Not a week goes by without reading about the latest cyber attack on a large multinational corporation, and these are just the ones that make the press. What’s less covered, but is certainly felt closer to home, are attacks aimed at individuals to steal information or to hold them ransom by locking them out of their data. Unfortunately, these ransomware attacks are on the rise after a 30% increase in the first quarter of 2016 from the previous quarter. To avoid falling victim, it’s important to ensure you’re not making it easy for a malicious hacker. Here are some useful tips to help keep your digital life secure.
First, the majority of your personal information usually lies in your email account. People accumulate a great deal of private and often sensitive information in their emails, so it’s imperative that your account is secure. Moreover, every time you reset a password or if you create a new account on a website, all the information is sent to your email address. Imagine the goldmine a hacker would find if he hacked into your email account (you’ll remember the huge Gmail and Yahoo! hacks that occurred in Russia earlier this year). This is why 2-factor authentication has become increasingly available. It consists of using another form of identification in addition to your password such as a random code sent to your smartphone or a key fob which changes every minute or so. To gain access, a user has to input the code at the time he or she wants to log in. Whilst not the most user friendly, it definitely provides you with a higher level of security.
A common mistake is to use the same password for all your online services. But how can you remember them all? One useful tip is to use layers of passwords. For example, you could categorize the various websites you access into different levels of sensitivity based on the personal information in them and the value of that service to you. For those with just basic information such as a newsletter subscription or a blog, choose a password that’s different from the one you use for sites with more personal data like your social media sites. It’s also important to ensure the passwords you use for these layers of websites are different than the one you use for your e-banking or main e-mail account for instance. To further enhance password security for each of these layers, ensure that you have a formula that you can use that makes each password unique (e.g., use the first four letters of the website or company in each password). If your password is leaked or compromised, it will only limit the damage to that one website.
Should a hacker successfully gain access to one of your online accounts, the first thing they may try to do is change the password in order to lock you out and allow them full control. It’s therefore good practice to change the method of authentication for changing passwords. Your phone number is a more secure way to receive reset passwords or to confirm online orders, in case your email has been compromised.
Free public Wi-Fi networks are everywhere now and often people don’t think twice before connecting while at a coffee shop or the airport. However, areas with public access to the internet can be dangerous as many are completely unsecured. Tools costing less than US$50 dollars allow hackers to monitor such traffic. Also, be careful with “honeypots”, fake Wi-Fi access points that are set-up and may look real at first glance (e.g., a free “Starbucks” Wi-Fi set-up by hackers), which allow a hacker to access your personal information.
Also, be careful when downloading any app or piece of software. Many fake apps will look like legitimate apps but will require access to a number of features of your smartphone which provide them access to your personal information. Stay vigilant.
It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with local law enforcement agencies who can help if a hack does occur, such as police cyber units. However, prevention is the name of the game, as dealing with the aftermath of a personal breach can be extremely painful, time-consuming and very costly. Make sure you implement these basic tips to increase your personal digital security and minimize the risk of being attacked.
Digital Security Perfected – APrivacy Ltd. is an award-winning company which combines military-grade data security with a seamless user experience on any platform, any device, anywhere. APrivacy Ltd.’s enabling technology now allows the financial services industry to confidently communicate with clients using their favourite channels leading to increased revenues and reduced costs while meeting the strictest regulatory requirements.