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Cybersecurity tips for personal lives
Many of us follow cybersecurity rules carefully at work, changing our passwords regularly and being careful not to open unfamiliar emails. But what about our personal lives? If you’re guilty of using Pa55w0rd as your password, read our 10 tips to brush up on your cyber-security.
1. Ditch obvious passwords
Still using your own birthday, your kids’ names or mother’s maiden name as a password? That won’t cut it. A strong password contains a mixture of lowercase and uppercase letters, a number or two and symbols (excluding these ones: &%#@_.)
Almost two thirds of us admit to reusing the same password, according to a 2019 Google survey. Never use the same password in two places, and make sure you reset your password at least once a year.
Services like Have I Been Pwned let you check if your email address is implicated in any known leaks, while services such as Google’s Password Checkup will alert you when a password needs changing.
2. Use a password manager
For most of us, remembering more than a handful of complex passwords is a challenge too far. Password managers like LastPass, Dashlane or 1Password allow you to create super secure passwords, save them safely within the password manager, and log in to all your accounts using a single master password.
3. Set up two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication makes it harder for criminals to access your accounts, but as many as two in three of us haven’t turned it on. By requiring us to take a second step each time we sign into an account – for example, by receiving a phone call, generating a password in app or using a physical security key – we can massively increase our resilience to cyber attacks. Text messages are thought to be the least secure form of two-factor authentication, so choose alternatives when you have the option.
4. Backup your data
Ransomware attacks occur when criminals gain access to our data and hold it hostage for a price. If you regularly back up your data in a variety of secure locations – not just online, but using an external drive or other hardware – you can protect yourself from costly and distressing negotiations. Ransomware attacks often succeed when we fail to update our software, leaving unpatched vulnerabilities that criminals can exploit. Make sure you turn on automatic system updates for your devices, keep your web browser plugins up to date, and use a browser that runs automatic security updates.
5. Use Anti-Virus Protection & Firewall
Yes, you still need anti-virus protection (even if you have a Mac). Quality software is some of the strongest armour you can use to protect yourself from malicious attacks, including malware and other viruses.
Depending on the additional features you need, you might like to invest in paid anti-virus protection from a leading provider, but don’t let cost put you off. There are some excellent free packages available.
6. Learn about phishing scams
Phishing scams (when an attacker poses as someone or something else, to trick you into giving away your credentials or clicking a link that infects your device) have become more dangerous in recent years.
Think before you click. Avoid opening emails from unknown senders. Hover your cursor over a link to see where it redirects to. Treat your inbox with caution; be on the lookout for spelling and grammar errors, non-standard email addresses or generic messages that read like copy-paste attempts to impersonate a friend or colleague (“hi friend!”)
7.Protect your Personal Identifiable Information
Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is any information that an attacker could use to track you down or pretend to be you. PII includes information like your full name, address, phone numbers, date of birth or IP address. Review your privacy settings on social media accounts, especially Facebook, and make sure that valuable data like your home address or birth date are kept out of hackers’ reach.
8. Mobile devices matter
Mobile malware attacks are on the rise. Ensure your mobile passcode is unique and not easily guessable (that means no birthdays, and definitely no reusing the same pin across all your apps and bank cards). Update your device and apps regularly. Don’t send sensitive information over text or email – if you need to share your PII, try a phone call.
9. Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi
Free public wi-fi can be a lifesaver, but don’t let it ruin your cybersecurity. When it comes to public wi-fi networks, the advice is simple: just don’t do it. Unsecured public wi-fi networks are easily faked by criminals, who set up shop in places like hospitals, offices, train stations and shopping centres to catch people looking for a free connection. Use your mobile data, or a VPN (virtual private network) to stay safe.
10. Don’t leave your devices unattended
Cyber attacks may take place online, but your physical actions matter, too. Keep attacks at bay by never leaving your phone or laptop unlocked and unattended. As tempting as it is to keep a password reminder somewhere visible, such as on a post–it on your desk, it’s vital you don’t give attackers an easy way in. If the worst should happen, and your devices get lost or stolen, make sure you’ve set up a remote wipe service: keeping your data out of the hands of criminals will save you countless headaches.
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