While some cybersecurity threats are out of our hands as individual internet users, there are some steps we can all take to boost our safety online. As the New Year approaches, many of us are considering how we might like to change certain aspects of our lives, and our online existence shouldn’t be overlooked.
Cyber threats like crypto jacking, phishing, ransomware, and many others are likely to increase and evolve throughout 2023, so get cracking on your cybersecurity New Year’s resolutions before it’s too late.
7 New Year’s Resolutions to Boost your Cyber Security
We all know how difficult it can be to stick to a New Year’s resolution so, as with anything else in your life, don’t set yourself unrealistic goals in the cybersecurity department. Take it one step at a time and, before you know it, you’ll be accessing the internet with a level of stealth and confidentiality comparable with a leading underground detective.
If you apply just one of these seven resolutions every day from the 1st January, in a week’s time, you’ll have everything sewn up. None of these resolutions takes a great deal of time, they just take a certain degree of commitment and dedication, so try the first and then see how you go. Remember, airtight security in cyberspace could save you a lot more than just money!
1. Update Your Passwords
Ok, so in this day in age, not even the most technophobic internet user is still using their dog’s name as a password… are they? Actually, according to SplashData, obvious and insecure passwords like ‘123456’ and ‘password’ are still popular, despite the fact that a SplashData survey also revealed that 80% of participants felt that cybersecurity was very important. Knowing its important is one thing, but doing something about it is quite another.
Passwords that are too obvious make it easy for hackers to access your personal data, which could result in blackmail or identity theft, to name just two potential cyber threats. Changing your passwords frequently and resisting the urge to use the same one on numerous sites can improve your online safety in leaps and bounds. Having said that, constantly coming up with new password ideas, and then remembering them, can be something of a nightmare which is why millions of people are turning to password management tools to help keep track of and generate strong passwords that are capable of frustrating cybercriminals at every turn.
There are many different free password management tools to choose from, including Last Pass, which offers an easy to use service that utilizes a system of two-factor authentication, ensuring your passwords remain secure and virtually impervious to cyber attacks.
2. Stop Over-Sharing
Many people treat social media sites as though they’re actually whispering in their best friend’s ear. Over the past week alone, I’ve seen friends post photographs of their credit cards and publish their new cell phone number on Facebook, seemingly unaware of the possible negative consequences of sharing such intimate details with the virtual world.
Facebook and Twitter are not secure forums so thinking before you post is essential for your own privacy and safety. Not only do you want to keep yourself safe from potential cyber and real-life crimes, but you also want to protect your reputation. Many employers, universities, and training facilities will check your social media profiles before even considering you for the position, so if you’re in the habit of sharing images of yourself falling over drunk or details of your extramarital affair, it’s not going to stand you in good stead careerwise.
Although posting images of your social life may not expose you to cybercrime, posting photos of your bank card most definitely will. This may sound obvious, but, a Twitter account named @NeedADebitCard managed to gain over 5,000 followers in just over a month. The account names and shames those who post images of their debit or credit cards on Twitter.
To keep you and your family safe, think before you post, considering whether the whole world really needs to know that you just cut up your bank card or that you made out with the boss at your office Christmas party.
3. Restrict Yourself to Secure Websites
While some aspects of cybersecurity do require a degree in computer science, establishing whether or not a site is secure is something a young child or parrot could master. You know when you look at the site address at the top of the screen? Well, if it only says HTTP at the beginning, you shouldn’t be there. If it says https, it means your safe. Simple, hey?
The only problem is, by the time you’ve seen the address, you’ve already entered the website which means any traffic flowing between yourself and the website can be intercepted and modified. While this isn’t the end of the world if you’re simply looking up a recipe for roast turkey, if you’re on a bank or online shopping site, it could mean serious financial loss.
If you want to make sure you never accidentally visit an insecure site, you can add certain extensions to your browser that will limit all your activity to https sites. HTTPS Everywhere is free and easy to activate regardless of whether you’re using Chrome, Opera or Firefox.
4. Stay Updated
Updating your software can be annoying, especially when the update notification pops up while you’re in the middle of an online shopping transaction, but not managing your software updates appropriately could result in much worse consequences, like identity theft and malware infections.
Outdated software makes your device more vulnerable to hackers as the updates are designed to deal with bugs and holes in the coding that allow cybercriminals access to your software, device, and files.
Unfortunately, many of us like the comfort zone offered by the software we’re familiar with and, like an old college sweatshirt, we prefer to hold on to what we know rather than go through the uncomfortable learning curve required with change. However, as familiar as you are with that old version of Microsoft, hackers are more so, meaning they know their way around its security measures and know exactly which buttons to push to infect your device with malware.
To keep abreast of all the latest updates, check your device’s settings and activate automatic updates or download a reputable software update client, like SUMo, to check and manage your updates for you.
5. Back Up, Not Down
While it may be hard to believe that anyone might be interested in your vacation snapshots or daughter’s homework, you would be heartbroken if they disappeared, so implementing some kind of regular back-up is essential, unless you don’t mind losing all your son’s baby pictures, that is.
Many of us keep personal financial information on our laptops or PCs, making us even more vulnerable to theft. It’s not only cyber attacks that endanger our personal files – but mother nature can also wreak havoc. An electrical storm can cause extensive damage to your hard drive, making it difficult and expensive to retrieve lost or corrupted files.
By regularly backing up your files either to an external hard drive or cloud storage, you can safeguard your important documents against potential threats. To give yourself even greater security, we recommend creating multiple copies of your files and storing them in a variety of different digital and physical locations.
6. Take Extra Care with Emails
While it’s not a bad thing to be a trusting person, the modern world is full of dangers and some level of cynicism is necessary for your own protection, especially when it comes to emails.
Not only can emails contain malicious attachments that endanger you and everyone in your contact list, but a weak password for your email account could also give someone access to your personal information and leave you exposed to identity theft.
Phishing scams, spam emails, and the likes are both annoying and dangerous and while we can use our common sense to avoid the threats, there are other ways to create a safer environment, such as using an encrypted email account. Protonmail and Startmail both offer free encrypted email services that can prevent spam and phishing attacks while also shielding you from unwanted surveillance.
7. Use a VPN
For complete and comprehensive security, a Virtual Private Network is practically unbeatable. Not only does a VPN create a secure tunnel through which all your traffic is diverted, but it also encrypts that data so that, even if it is intercepted, it won’t make much sense. Just as a firewall helps to protect the data on your device, a VPN protects it online.
Given how many times a year each of us performs online transactions or banking processes, a service like that offered by ExpressVPN isn’t just affordable – it could save you thousands of dollars. While not all VPN providers are reliable, ExpressVPN is a leading light in the field, promoting transparency and trust within the cybersecurity realm.
Not only can a VPN give you the freedom to browse anonymously and perform online banking transactions in a secure environment, but it can also give you access to restricted websites. A VPN works by creating a fake IP address to replace your own so that no one can identify your geographical location. As a result, you can access all sorts of content that is geographically restricted. For example, if you’re on a business trip to South Africa, ExpressVPN enables you to connect to a US server so you can continue to access the full Netflix library.
A VPN is only as good as its no-logging and privacy policies, so looking for recommendations is vital if you want an affordable service you can rely on.
Make sure you make cybersecurity one of your priorities for 2023 and stay one step ahead of cybercrime with the tips listed above. Getting your internet security sorted doesn’t have to cost a fortune in either time nor money, but ignoring it is liable to cost you plenty of both.
Rather than resting on your laurels or setting yourself unachievable targets like losing 100 pounds in three months, focus on the things you can change and that will make a positive impact on your life – like cybersecurity.