According to a 2015 Juniper Research report, the cost of data breaches is estimated to reach $2 Trillion by 2019, almost four times that of 2015 – and those numbers don’t even include ransomware, Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, or any of the myriad other cyber crimes inflicted on individuals and businesses.
Some security experts suggest that it’s just a matter of time before you or your company will be attacked, so here are some simple security practices to employ as a first line of defense in order to mitigate your risk of being attacked, and your exposure if hacked.
1. Choose Strong Passwords
The use of passwords provides a first line of defense and should be taken seriously. Use letters, numbers, and special characters to create a mental image or an acronym that is easy for you to remember. Create a different password for each important account, and change passwords regularly.
- Don’t make it personal: Passwords shouldn’t be words from the dictionary, spouses’ names, birthdays, Social Security numbers, things that people think are clever because they won’t have to write them Once a thief gets that fundamental information, it’s easier to figure out personal passwords.
- Don’t recycle: A lot of people will end up reusing a lot of the same username and password combinations, so oftentimes a hacker will gather in that information and use it successfully on other sites.
2. Use Email Carefully
Ignore unsolicited emails, and be wary of attachments, links and forms in emails that come from people you don’t know. Never provide your password or other personal information via e-mail; no legitimate organization would ever request your password via e-mail.
Be on the watch for phishing scams, and validate any email requests for money transfers, checks, etc., even if the email appears to be from a company employee. Criminals are getting more sophisticated with “spoofing” email addresses, so if something doesn’t seem right, be sure to confirm.
3. Control Physical Access to Your Machine
Don’t leave your computer in an unsecured area, or unattended and logged on, especially where others might have access to it. This includes in your own office if clients, vendors, or even other employees can gain easy access to your computer. Even if you have a closed office, you might consider locking your computer up at night or taking your laptop with you when you leave (if you have one).
4. Make Regular Backups
It’s a good idea to make periodic backups of important files and data from your hard drive, especially if this data is essential to business functions. In the event that your computer is attacked, frequent backups will help ensure that you don’t lose valuable work or data. If you back up to a flash drive or other portable device, do not leave that device connected to your computer, and be sure to secure that device when not in use.
5. Avoid public Internet connections.
Never log on to a Wi-Fi connection that you don’t know. It’s not even recommended to log on to any public Wi-Fi due to the ease in which a hacker can spoof an SSID. Although using a VPN can mitigate some risk, you’re safer using your cell phone as a private hot spot rather than using an open Wi-Fi connection. Yes, it might cost you more for the data usage, but it’s much cheaper than paying ransom to get your data back after a breach.
6. Employ Antivirus / Antispyware
You should have some type of trusted antivirus software on every device. Be sure to keep your antivirus/antispyware software up to date. Missing even one update might be the difference between protecting your data and falling prey to an attack.
7. Be Wary Of Shareware / Freeware / App Downloads
Be very careful when downloading applications to your computer, phone, tablet, or any device. Research the software and the company to validate the safety, and don’t download if you have any concerns. This is one of the easiest and most prominent ways that hackers gain access to devices.
8. Watch Your Phones And Tablets
Remember, smart phones and tablets raise an additional security risk because they are much easier to lose. You should always password lock your phone in case it goes MIA. You should also consider using antivirus software on your phone. Not only will this protect against viruses, many applications also include remote phone locking and location functions to help you protect and find a lost phone.
9. Cover Your Computer’s Camera
This sounds a bit paranoid, however, in the event that your computer is compromised, a strategically placed piece of tape will keep a cyber intruder from using your camera against you.