Improve Your Cybersecurity with These Best Practices
$5.2 trillion. That’s the estimated value at risk from cybercrime over the next five years. To prevent donating to that figure, companies spend more on cybersecurity than ever before.
Handy as firewalls and antivirus software are, they aren’t the best defense against cybercrime. Because a cybercriminal’s most successful point of attack is the uninformed and incautious, the best defense is a person well-versed in cybersecurity.
To keep your data safe—at home and in the office—engage in these cybersecurity best practices.
Always keep your operating system and programs up to date. These updates not only incorporate new quality-of-life features but critical security upgrades, too. Don’t forget programs that may be housed within others, such as browser plug-ins, too.
Invest in safety
There’s a lot of antivirus software to choose from. Some are expensive, others free. Some are lightweight, others devour your CPU. Some are comprehensive, others do one thing incredibly well. But there’s no one-size-fits-all choice.
When making your antivirus selection, research pros and cons to determine the best software for you. Just have one!
Activate your firewall, too. This program sets criteria for information flowing through your system. If data don’t play by its rules, they don’t get through. Turn your firewall on and set its criteria to match your own.
Back up your data
Ransomware is software that denies you access to your system or data until you pay to retrieve them. Hence the name.
Backing up your data ensures you retain access to copies of important files. Companies will want to use cloud backup software, while individuals could use cloud storage, an external hard drive, or both.
You have too many passwords, the rules are confusing, and you change them too frequently to memorize even one. We get it, but smart password management remains the best way to boost cybersecurity.
Your passwords should contain:
- At least 12 characters, preferably 15-20
- Numbers, symbols, upper- and lower-case letters
- No personal information
- No common words.
You can shore up additional security by activating two-factor authentication when possible. Whatever you do, don’t share your passwords or write them down, especially in a public place like the office.
As for memorizing passwords, that’s a Sisyphean task. Invest in a password manager instead.
Don’t be reeled in
“Phishing” is a socially engineered type of cybercrime where cybercriminals pose as reputable individuals, companies, or agencies to trick people into divulging personal information.
To stay safe, follow this rule: Never interact with an email, text, pop-up, or web page you didn’t initiate or expect. If an email doesn’t come from a domain-matching address, dump it in the trash. For example, all IRS missives come from an “@irs.gov” domain, never a .com or .net.
When in doubt, do your research.
Cybersecurity around town
Thanks to smartphones and the Internet of Things, cybersecurity is now a ubiquitous part of life. We need to take as many precautions in the coffee shop, if not more, as in the office.
Follow these rules when about town or traveling abroad:
- Never leave a device unattended in public.
- If possible, keep credit cards, health records, and other critical information off mobile devices.
- Be careful what ends up on social media. Pictures from the office may accidentally reveal sensitive information on desks and whiteboards.
- Encrypt flash drives and external hard drives. You can find instructions online for Mac and Windows.
- Don’t assume public networks are secure. Anyone can use them.
- When on a public network, use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs disguise your IP address, keeping your online actions secure and private.
- After a long trip, perform a full virus scan at home. Consider changing passwords, too.
Cybersecurity can be intimidating. There are loads of rules and names to remember, it’s encumbered with jargon and acronyms, and there are many nuances to individual circumstances. But cybercriminals rely on this intimidation, hoping it will deter people from taking precautions.
Cybersecurity culture combats cybercrime by creating environments where people value defense and help others learn to acquire the skills. This culture can be fostered in the office or at home, and it starts with the best practices outlined above.