As technology moves to dominate all forms of business, cybersecurity and data privacy have become necessities rather than suggestions for both company and personal matters.
Using tools such as reverse email lookup and multifactor authenticators is a great start to getting ahead of cyberattacks. However, there are many other things you can do when it comes to ensuring elevated protection of valuable digital information.
Increasing threats to our personal data
Don’t think you need to worry too much about cybercriminals? CNBC reported about 59.4 million Americans fell for phone scams in 2020. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received over 2.1 million fraud reports from consumers in the same year.
Over a third of these reports complained of losing money as a result of these cyberattacks, which is 11% more than the previous year. Cybercriminals do not discriminate when choosing targets. People face social engineering attacks regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.
The personal information gained from ransomware attacks, malicious code, and phishing is often sold to companies that can do a number of things. The least offensive of these is sending unwanted spam, but more often, victims of cyber attacks risk identity theft.
According to the FTC, this includes having your information misused to apply for a government document or benefit, such as unemployment insurance. Looking at those stats, do you want to look at more ways to up your cybersecurity precautions? This article offers the top ten ways to keep your data safe.
1. Be Careful of Phishing Emails
Social engineering is the psychological manipulation of a victim to gain access to their personal information. One example of this would be receiving an email from someone posing to be a trusted source trying to convince you to open an attachment or click on a strange link via email.
Pay attention to the return address when looking at emails. If you receive something from someone you don’t recognize, or if their email address is misspelt, it’s likely they are a cybercriminal. Hover over links before opening them to make sure the address matches the description within the email. Do not open attachments from people you don’t know.
A very useful tool you can use when screening emails is a reverse email lookup. There are many different platforms you can use. Enter the email address of the sender into the search bar to find more information about them. This way, you can confirm if the person writing to you is who they say they are.
2. Create and Update Strong Passwords
The importance of strong passwords is obvious. Once a password is known, one has access to an entire account. You can create a password with upper and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers but that serves no use if you’re not likely to remember it.
Sometimes length works just as well as complexity. Try using a phrase from your favourite TV show or movie that will be memorable for you but difficult for someone else to guess.
Not only is it important to create a strong password, and a different password for each account, but also to update these passwords regularly. If you change your password every 1-3 months, it’s much more difficult for hackers to access these accounts.
If you need help keeping track of your passwords, try downloading an app to serve that purpose. Do not write your passwords down and keep them near your computer.
3. Use Multifactor Authentication
Just like it sounds, a multifactor authentication is a tool used by popular platforms like Google and iPhone that requires someone to verify their identity in multiple ways before gaining access to personal information.
It’s important to create strong passwords and change them regularly, but using another authenticator will make it even more difficult for cybercriminals to hack into your accounts.
You can do this with calls or texts to your phone or messages to your email. These will ask you to confirm a login when trying to access private accounts from a new device.
4. Access Public Networks Through a VPN/Proxy
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is important whenever logging onto public WiFi. Without it, nearby hackers can track your online activity, even if it’s simply scrolling through social media while waiting for your flight at the airport.
The more time you spend on public WiFi, the more information strangers can gather about you to sell to the highest bidder. Your personal information can be sold to retailers, internet service providers, or the government. The list goes on and on.
If you must check accounts with highly sensitive information such as bank accounts, credit card balances, or work email, make sure to use a VPN to encrypt the data so cyber criminals can’t read the code.
5. Manage Privacy Settings On All Your Apps
Have you ever been unnerved to get an ad for spatulas after talking to a friend about a new recipe you wanted to try without searching for it via a search engine online? Unless you manage the privacy settings on each app you download onto devices like cell phones, this is likely to continue.
App creators use your microphone not only while you record cute cat videos but also to gain more information about you. Each time you download a new app, no matter what it is, check the privacy settings.
Check the security settings often because companies will frequently modify apps and security restrictions. If you set it and forget it, you might still be at risk of providing unwanted personal information to these apps to be used at your disadvantage later.
6. Be Open To Continuous Learning About New Cybersecurity Threats
Keep in mind that as you learn more about cybersecurity, criminals are doing everything they can to stay in business. It’s important to read about new potential threats on a regular basis. Visiting government and tech websites for the most current information and applying it to your daily life will help you stay ahead of online predators.
7. Backup Important Files and Other Data
File backup isn’t just for digital photos of family vacations you may or may not ever look at again. It’s important to back up any data you deem important to multiple locations on a regular basis.
This protects you from losing this information to an electrical storm, a broken device, or a platform that cuts off access. Set an alarm in your phone’s calendar every six months to a year as a reminder to update all of your important information.
8. Regularly Update Software
It can be annoying when you’re very comfortable with an app and suddenly everything changes after an update. However, programmers do this for good reason. Updating applications across devices ensures stronger security against bugs and hackers. It also ensures smoother operation on your device and keeps it from slowing down while running every day.
9. Be Suspicious of New Contacts
Victims of phishing fall for scams because cybercriminals put a lot of effort into looking like the real thing. Copying the formatting, language, and logos of well-known companies makes it difficult to spot phishing emails when they arrive in your inbox.
We mentioned using reverse email lookup when trying to identify the face behind a new email address. It’s crucial to understand who you are talking to before clicking on new links or downloading files.
If you’re not sure how to spot phishing, try using the online test Google released a few years ago. After responding to each question, the tool identifies all the signs of a suspicious email. Practising identifying social engineering scams will leave you much more confident when visiting your inbox.
10. Consider Downloading Strong Security Software/Hardware
Most modern computers come with antivirus protectors built-in. However, you may want to consider researching strong software additional protection. The New York Times suggests a free antivirus program such as Malwarebytes, that can identify malware that goes undetected by Windows Defender or by a Mac computer.
Cybercriminals are constantly on the hunt of finding new ways to separate everyday people from personal or valuable information. This private data is often sold to third-party companies and can lead to unwanted spam or identity theft. There are many ways to keep your data safe, many of which we’ve explored in this article.
However, the best way to protect personal information is by incorporating multiple or all of these methods. The more layers you have, the safer you’ll be from cybercriminals. Remember to stay in the loop so you secure both your data and your peace of mind!
About the author
Emily Andrews is the marketing communications specialist at RecordsFinder, an online public records search company.
Communications specialist by day and community volunteer at night, she believes in compassion and defending the defenceless.