Of the 107 Trillion emails that are sent yearly, 90% of them are spam and with viruses. Cybercriminals are relentless in their pursuits to nab the precious credentials of the next unsuspecting victim for financial gain and as time and technology progresses, they’re getting smarter at it. We see phishing attacks that mimic the appearance of legitimate websites with the hope that the victim will enter their login credentials and a wide range of other ploys geared towards tricking users to divulge confidential data.
In 2012, there were 2.4 million customers targeted for phone fraud based on an extensive research and that number doubled in 2013. The war for online privacy and security is raging on and as the battles intensifies you’ll need to be smarter about how you use your personal information while pulling on the protective resources on the market.
In the midst of the chaos, it may seem that there’s nothing much we can do, especially since high profile institutions like the US Department of Homeland Security have fallen victim to cybercriminals, among other mega breaches that have occurred in the last years.
However, there is a great deal that can be done to secure ourselves from low level attacks and avoid making simple mistakes that result in the unnecessary breach and leaking of private data.
Secure & Unique Passwords & 2-Step Authentication Where Possible
Passwords are still regarded as the weakest link in leading a secure digital life. The rampant use of weak passwords still present a serious security risk to end-users and corporations. The Trustwave 2013 Global Security Report details the current threats to user data and identifies the vulnerabilities that persist within organizations. The statistics were generated from their investigation of hundreds of breaches across 18+ countries. They also analyzed the usage and weakness trends of more than 2 million real-world passwords used within corporate information systems. Their results showed that after infiltrating a system (via malware and other threat vectors), 80% of security incidents were due to the use of weak administrative passwords; with “password1” being the most common password used.
Here are the steps to take to secure your passwords:
– Make your passwords 8 characters or more. Anything less is considered weak
– Use a mix of all 4 character types – Use uppercase, lowercase, numbers and special characters (e.g. *&^%)
– Choose passwords you can remember
– Use Microsoft’s password checker to test your password strength.
– Change your password twice per year.
– Use 2-Step authentication when available. For example, Facebook and Google both offer it when you login, meaning you have to enter a secondary pin number which is generated and/or texted to your phone. The steps can be a nuisance whenever you’re logged out, but it’s also a pretty safe guarantee that no one will be getting into your account without a heavy-duty targeted attack.
– Opt-in for login notifications whenever someone from an unrecognized IP logs in to your account. This does not prevent a hack in itself but gives you the power to act quickly and correct the situation.
Use Mobile Antivirus Software & Other Third-Party Services
As more aspects of our daily lives are accessed via mobile devices, this creates an additional entry point and target for cybercriminals. The improvements made to mobile devices, while exciting for users, have created security headaches for individuals and businesses alike. The endpoint of a network can be anywhere, as these devices routinely connect to unknown networks every day. Mobile devices not only connect back to corporate networks but also contain valuable personal information, making them attractive targets for cybercriminals. And while so many mobile apps use similar web technologies to deliver services; many vulnerabilities from the web are passed to mobile with even less scrutiny.
Your best bet here is to follow strict rules for sharing private data and use free mobile security apps like Lookout and Avast’s Mobile Security & Antivirus that not only allow you to remotely wipe the data on your device but also provides protection against malware and viruses, a tool to help locate your lost phone and malicious website blocking.
Taking on the online security fight on your own will result in failure as the average individual and business owner simply does not possess the skillset or resources to defend against the most powerful attacks. It now becomes imperative for website owners and business people to employ the use of a security-as-a-service provider such as Fireblade who has invested a great deal in managing the entire security profile of online assets through real-time monitoring, powerful behavior-based web application firewalls, denial of service protection and anti-malware. Fireblade makes protection of your online assets a reality without the burdensome investment.
The Commonly Overlooked
Store Your Credit Card Info Offline
Having your card in a site’s system can be the difference between a full bank account and an empty one as mega breaches continue to occur with millions of customer data leaked through stored data.
Don’t link your Online Accounts
Linking your Twitter account to your Facebook to your Klout to your Hotmail to Netflix and back to your Twitter makes your daily online life convenient. However, when one service is hacked with a host of linked services, you’ve just opened the flood gates and given instant access to everything that’s linked. This isn’t preventative, but it’s crucial for damage control.
Password Protect Your Devices
Even if you’re not prone to losing your phone or laptop, it’s good to keep a password or PIN on them since you probably use desktop clients and have websites that you’re perpetually logged into from your mobile device. Things do get stolen! Don’t make it easy for whoever ends up with your gear.
Keep an Offline Backup
The cloud is great, but just like your personal hard disks are prone to failure; the cloud is prone to a security breach. All the latest operating systems have made it painfully easy to keep a current backup of all your files, so buy a durable, affordable external drive and back everything up at least once a week.