Technology has changed the way we live, our relationships with others, and even how we take care of ourselves.
These days, everyone – from the most inexperienced to the most advanced user – takes measures to protect themselves from cybercriminals seeking to compromise or steal information.
However, there are ways to fend off a cybercriminals’ malicious attacks, making it much more difficult for them to succeed.
1. Update your security solution, applications, and operating system
This is of vital importance, as software updates often include solutions to security defects that have been found. This way, if your system or application has any flaws, they will be resolved by the updates, meaning an attacker will not be able to exploit any kind of known vulnerability in your system.
2. Install security solutions on your devices
Computers, smartphones, tablets and any other devices that allow security software to be installed should be protected. It is important not to use pirated software because, besides being illegal, it is unlikely to offer proper protection.
Tools like firewalls and antivirus software will defend you from various threats, including Trojans and other types of malware, as well as through various detection technologies, which help prevent leaks or information threats.
3. Make backups
As well as making backup copies regularly, you should ensure that they are kept in a safe place: putting them on an external drive should be sufficient. Be sure not to leave them constantly connected, because if your computer becomes infected with any kind of ransomware, your backup files could become encrypted too, even if they are stored in the cloud.
If your computer becomes infected and you have kept your backup in a safe place, you will easily be able to restore your information after you disinfect your system.
4. Report phishing emails and websites
One of the most frequently used methods for carrying out fraud is the old trick of setting up fake websites. Receiving an email from a sender that looks familiar, with a link that directs you to a fake portal, is a technique often employed by cybercriminals.
To prevent this from happening, it is very important to report phishing websites from whichever browser you are using, and also report them to your antivirus provider if it does not already recognise the site as a malicious portal.
If the phishing website is a financial one, you could get in touch with the organisation affected so they can start the process of getting rid of it. This way, you will be helping to protect the community by warning people about the dangers of visiting fake sites. We do our bit at The ESET LATAM Research Lab by reporting the cases we receive.
5. Change your passwords
There are many ways in which your password can be compromised. Make sure you have a strong password, change it regularly, and don’t use the same one for multiple accounts.
These three pillars will help keep they key to your digital identity secure.
6. Activate two-factor authentication
Even if you follow each of these recommended practices to protect your passwords, they could still become compromised. However, two-factor authentication, which is available on most social networks and online services, will significantly increase your levels of security.
If a cybercriminal manages to steal your password, they will not be able to do any significant damage, as they will still need to input a code generated by this additional layer of security.
7. Check the privacy of your social network
All too often we’ve seen users sharing an excessive amount of sensitive information on social networks.
This problem is exacerbated if their posts are public. Platforms like Facebook allow you to set up groups where you can share information and limit who views it.
It is also important not to grant access to users you don’t know and to review the permission that you have in place around your personal information.
8. Check the status of your bank accounts
You can never check your balance too often, as by doing so you may detect an irregularity or unknown transaction. If your card has been cloned or you have fallen victim to banking malware, regularly checking your account is the best way for you to keep tabs on any attacks that may have happened – and minimise the damage.
9. Make sure you aren’t subscribed to any premium SMS services
The number of hoaxes circulating on WhatsApp continues to increase, with one single campaign having the ability to yield more than 10 million victims. This often ends up with users being caught off guard and subscribing to numbers that send SMS messages which charge the recipient a fee to receive them.
To prevent this, many countries allow you to check whether you are subscribed to any such services on your phone provider’s website.
10. Be aware of your environment
Understanding how hoaxes work is the best way to avoid falling victim to one. At the same time, sharing your knowledge will make you a friend of IT security, and by protecting the devices of other people who use the same network as you, you will also be taking care of your own property and the information stored on your computer.
Undoubtedly, if you follow these tips, you will be able to increase your security of your devices and create obstacles for cybercriminals, which in most cases will prevent attacks, as increasing the complexity of these operations will most likely put them off attempting them.
Carey van Vlaanderen is CEO at ESET South Africa.