As technology gets more complex and ingrained into our lives, studies have shown consumers are increasingly feeling overwhelmed about how to protect themselves. Since criminals are getting more sophisticated, we have to as well, right?
Not so. The reason we feel overwhelmed isn’t always because of the levels we have to go to in order to protect ourselves, it’s because we have more devices we need to protect. Most consumers trust that the IoT products they buy are being built with security in mind, when that’s not always the case. Cyber criminals are taking advantage of this and launching millions of attacks every day. But there are simple steps you can take to secure your devices to help protect you against attacks. So, let’s get back to basics!
- Change your default passwords. Many devices such as routers and security cameras come equipped with award-winning passwords as “admin1234” or even “password.” If these or similar ones are your current passwords for anything at all, change them. Immediately. Use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols. If you’re feeling devoid of ideas, think of a phrase and revert to your early texting days by replacing some of the letters with symbols or numbers (ie “great” turns into “gR8”). Go a step further and enable two-factor authentication to provide an additional layer of security for your accounts.
- Keep your passwords separate and unique. Let’s face it, most of us have trouble remembering even one password, let alone six or seven. And making them complicated on top of that? But when you discover your email, social media, banking accounts, work email and medical information stolen at once when you only have one or two passwords, you might change your tune. Keep your passwords separate so that if you lose one, you don’t have to change every account. If you have trouble remembering them, write them down on a piece of paper and store it someplace safe, or use a password manager.
- Treat public WiFi networks with skepticism. Is that really necessary? Yes. Most public WiFi networks aren’t natively secure, and sharing a network with tons of people is an open invitation for strangers to peek at your data. After all, a coffee shop’s first priority probably isn’t the security of its network. Think of working off a public network as having someone looking over your shoulder the entire time you’re working and who can also see your passwords as plain text. If you absolutely must send those emails while you’re drinking your latte, connect to a VPN—there are many clients available.
- Back up your data, regularly. “The best made plans of mice and men are often laid to waste,” as the saying typically goes. When your computer crashes for whatever reason, having a copy of your data handy is a relief of immense magnitude. Follow the 3-2-1 rule: Three copies of data, on two different media, with one being offsite. Offsite backup is critically important—some strains of ransomware and other malware have been known to infect network backups, making them useless. If you use offsite backup such as an external hard drive, make sure you unplug it when you’re done so it doesn’t become infected while you’re not using it.
There are more steps you can take to protect yourself from cyber criminals, but the above listed are simple, basic ways to keep your data protected. It sounds overwhelming to keep track of and protect each of the devices we use every day, but the benefits far outweigh the risk. Help keep yourself safe by going back to basics.