Cyber security is a hot-ticket item and for good reason; every device connected to the public Internet is vulnerable to attack by hackers.
How can you protect yourself and your family from cyber attacks?
For the purposes of this article, lets separate your cyber vulnerability into 3 categories:
- Computers and devices in your home
- Mobile devices including your laptop, used in public networks
- Your data in the cloud including your website and email
In reality, many security aspects are portable across all three, for example good password practices.
Computers and devices in your home
Home devices used to mean your desktop PC but in the age of the ‘Internet of Everything’ it means much more. Your home devices probably consists of PCs, Laptops, tablets, music streamers, Roku, Apple TV, XBox and home automation devices, all of which are connected to the Internet. To complicate things, you also have Wi-Fi devices.
- Virus protection for computers, laptops, tablets – for Windows PCs, Microsoft Security Essentials is free and robust.
- Apply operating system patches when available
- Switch on Windows firewall feature
- Keep PC software and browsers up to date (new versions have better security)
- Update device firmware when available
- If you have an older telco or cable modem, ask your service provider to upgrade it
- Make sure all Wi-Fi devices are using a security protocol and are password protected
- Backup you computers and laptops to a local backup device and to the cloud.
- Consider using a password manager, it allows you to use complex passwords without having to remember them
- Be aware of potential malware and adware when downloading and installing software
- Be aware of potential cross contamination when syncing devices
Mobile devices for road warriors
Companies like Starbucks are offering free Wi-Fi to all uses at every location. If you intend to surf the web at Starbucks or the international departure lounge, here are some things you should know
- Password protect your devices
- NEVER leave your laptop or smartphone unattended
- Enable Find My iPhone or equivalent Android service.
- Turn off sharing – at home this is a cool feature, on a public network your begging for trouble
- Turn on your firewall – most OSes come with a firewall and it’s a simple process to keep other local users out
- Use SSL when browsing – most website use standard HTTP but many like banks and shopping sites use HTTPS.
- Gmail, for example, will allow you to log in using HTTPS, and you can specify in your Gmail settings whether you want it to use HTTPS automatically in the future
- A VPN is better – consider using a VPN Virtual Private Network, VPNs give you the security of a private network even though you’re on a public one.
- Consider automating your settings so that when you move between private and public networks, set up will be simple.
- NEVER carry sensitive data on a USB stick
It’s in the Cloud
If cyber security is a big-ticket item, then cloud security is the elephant in the room. This is because as a consumer of cloud security services, you have very little control over how your data is stored, managed, shared and protected. If hackers breach a large corporate database and steal millions of credit card accounts, your best line of defense is vigilance – bolo for suspicious transactions and report them immediately to your credit card company.
- Get IBM’s Cloud Services for Dummies – while it’s still free and online
- Be vigilant!
- Don’t share your account passwords with anyone
- Avoid storing sensitive personal data in the cloud
- Use two-factor authentication where available – even if someone cracks your password, they won’t be able to complete the connection to your account
Be safe out there
These measures won’t guarantee your safety but they will go a long way to mitigating your risk. When considering cyber security, always adopt a safety first approach and remember the basics, virus protection, passwords, updates, VPN, two-factor authentication, backup.
By Steve Earle, technology marketing professional