sensitive data, make sure to encrypt files. Backups should take place regularly to restore the most updated information.
Over half the world’s population is online in some capacity today. The internet is not an entirely evil place, as its globalization has enabled many developing nations to boost their educational resources and standards. We have seen proactive movements for social justice and humanitarian causes. It also promotes small businesses to maximize outreach to a much larger client base and optimize sales as well as brand awareness. By taking these few steps, you can take advantage of all the positive aspects of the internet without falling victim to cybersecurity attacks.