Whether you own a small business, work for a large corporation, or simply keep digital records at home, your computer is a crucial place for storing data you need. Unfortunately, this information isn’t always safe from prying eyes, even tucked away inside your password-protected hard drive.
In fact, over the past five years, the number of reported security breaches has increased by a staggering 67 percent. With ransomware attacks occurring every 14 seconds in 2019 and doing billions of dollars worth of damage, it’s time to tighten security. Follow these cybersecurity tips to keep your computer safe and secure against the rising world of cybercrime in 2020.
Manage Your Passwords Wisely
Using a weak password is like handing your banking security information straight over to those trying to steal from you. Creating a strong, hard-to-crack password that’s memorable can be a challenge, but it’s quite possibly easier than you think. You don’t need a wild, random assortment of numbers, letters, and symbols to keep the hackers at bay - just a few tips:
- Use a password that you’ll remember, the more characters the more secure
- Don’t use predictable keyboard paths (such as “qwerty” or “12345”)
- Use a variety of character types, including at least one lowercase letter, one uppercase letter, a number and four symbols (excluding &%#@_)
Furthermore, you’ll never want to use a password anywhere twice, and you’ll want to change your passwords at least once per year. This can make keeping up with your passwords a huge challenge, which is why using a secure password manager may be something you wish to consider.
Take Advantage of Two-Factor or Multifactor Authentication Options
Sometimes, taking more steps to sign in to your account is the best thing for your security. Two-factor authentication is a service that adds an additional layer of protection to your account, giving you more direct control over access. This sign-in method requires additional information aside from just your username and password, ranging from a PIN number sent to your personal mobile device or registered email address, to a fingerprint authentication. Multifactor methods use this same approach, but require even more information than the two-step authentication.
Install Updates as Soon as Possible
Outdated and unsupported software poses a serious security threat, as it can be exploited by cybercriminals to gain access to information on your computer. Updates are designed to close off these avenues of access from unwanted third parties and keep your information safe. Installing updates as soon as they come out is the best way to lessen the likelihood of encountering an issue due to outdated software. Set your computer to update automatically, use automatic updates on your browser, and be sure to keep extensions, such as flash and java, fully up to date.
Use a Firewall and an Antivirus Program
Even if you keep all of your software up to date, there are plenty of threats that can attempt to wiggle through cyberspace and into your hard drive. Using a reliable anti-virus software in conjunction with a firewall is perhaps the most effective way to fight a wide range of malicious cyber threats. A firewall filters the activity coming into your system, stopping malicious software and hackers before they get in. Meanwhile, antivirus systems capture any threats that do make it through your firewall. The antivirus quarantines and then deletes any threats on your machine, keeping your information safe. It’s a combo that’s hard to beat as long as you’re using both resources smartly. A few other key points to consider:
- Only buy anti-virus software from trusted companies
- Only run one anti-virus software on your computer at a time
- Don’t turn off your firewall or antivirus software - if you need to allow a program through, set up an exception instead
Learn About Phishing Scams and How to Avoid Them
Phishing scams are so successful that people reported losing up to 30 million dollars to these crimes in a single year. This is because they can be hard to spot, especially for those who don’t know what to look for. In light of their success in recent years, these crimes are becoming more elaborate, and learning to identify them is more important than ever - especially since cybercriminals can now mimic the look and tone of emails from actual companies you’re familiar with. Here are some ways you can protect yourself:
- Never click on a suspicious link
- Do not open an email from a sender you do not know
- Always inspect emails - keep an eye out for spelling errors and blatant typos
- Continue to inspect links, even those sent by friends - they can be hacked too
Keep in mind that these threats don’t only come in the form of email, either. They can come as calls and flyers, and all of them are aimed at gathering your personal information for malicious purposes.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi hotspots are yet another space where cybercriminals reign supreme. These networks tend to be un-secure, and those with the know-how can view any information you’re dealing with while connected. If you must use public Wi-Fi, always use either a VPN or, if that’s not possible, use the data on your mobile device to access the information you need.
Keep Your Mobile Devices Secure
Just like computers, mobile devices have their vulnerabilities, and hackers are learning how to exploit those weaknesses with each passing day. However, using your device responsibly can keep it more secure. Here are some ways to do that:
- Use a secure password or PIN
- Install new updates ASAP
- Only use apps from trusted developers
- Keep personal information out of text messages
Catch Problems Early
If all of your security efforts come to naught, the best thing you can do is catch threats early on to mitigate further damage. This is precisely why you should always monitor your bank accounts and credit score for suspicious fluctuations. If your credit score suddenly takes a dip or there are unknown withdrawals from your account, it might mean you’ve been hacked, and your information has been sold online. You can freeze your credit, which makes it accessible only to you.
Backup Your Data
If the worst happens and your PC or device is compromised, you may need to wipe the system and start from scratch. This is where having a clean backup of your information comes in handy. Ideally, you should keep three copies of your data on two different sources (in local storage and a hard drive) and one in an off-site storage service, such as the Cloud. This ensures you always have access to your data and won’t suffer a complete loss in the event of a ransomware attack.
Cybersecurity is more important now than ever. To learn more tips on how to keep your personal data safe and identify threats, such as phishing and ransomware, contact Blackhawk Bank.