Most internet users know the basics of personal cyber security: use strong passwords, avoid emails from unknown or suspicious senders, and install reputable antivirus software. However, cyber criminals are constantly upgrading their tactics, so our methods for staying safe online must evolve as well.
Whether you’re preventing an attack or responding to one, here are some steps that experts* suggest may help keep your information safe and secure:
- Back up your data. Lots of people know they should back up their data, but so few actually do it. However, if your files are ever encrypted, you’ll recover faster from the incident if you have a back-up on an external hard drive stored in a secure location.
- Watch what you post. Your birthday? Pets’ names? That photo of you in your high school sweatshirt? Even the smallest details can help criminals target you. If you’re posting about anything related to your passwords or security questions (we see you, MrWhiskers123), change your passwords to something longer and more complex. Remember to set your profiles to “private” so only your friends can see your information. On social media, sharing is not always caring!
- Don’t skip the update. Software manufacturers release updates when they’ve detected weaknesses in their security walls. Updating your device often will keep you protected, too.
- Secure your router. Wi-Fi routers often come with manufacturers’ default administrative passwords. The password is the same to unlock every device that the manufacturer has made. Change it to a strong password that is unique to you and only let devices you trust connect to your home network. When you secure your Wi-Fi, you could prevent a malware attack from invading all your devices at once!
Once you’ve set yourself up for cyber success, habitually practice good cyber hygiene:
- Know the red flags. Emails that contain urgent requests, spelling, or grammar mistakes, and awkward greetings or salutations all warn of a phishing attack. Be wary of emails with suspicious attachments (.zip, .exe, .scr, etc.) or unusual requests. Hover over links – their true destinations will appear either next to the link or at the bottom of your screen.
- Be careful with your login credentials. Hackers can create realistic-looking login pages for sites you use frequently, easily capturing your usernames and passwords. Always navigate to login pages directly from sites you trust.
- Remember: People you know can get hacked, too. You know to be wary of unfamiliar senders, but security gets trickier when malicious emails appear to be from someone you know and trust. If you’re ever asked to provide personal information in an email, call the sender first. Make sure they did send email, then give them the information they need verbally, not online.
- Mind your USBs. Cyber attacks don’t only happen in emails and websites – malware can be stored on external drives, too. If you don’t know where that USB drive has been, don’t plug it into your computer!
Have a Plan
Security organizations often tell people to avoid paying the ransoms involved in malware events. Doing so perpetuates the phishing industry, marks you as a paying target for future attacks, and doesn’t guarantee you’ll get your files back. Cyber policies may cover the costs of any ransoms, repairs, or forensic work needed to retrieve your files.
If you are the victim of a cyber attack, remember to report the incident to an organization such as your local police, FBI, CISA, and/or Internet Crime Complaint Center. Reporting the crime won’t necessarily help you get your files back, but it may help law enforcement catch the hackers responsible.
For information about Arbella’s Home Cyber Protection, please contact your independent insurance agent.
*Sources: Microsoft Support, Microsoft Support, CISA, PC Magazine, FTC