Cyber crime is now one of the top four economic crimes, costing about $114 billion annually. Every day, one million computers are successfully hacked for personal or confidential information. For this reason, many businesses and individuals have taken steps to protect their computers from getting hacked. But with the major shift toward reliance on mobile devices, attacks on portable devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops are increasing. With the power to hold more information and the ability to link data between all of these devices, they are becoming all the more enticing to hackers.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to secure your information on these devices to defend against being robbed in cyberspace. Many of the same measures can be applied to each, which makes it easier to form good habits in becoming more secure. Take this digital security quiz to grade your current online security level so you can decide where to start, then you can check out the tips below for ultimate digital security.
Use Solid Passwords
Despite the widely known advice to employ strong passwords, keeping track of complicated codes is often viewed as a hassle and ignored. An analysis from a phishing scheme that leaked the accounts and passwords of 10,000 Hotmail users showed that 42% used passwords consisting only of letters, 19% used only numbers and 22% used the minimum character count of six, making them very weak. Patterns of common passwords were found, which makes it extremely easy for hackers to infiltrate many accounts.
The reward of being protected is worth the extra effort involved in using different passwords for different accounts and devices. Come up with passwords that consist of combinations of letters, numbers and special characters adding up to at least eight characters. To help you remember, you can use combinations of acronyms and dates that hold meaning to you. If you find yourself running out of ideas for good character combinations, programs like RoboForm can help you generate and store them.
Implement Two-Step Verification
To further strengthen the sign-in process to your accounts, add another layer of security with two-step verification. This requires you to both know something (a password) and have something (a physical object) in order to access your information. For example, a debit card holder needs to possess the physical card, as well as know the PIN number to use it. In the same way, an online entity might ask for a password, and once it is verified, will send a second unique code to your phone. If your password is discovered, hackers aren’t able to access your data with just that knowledge.
Beware of Public Wireless Networks
The most secure way to use a wireless network is to use your own personal, encrypted system. However, it’s likely that you’ll need to do work or access accounts while outside your home at some point or another. Some public Wi-Fi networks, such as in hotels, coffee shops and airports, are secure, but you can’t count on it. If a network requires a code in order to gain internet access, it’s probably secure, but a lot of public places have open access. If you do decide to use public networks and aren’t sure whether they’re encrypted, keep these tips in mind to remain secure while using them.
Look for “https”
If you’re inputting any kind of personal information or password to log in to a website, only use sites with URLs that begin with “https” (as opposed to “http”). This means that the secure website encrypts – or scrambles up – the combination of characters you send off, so that potential hackers can’t read what you’re actually inputting.
Change up your usernames and passwords
Don’t use the same sign-in information for several sites, especially if you’re accessing them on a public network. This way, if you are hacked, the attacker can’t easily get into all your accounts.
Tip: Always log out of each of your accounts to minimize potential hacking time.
Avoid online banking
To be safe, you should save your banking and bill paying for your private home or network: other users on a public network can snatch your financial information.
Watch Your Apps
The number of free apps abounds, but be careful when deciding to download. Not all developer guidelines are strict, so apps can be unreliable and unsecure, transmitting your data to third parties. Make sure that you are familiar with the app developer before you download, and look through other users’ comments and reviews.
Lookout is a convenient mobile app that can protect your phone from malicious apps and fraudulent links, as well as carry out routine backups in case of data loss.
Install Antivirus Software
It’s become common practice to install antivirus software on computers, but not many mobile users equip their devices with it, though much of the same information is carried on them. Hackers commonly install viruses on devices in order to gain private information from them. Here are some great mobile security apps to install on your phone.
It’s important to keep all of your software updated, as old versions can lose their effectiveness and keep you from getting all the available benefits and features from upgrades.
If you’ve taken these security precautions and your device gets physically stolen, it’s a good idea to employ a remote swipe, in which you erase all of your sensitive data, including contacts, email, music, photos, etc., from wherever you are.
The key to remaining secure in cyberspace is to be diligent and consistent in your safety measures, which is easy to do with all the available software and apps to aid you. It’s as simple as taking the first steps, managing your information and staying updated.
So, how do you test your alarm without freaking out your family and annoying your neighbors? How to Make Sure Your Security System Will Work in a Real EmergencyFeatured photo credit: William Hookvia Flickr