From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. — rjb
Today’s guest author is Graham Salwell
Before I begin I would like to remind you to check out the free novels and audiobooks while you’re on the Green Comet website.
In the past year alone, 23% of Americans either fell victim to identity theft, phishing scams, and credit card fraud or personally know someone who has. According to the University of Maryland, every 39 seconds, a hacker attacks an unsuspecting victim. That is an excessive amount of people targeted, and the statistics look equally grim for virtually every area in the world.
What can we do about this? We can protect ourselves against these attacks by exercising smart cybersecurity etiquette. Here are some good tips for you to apply moving forward:
• Use protective software for all of your devices
First thing’s first – invest in some good anti-virus software. That goes for your phone and your tablet, as well, not just your computer. Every device that is connected to the internet can be a target, so you don’t want to mess around with this. Thankfully, if you’re cheap, broke, or simply can’t be bothered, there are lots of free trials for anti-virus software, so you can just use those for now. Some of these trials allow you to set up multiple devices, so you may just be able to cover your phone, as well.
• Don’t connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks
We all love a bit of free Wi-Fi, right? But that sweet, sweet Wi-Fi can be your downfall, if you’re not careful. The great thing about unsecured networks is that anyone can connect without a password. The awful thing about unsecured networks is that anyone can connect without a password. That includes people who are out to steal data from unsuspecting users who don’t know that any sensitive information they send across via this network can be intercepted by third parties. It’s always best to go ahead and ask for a password from a business or institution or travel with your own data, to avoid issues.
• Do not open emails from addresses you don’t recognize
Did you know that a lot of these scams are perpetuated via email? That’s right, the infamous Nigerian prince scam is still kicking. Amazing, isn’t it? To be fair, most of these sketchy emails end up in your Spam folder, where they are easier to avoid. But every once in a while, they make their way through the spam filter and into your inbox. If you see a weird email in there, hover over the sender to see the email address. Does it sound familiar? Do they have a reasonable way they could have gotten your email address? Is the subject something that concerns you directly? If not, you can safely ignore or send it to Spam purgatory.
• Learn how to recognize phishing scams
The reason why these attacks make so many victims is that phishing scams are getting cleverer. They are often disguised as emails from friends, from your bank, or from other institutions that may reasonably contact you. They will usually ask you for sensitive information, such as your bank details, or passwords. They may even require you to click through and sign in again on a fake website that looks exactly like the legitimate one. Remember that legitimate businesses and institutions never ask you for this kind of information over email, especially your bank.
• Look for the signs that a website is legitimate
And speaking of sketchy websites that look legitimate, if you’re ever in doubt, there are ways to verify whether the website you’re on is real or not, and if it’s safe.
First of all, make sure to double-check the URL – is it correct? Is it spelled right? Sometimes, fake sites will have a very similar, but different URL to the legitimate one. Does the site have an active SSL certificate? You can verify that by checking if there’s a lock next to the URL. That indicates that it’s been verified and encrypted. It’s very important that if you have any doubts about the legitimacy of the website, that you don’t use it. Don’t input your details, don’t click on anything. Just click away.
• Set strong passwords
Passwords are still super important for security in 2020. With the sheer amount of cyberattacks taking place every day, there are hackers trying to break into your accounts everywhere. A weak password only makes it easier for them.
A solid, strong password must be at least 7 characters long, and feature a mix of lowercase and uppercase characters, as well as special symbols. That will make it harder to guess or brute force-hack. We have so many online accounts, each with their own password that it’s often tempting to just use incredibly simple passwords that are easy to remember, like birthdays or names. But that’s like offering your information on a platter for hackers to take. At least make them work for it.
• Keep your sensitive information in cloud storage
Proper data storage is a hot topic right now, as data breaches are happening more and more often; and to big companies, too. It obvious we are not doing a good job of storing our data securely, so what’s the best way to do it, in order to make sure that you’re keeping your sensitive info as safe as possible? The best way to do it is to put it up in cloud storage. Yes, there are still some security concerns – mainly related to entrusting a third party to protect your data – but it’s safer than just keeping this information on your computer. Having the info on your device means it can become corrupted if the device breaks down, if it’s stolen, used by someone else, if someone manages to connect to it without your knowledge, or if it becomes infected by malware, spyware, or ransomware.
What’s the bottom line? All in all, cybersecurity is an important – and relevant – topic for all of us. Unless we actively take measures to protect ourselves, we’re all sitting ducks for the hackers who infect our computers and steal our data. Whether it’s setting a better password or becoming more aware of spam emails and fake sites, we can all do a better job of protecting our data.