Technology has become so ubiquitous that we barely even notice it anymore. In recent decades, we have eschewed newspapers for push notifications, changed our shopping habits to match 21st century capabilities and put the full reach of the world wide web into our pockets. While all these conveniences make our lives easier (and our world smaller) there is a downside to surrounding ourselves and our businesses with technology.
The evolution of cybercrime runs parallel with the advent of consumer technology. Of course, hacking isn’t just levied against consumers, it also targets businesses since they hold a trove of financial and user information that is readily exploitable if leaked.
While movies and pop culture usually portray hackers as malevolent geniuses, the truth of the matter is that the average web user is inexplicably unaware of how to keep themselves safe online. For this reason, cyber crooks continuously rehash the same exploits to steal information.
So, how do you keep yourself safe from digital incursion? Below are a few of the most common mistakes that leave your business vulnerable to a cyber breach. Take a look at these cyber security solutions and learn how to safeguard your most private information.
Recycling Passwords: Coming up with a password is annoying. Each site requires a series of capital and lower-case letters, special characters and numbers; it’s enough to make your head spin. Why can’t they just keep it simple?
Well it turns out that hackers are extremely good at cracking passwords. While you might come up with a passphrase to confound your friends and coworkers, your login credentials are easily decoded by automated brute force attacks which can guess thousands of combinations until access is granted.
To make matters worse, once a password is stolen, it is shopped around to every possible website, email provider, banking service and social media page until the hacker controls all your accounts. This is especially scary since many web users reuse the same password on multiple sites and services.
Once a cybercriminal has exhausted their efforts, they might post their findings on the dark web so other hackers can take a turn at ruining your life.
What you can do:
- Use more complex passphrases to thwart brute force attacks
- Use different passwords for each of your accounts
- Use a password manager to keep everything in one place
- Change your password regularly
Not Logging Out: It might seem obvious, but unsecured devices are an easy way for hackers to steal your information. That’s why most companies require you to put a key code or password on your devices that automatically locks your computer on start up or when it falls asleep. If you happen to lose your device on the train or in a coffee shop, your accounts won’t be exposed when it is picked up by the wrong hands.
Using Public Wi-Fi: ‘Work from anywhere’ and ‘bring your own device’ policies have been popping up all over the world and for good reason, they provide workers a greater level of freedom, they keep a business’ costs down and free Wi-Fi is available to on-the-go employees via coffee shops, airports, etc.
Unfortunately, public Wi-Fi is anything but secure. Attackers can intercept data transfers to and from your computer — even if you are connected to an otherwise secure business server. This is known as ‘the man in the middle’ attack.
Hackers can also set up phony Wi-Fi hotspots with deceptive names like “Coffee Shop Wi-Fi” to trick users into sharing all their online activities with the hacker.
What you can do:
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your online activities
- Avoid public Wi-Fi entirely
- Set up your own hotspot for safer Wi-Fi on the go
Neglecting Software Updates: Everybody hates those pesky software notifications. Why do you need a new version of Adobe flash player? This one works just fine. Well it turns out that software developers regularly create patches for known security gaps. By ignoring update prompts you are leaving your computer or mobile device vulnerable to infiltration.
What you can do:
- Update your programs regularly to avoid obvious security gaps
- Set automatic updates for all your programs, including your cyber security solutions
Opening Spam Emails: Spam emails aren’t just intrusive clickbait, they are often contain harmful links and malware downloads. However, malicious spam emails are getting harder to detect every day. Savvy hackers regularly spoof legitimate businesses and even your own contacts to get you to turn over your personal information.
One of the most common ways to do this is through phishing emails. A hacker will send a deceptive email to your inbox coaxing you to click a link redirecting you to a sign-in page. If you enter your credentials, the cyber crook walks away with your email and password – the consequences of which have already been discussed.
What you can do:
- Delete spams emails immediately; do not open them
- Avoid clicking on links in emails; if they redirect you to a sign-in page, close the window immediately
- Check with the sender to make sure the email is legitimate
Keep in mind that cyberattacks are on the rise. In 2015, 43 percent of cyberattacks targeted small businesses. Isn’t it time to update cyber security solutions for your company? It’s no wonder why cyber protection insurance providers are popping up to help insulate organizations against the most deleterious effects of hackers and data breach.
While changing your daily habits can insulate you against a great number of hacker exploits, it isn’t a foolproof strategy. Educating yourself, changing your security habits, and, if you own a company, seeking coverage in the event your business is hit with a hacker — are all that you can do to protect yourself in this age of non-stop digital vulnerability.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
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