How to protect yourself from a cybersecurity threat

cyber security-548According to Security Magazine, globally, there is a hack attack every 39 seconds on average. It is important that businesses, families and individuals are aware of cybersecurity and you have in place some form of cybersecurity defence. There are many things you can do proactively for added protection.

Be vigilant. We often don’t realise the biggest threat to our cybersecurity health is, unintentionally, ourselves and those around us. To help mitigate this threat, train yourself to be wary of emails that claim to be from trusted companies or individuals but don’t appear to make sense (these are likely phishing attacks). Also, do not type username and password information into a website simply because it asks for it. This is the most common way your computer could get breached. Odds are, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. When in doubt, proceed with caution.

Practice safe web behaviour. Do not type sensitive information into websites without an “https” prefix included as part of the URL. Always use strong passwords that are at least eight characters or longer and include a mixture of symbols, letters and numbers. As a rule of thumb, if your password is in the dictionary, it is likely not strong enough. Also, be sure to never use the same password across multiple websites.

Beware of ransomware. When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s not just about privacy, but also access. Sometimes, instead of stealing your data, hackers will encrypt your computer and hold it for ransom until they are paid. Nowadays, it is fairly simple for hackers to conduct clandestine, international transactions, especially with anonymous digital currencies such as bitcoin. With this in mind, your backup strategy is almost just as important as your cybersecurity strategy. On a recurring basis, practice backing up your data and then re-uploading it back into your system. If you have a strong backup strategy, you can make yourself immune to ransomware attacks.

Avoid using obscure, free software downloads and file-sharing utilities. This is frequently how hacking activities start and spread. Free video conversion utilities are especially common and should not be downloaded unless they have been purchased from a trustworthy source. A downloaded virus could spread across multiple devices due to syncing between them.

Heed warnings. If you are using a browser and get an error message noting an invalid web certificate, you should never continue. Websites can get hijacked, and the only way to know if the website you are looking at is actually the one you were looking for, is if there is a valid certificate. For example, hackers can screenshot what the Gmail login page looks like and fool you into thinking you’ve landed on that page, even though they’ve redirected you to their site. When a website masquerades as another website, it is called a “man-in-the-middle attack”, and it should be avoided at all costs.

In conclusion, if you suspect that you’ve been hacked or your data has been stolen, act quickly. Seek advice from a competent IT professional so you do not infect devices of others you communicate with.