Cyber threats are constantly increasing, so we must remain diligent in protecting our data and online resources. I have worked in Information technology since the 1980s, and I have seen many problems that could have been avoided, especially within the last ten years. People tend not to think about data security or the integrity of their systems until something goes wrong.
I recall an old Fram oil slogan, “You can pay me now, or pay me later,” decades ago. Unfortunately, many computer users and business owners neglect to do the small things now that could save them a lot of headaches and money later. For example, it’s better to practice cybersecurity now than to neglect it and lose data, time, and money later.
Are you doing what is necessary to protect yourself from cyber threats? This article will highlight some essential steps to practice effective cybersecurity.
One of the essential steps to protect your digital resources is maintaining a strong password. Passwords should be hard for someone to guess but easy for you to remember. Better yet. You can simply use a password manager and not worry about remembering many strong passwords. I highly recommend using a password manager. Check out my article on the Last Pass password manager at www.rpcr.com/about-lastpass.
Don’t use passwords with identifying words in them, e.g., your children’s name, dog’s name, birthdate, etc. That information can be obtained through phishing and a survey of your data on the web. Someone can then attempt to guess your passwords with that information. So use cryptic passwords.
Consider using passphrases instead of a simple word as your password. For example, your password could be something like [email protected]!. However, a passphrase might be something like [email protected]!. That cryptic password could be a coded sentence about something you did in the past. Again, it is far better to use a password manager than to try to remember many passphrases.
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Two-factor authentication (2FA), sometimes called Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), effectively protects your online resources even if the sign-in credentials are compromised. When 2FA is enabled, and you sign in to an account, you will be required to enter a code sent to you via a text message. That proves that it is you attempting to sign in to your account.
2FA can also be implemented using an authentication app, e.g., Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator. Some apps prompt you to approve the sign-in instead of entering a code. I highly recommend enabling 2FA on at least your critical online accounts (e.g., banking, email, and online stores).
Two-factor authentication requires using your mobile phone or access to your email, depending on how the authenticator is implemented. Therefore, keep your phone with you because you won’t gain access to your own accounts protected by 2FA without it.
Don’t neglect the security of your email account. Hackers constantly probe email systems attempting to gain access to accounts. Once unauthorized access is achieved, the hacker can send emails using your account or read your personal or company emails at will. They can even lock you out of your own account. Therefore, enable 2FA on your email accounts if possible and ensure you use strong passwords.
Do not click links in unsolicited emails. Go to the resource directly instead of clicking on links for emails that appear to come from a company you are familiar with. For example, instead of clicking on a link in an email appearing to come from your bank, open your web browser and manually sign in to your banking account.
It is safer to manually sign in to an online account than to click a link in an email to do the same thing. The email and the site the link takes you to may appear identical to what you are used to seeing from that company, e.g., your bank. However, hackers have made their site look like your bank’s site to trick you into entering your credentials.
Computer System Security
How secure is your computer system? Is a password required to sign in to your computer, e.g., Windows? Each person using a computer should have their own profile/account and their own sign-in credentials. Never share your account credentials with anyone.
Ensure that your computer’s operating system is regularly updated. For example, Microsoft releases security updates in the second week of each month. Those updates include fixes for various issues and discovered vulnerabilities.
Keep your antivirus or internet security software up to date. As new vulnerabilities and malware are introduced, the internet security software must keep up to protect you against those. The effectiveness of your internet security software is directly affected by its updated state.
Therefore, you should ensure that the subscription for your malware protection software remains current. You probably will not continue to get regular updates if the subscription expires.
Also, keep your applications current as well. Software companies typically release updates to their software, including bug fixes and security enhancements.
Training is one of the most neglected parts of cyber security from my experiences. The more aware you are of cyber threats, the more you can protect yourself. Be mindful of how cybercriminals phish for personal or sensitive information and take steps to protect yourself. Make an effort to learn about cyber security.
Some companies have yearly cybersecurity training for their staff. Consider that everyone in the organization could be affected if one user’s ignorance or neglect allows the malware to infect or a hacker to access your system. These days, cybersecurity training is a must.
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