Back in 2020, we posted an article on the importance of understanding Cybercrime and how to protect yourself and your family from harm. While cybercrime is nothing new these days, fast forward to 2022 where the world would change in ways no one could have imagined.
Between today’s economic challenges, political battles and a worldwide pandemic, everyone has had to learn how to navigate our new global landscape. Unfortunately, one of the difficulties we face today is that these issues have fueled a widespread cybercriminal assault on the world. Now it has become a concern for everyone, no matter who you are.
People who work in the various technology fields (communications, Internet, telco, etc.) will tell you cybercriminals NEVER take a day off. It is a 24/7 global epidemic and it is continuing to spread like wildfire around the world. Therefore, it is imperative to stay ahead of the game as much as possible – that means learning how to think like (and hopefully outsmart) the criminal before they get a foothold onto your information or worse, your money and identity. It can be a daunting task to stay ahead of the curve, but it’s not impossible if you take the right precautionary measures.
Please check out our Top 5 Suggested Steps for Staying Secure and Safe:
Step 1: Keep Your Information & Technology Devices Up to Date:
According to Aria Cybersecurity Solutions, 2020 would yield a 51% increase in cyberattacks, compared to the same period in 2019. By Q2, 2020, it was already considered to the “the worst year on record,” and that is saying a lot. Companies like Microsoft, Twitter, Nintendo, Zoom and MGM experienced widespread cyberattacks, and when you think about the amount of time, money and effort put into security, it can become overwhelming to comprehend.
According to this article from Forbes.com, cybercriminals can now penetrate 93 percent of company networks. Since 2021, businesses have suffered 50% more attacks each week. These are ALARMING statistics and the numbers continue to rise with each passing day!
So how do you protect yourself and your loved ones? By actually taking the steps you already hear so much about. It is imperative if you wish to protect your identity and your financial house.
First and foremost, keeping your computer and device software up to date is critical. Operating systems (OS) and hardware updates can protect you and all of the technology you use against harm. If you are not tech savvy or you are away from your computer frequently, you can turn on automatic updates, which can reduce risk. Ask your I.T. professional for assistance beforehand, if possible.
One of the best protection software applications for your PC is Microsoft Defender Antivirus. It is a free installation and is one of the safest programs available. Mac systems have a built-in software of their own, which works very well. To date, Mac systems are hacked far less than PC based systems.
Step 2: Use Strong, Complex Passwords!
We can’t emphasize this enough. If you are currently using passwords like “admin” or “123456” or “password,” or the first name of your child or pet, just stop doing that right now – this instant! Hackers can crack those easy passwords in virtually SECONDS, so be sure to choose passwords that are at least 10 to 15 characters long. Add alphanumerics to the sequence – that means numbers, punctuation and/or symbols for complexity.
Also, make sure to change any default passwords preset by manufacturer. For example, Wi-Fi routers or home security devices are all factory pre-set, so those passwords should be changed immediately.
It’s also a good idea to create a password management list for yourself. You can create one in Microsoft Word, Excel, or your own favorite document program and save it in an encrypted file on your computer. There are also password management services available, but be sure to investigate them before signing up. Some of them have also been breached by hackers, so it’s better to keep your own records if possible.
Step 3: Enable Multi-step Verification Whenever Possible:
In many situations, websites are requiring users to not only provide a strong password but also an additional, separate code from an app, text message or email message when logging in. It is an extra step, and it’s not perfect, but it does work and it makes it much harder for hackers to break into your accounts. This is especially important for critical logins such as bank and credit card accounts. You might also consider getting a physical digital key that can connect with your computer or smartphone as an even more advanced level of protection, if need be.
Step 4: Back Up & Encrypt Your Most Important Data:
Did you know? You can encrypt the data that’s stored on your smartphone and computer! Most computer files can simply be right-mouse clicked and then the pop-down menu “encrypt” will be available to you for easy selection. And today, most cell phones have something known as a SSE Universal Encryption app on them. Simply activate the app and follow the directions. If hackers try to access your files such as your address book or maybe financial information, all they will get is gibberish. If you require more assistance with this feature contact your I.T. expert or your cell phone provider for assistance.
For data that’s crucial, like medical information, or irreplaceable, like family photos, it’s important to keep copies. These backups should ideally be duplicated as well, with one stored locally on an external hard drive only periodically connected to your primary computer, and one remote, such as in a cloud storage system or a separate computer.
Step 5: Avoid the Hidden Dangers of Public Wi-Fi:
Here is another red flag scenario… You love going to Starbucks in the morning and you love popping on their wi-fi to check your mail, pop onto social media, or maybe messaging your phone contacts. When using public Wi-Fi, anyone nearby who is connected to the same network (who is tech savvy) can “listen in” on what your computer or device is doing – whether it’s sending and receiving across the internet. It happens every single day and it can happen to you!
The good news is you can use free encryption browsers like Tor, Epic, SRWare Iron, or Comodo Dragon to encrypt your traffic and camouflage what you’re doing online. These were built specifically for public internet file transfer protection.Search engines like DuckDuckGo do not track users or their searches on computers, phones or tablets, and firewall software built into both Windows and Mac OS can help stop viruses and worms from making their way into your systems.
You can also use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt all your internet traffic, in addition to what goes through your browser. Free and paid VPN options are available. Examples of VPNs are apps such as iTunes, Netflix, Spotify and others, which have built-in protections, making it harder for hackers to crack. For phone protection, stop by your local cell phone center and ask for security assistance. This is a free service they offer customers.
To protect yourself against data breaches at places where your information is stored, you should consider freezing your credit, which blocks anyone from applying for credit in your name without your personal permission. Bureaus such as Experian and companies like LifeLock offer these services. If you have already been a victim of fraud or identity theft, it is a good idea to keep a fraud alert service connected to your credit profile.
Be sure to read this Forbes from August of 2021 article entitled, “15 Smart Ways Consumers can Protect Themselves Against Cybercrime.”
Unfortunately, no person, organization, device, or computer can ever be 100% secure. There is always someone out there who can break into even the most protected systems. But by taking these steps, you can make it less likely that you will become their next victim.
In conclusion, be aware of the technology around you, and be proactive in protecting yourself and your loved ones against harm. Don’t be afraid to question anything – in fact today, you MUST question everything. Investigate anything that just seems or feels weird or that you do not understand.
One of the best places you can turn to for cybersecurity advice is your bank. They know a thing or two about protection and offer a list of guidelines you can follow.
Still not sure how to protect yourself against theft? Make phone calls, connect with friends or loved ones who are tech savvy or hire a technology helper to assist you. There is always someone who is legitimately happy to help.
Have questions about this article? Contact us for more info.