Another day, another news story on a large data breach. At least that’s how it feels! Over the past several years, online hackers have breached major film producers, some of the largest retailers in the country, and even the White House. In 2014, “a gang of Russian hackers made off with a cache of 1.2 billion username/password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses.” (Forbes.com). That breach was “the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials” according to The New York Times.
The good news is there are several precautions you can take to help protect your data from hackers. Explore the 10 tips below to better guard your data today.
Frequently Update Your Software Systems
“Update your OS and other software frequently, if not automatically. This keeps hackers from accessing your computer through vulnerabilities in outdated programs. For extra protection, enable Microsoft product updates so that the Office Suite will be updated at the same time. Consider retiring particularly susceptible software such as Java or Flash.” (blog.malwarebytes.com)
Avoid Using Free Wi-Fi
“An increasing number of public places now offer free wireless access to the Internet. Often, a user does not need a password to connect to these wireless networks. These services might be useful, but they’re also an easy way for hackers to access everything on your device. Unless you really need it, it is best not to use it.” (learningenglish.voanews.com)
Change Your Passwords Often
“It's bad practice to use the same process across different logins, especially ones that have access to sensitive information like banking credentials.
You should be using a different password for every login you have. Unless you have an impressive memory, you'll probably want to use a password manager to help you keep track. 1Password is the best app for the job.” (www.techinsider.io)
Carefully Consider the Information You Share Online
“…Remember that oversharing can help criminals craft effective spear phishing emails. Share with care. Furthermore, consider your reputation and the reputation of others when sharing online. Problematic social-media posts may harm your personal life or career or those of others. (www.inc.com)
Check If You’ve Been Hacked
“If you're worried that you might have been hacked or had any of your personal details compromised, it would be wise to change your usernames and passwords immediately. Before coming up with a string of new keys, though, you can use a service such as Have I Been Pwned to find out if you have an account that has been compromised in a data breach. Enter an email address or username into the search bar and it will tell you if you've been a victim.” (www.telegraph.co.uk/technology)
Utilize Two-Factor Authentication
“Two-factor authentication acts as stop-gap when a new device tries to log into a service or site. For example, with Twitter’s two-factor authentication feature enabled, when you try to log into your account with a new device, it sends you a text message with a temporary password. In other words, you can’t log into an account without your phone and the temporary password sent to that phone.
You’ll be alerted when someone is trying to get into your account even if they have your password. Apple, Twitter, Dropbox, Microsoft and Google all use two-factor authentication. Set these up for extra security.” (thenextweb.com)
Use a VPN When Browsing
“No matter whose network you’re using to go online, if you want to maximize your privacy, making it much more difficult for others to monitor your online behavior, using a VPN (virtual private network) has become a viable option even for casual web users. Normally, when you connect to a network, your computer communicates directly with the Internet, broadcasting a unique IP address that identifies that computer along with its physical location as “yours.” This communication is often unencrypted so that anyone logging that traffic (like your ISP) can know every site you visit and what you do while you’re there.
In a nutshell, using a VPN service interrupts this direct connection by using a server that acts as a middleman between your computer and the Internet. All of the communication between your computer and the VPN server is encrypted so that even if someone does intercept it, significant effort would be needed to actually make any sense of it.” (www.forbes.com)
Use Caution When Linking Multiple Accounts Online
“If you want to comment on an article and you’re prompted to sign in with Twitter or Facebook, do not go behind the ‘door.’ Convenience always lessens your security posture… Linking accounts allows services to acquire a staggering amount of personal information.” (blog.malwarebytes.com)
Understand the Ricks of Thumb Drives
“Thumb drives, also known as flash drives, are small and easy storage devices to use across different computers. They are a popular device that people use to exchange files and documents, however, they can also spread viruses easily across computers and networks.” Also have a solid understanding of the types of information you’re downloading to your thumb drive when sharing content with others. (learningenglish.voanews.com)
Use Security Questions Wisely
“At some point, (security questions) made sense. Probably before social networks had us sharing all our personal information with friends, family and then eventually the world. Now security questions like “What’s your mom’s maiden name?” and “What’s the name of your favorite movie?” are easy to answer by anyone that knows how to use Google, since we’ve shared most of that information online. Instead of answering truthfully, come up with unique answers that make zero sense in context. For example: “What’s your favorite food?” could be answered with Buster Table. Make sure it’s something memorable that has nothing to do with the actual question.” (thenextweb.com)