5 Tips to Increase Your Personal Cyber Security

By Ali Raza, 14 February 2019 521

Despite growing cyber risks we all face today, following some simple practices can protect you against a range of common cyber-attacks. In this article we highlight 5 easy tips to increase your personal cyber security.

1. Strengthen Your Passwords

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According to this report, stolen credentials and phishing ranked first and third among the most dominant security threats. The first step to strengthen your cybersecurity is to acknowledge these threats and take extra measures in maximizing protection of your online accounts. These include:

  • Using a strong password, with a complex combination of 12-14 characters, at least 1 number, symbol, uppercase and lowercase letter
  • Never using the same username and password (or both) for multiple accounts.
  • Using a good password manager to keep track of your passwords.
  • Changing your password regularly.
  • Enabling multi-factor authentication.

Make sure to keep track of suspicious activity related to your online accounts and contact the associated service providers or authorities immediately when an issue occurs.

2. Watch Out for Social Media Scams

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Social media helps you connect with your friends, but sharing too much information with people you don’t trust could lead to online fraud and cyber bullying. It’s important to set your privacy settings to limit the access strangers have to your personal information and activities online, as giving out your personal information on social media opens the doors for scammers to compromise your email, financial and business accounts.

Avoid clicking on links from suspicious accounts – especially those offering too-good-to-be-true discounts or deals. Avoid all content, apps, games and quizzes that ask you to allow access to your information or to engage in transactions that seems suspicious. 

3. Beware of Email Fraudsters

Most phishing attempts, ransomware, virus and socially engineered attacks occur via email communications that exploit the human factor. Legitimate email communications may also suffer from snooping attempts if the Internet network is compromised. It is therefore important to identify the legitimacy of email communications, senders and recipients. Follow these best practices to strengthen the security of your email communications:

  • Never click on links or download attachments from unsolicited emails. Avoid replying to spam that’s too good to be true.
  • Never communicate sensitive financial information via email.
  • Use VPN to access Internet from public WiFi connections, where possible.
  • Use virus and ransomware protection technologies to prevent damages from malware that you may inadvertently download to your computer. 

Here’s an example of cybercriminals using clever messaging to trick the reader into downloading malicious file attachments:

Image: em360tech

4. Protect Your Devices

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Cybercriminals can hack your devices by compromising vulnerabilities in your apps, operating system or the hardware itself. Since apps are continuously being updated to prevent known threats from being effective, it’s critical to keep your apps, OS and software updated. Jailbroken or rooted devices, pirated software and apps downloaded from unofficial marketplaces may not receive the same security updates, making them vulnerable to known threats.

You can also take measures to secure the data stored on the device itself. Encrypt your files so that cybercriminals can’t read your data even if your network suffers a security breach. Maintain a backup of your regular data using cloud storage solutions to ensure data access even when your device is compromised. Copies of sensitive data may be stored locally or in off-site private cloud data centers to ensure effective disaster recovery against cyber-attacks or natural disasters.

5. Knowledge and Awareness

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Personal cybersecurity is first and foremost your responsibility and you should take it upon yourself to understand and adopt these best practices so you’re always prepared. 

While regular Internet users are not typically the targets of sophisticated cyber-attacks, we do use many IT-enabled services provided by large enterprises, government agencies, financial and healthcare institutions. These organizations are common targets of cyber-attacks and in event of a successful cyber intrusion or data leak, their customers may lose sensitive personally identifiable information to cybercriminals. This information could then be used for malicious intent such as inflicting financial or personal damages to victims.

Following these industry-proven security best practices can go a long way in mitigating cybersecurity risks and improving your online experience. Cyber-attacks are a harsh reality of the digital world and, as Internet users, we should never rule out the possibility of succumbing to a threat. However, these 5 tips will help you reduce the risks you face to manageable levels and maintain safe financial, social and business activities online.