The world has gone digital and in every opportunity has abandoned the old way of doing things in favour of a digital solution, communication, entertainment, travel, finances and the list goes on. Having all this data flying across the internet at high speeds has opened up new opportunities for businesses as well as hackers.
Cyber attacks have become quite the topic in recent years as more and more money is being spent and transferred via the internet. We now have a multi-billion Dollar online marketplace with serious holes that need plugging and we can only do this if consumers and businesses work together.
Secure your data
So what can you as a consumer do to ensure your private data is kept safe? We've put together a list of digital precautions everyone should take in order to secure their data.
How to protect your data from online scamming and phishing attacks
1. Use a strong & unique password
You must use a strong, unique alphanumeric password that is at least in the double-digits of characters for each account you have. If you cannot think of one you can use a password manager like LastPass, 1Password, or Dashlane to generate strong passwords for you.
Once you set strong and unique passwords for each account, it's not necessary to change them often. Many -- even government agencies themselves -- say it's bad advice to change your password often. Simply keep them stored as a hard copy somewhere in your home.
2. Secure your browser
Which is the most secure Web browser? Google Chrome? Mozilla Firefox? Microsoft’s Internet Explorer? Well, that all depends on how you use the internet and where you're willing to go. If you're someone who does online banking but also likes to look for free streaming and download sites you're probably going to have to go out of your way to make sure your browser has added protection.
Firstly make sure you have an up to date antivirus package installed on your device and make sure both your anti-virus and browser are updated with the latest software. If you're looking for added security you can download additional security plugins from your browsers plugin market/store.
3. Secure your instant messaging
Instant messaging has become such a part of our lives we don't often think of the security breaches can occur on these platforms and freely exchange sensitive information across platforms like Whatsapp. If you are going to communicate via platforms such as these ensure the platform has an end to end encrypted messaging options and have it switched on for your and the recipient's account.
4. Secure your mailbox
If there is one place you simply have to keep secure and vigilant about its use is your email box.
Check for viruses and malware
Run a scan on your computer with a trusted anti-virus software. If the scan detects any suspicious programs or applications, remove them immediately.
Update your account recovery options
Check that your account recovery options are set up and are up-to-date
Never use your Email Account password on another website
If you enter your password on an external website and it's compromised, someone could try to sign in to your email account and gain access to a whole host of your accounts and account information.
Set up spam filters
Make sure your mailbox has rules set for spam emails and ensure they are updated regularly to keep phishing emails and ransomware emails out of your mailbox. If you're unsure about an email do not open it, delete it immediately an rather contact the service provider directly with any queries
5. Use your cellular network over unsecured WiFi
Remember: If you ever use a public network, like a Wi-Fi hotspot in a coffee shop or anywhere else, be extremely careful. Treat this network as though every page you visit will be monitored -- which may expose your personal information, including your usernames and passwords.
If you need a secure network, you should use your phone's data -- such as 4G or LTE -- or use your phone as a hotspot for your computer. It's far better to use your phone's data plan for anything important than using insecure public Wi-Fi.
You can usually find your hotspot option in iPhone's settings or Android's notification tray.
6. Delete accounts you do not use
If you know you have an account that you never use, delete it. Holding onto these old accounts may expose you to greater hacks or intrusions down the line, even if you long forgot about them.
Log in and shut down the account. You can find out the best way to do this for each site by going to JustDeleteMe.
There is, however, an important caveat: some sites and services recycle accounts after a certain period of inactivity or after accounts are deleted. You should be especially mindful of email providers that recycle email addresses or accounts after a period of time.
Microsoft and Yahoo are good examples. If you delete your account, anyone can register for your email address after a grace period. If that account is still linked to other sites and services -- like your social networking account or two-factor authentication -- an attacker could log into those accounts by resetting your passwords sent to your old email address.
7. Don't secure passwords in the cloud
You should encrypt as much of your data wherever possible. To make life easier, some providers allow you to upload your encryption keys in case you get locked out of your account. Helpful, yes, but a huge risk to your privacy if leaked.
Windows lets you upload your BitLocker encryption key to the Microsoft cloud. To check to see you have already, go to your Microsoft account, log in, and check. Back up the key onto your computer and delete it from the webpage. You can then re-encrypt your device by following this guide.
Macs also offer the same option. Once you begin encrypting your Mac hard drive, you are given the option to upload your key to your iCloud. If you choose not to, you'll be given a recovery key which can you can keep safe, and your encryption key won't be uploaded to Apple's servers.
8. Secure everything with two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of protection to your accounts. Once you enter your password, you'll get a code sent to your phone to make sure it's you. For more on 2 factor authentication and how it works, you can read up about it in one our previous articles - Why You Should Use 2 Factor Authentication
Ensure you're safe and secure online
Follow these eight steps and make it part of your cyber security routine, while these may not be completely full proof they do add a necessary layer of complexity and security to keep hackers at arm's length.
In addition to your safety protocols above always remember never to accept communication verbatim or click on links without reading through all the content, checking the URLs you are sent to, and if you are unsure, ask questions or contact the institutions directly before you submit any of your personal details.
Don't make yourself a soft target this is basically an open invite to cyber fraudsters looking for an easy win.
Read up about how iTouch helps businesses secure their data in our latest case study: How iTouch Provides Cyber Security To Financial Institutions