Cyber Security: How To Protect Yourself In Today’s “Connected” World
By Guest Blogger: Tony Ulman
Security Specialist, Sanders IT Consulting
Cybercrime has taken over the conversation of computer security for the past few years, but why? Companies such as Apple, Target, Home Depot, Michael’s, Walmart, Sally’s Beauty Supply, BlueCross BlueShield, Chase Bank, Staples, Neiman Marcus, Jimmy John’s, and countless others have become victims of cybercrime. But what is being taken?
Information. Yes, information. Data such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, phone numbers, addresses, and so on. Health information such as patient data records, diagnosis records and medications used. Why is this important to the cybercriminal or hacker, and who cares if they have this information? We should ALL care! This data can fetch a large sum of money on the Dark Web because it allows criminals to use it for their own benefit. Credit card information can be duplicated using highly sophisticated tools that allow the criminal to take over your account, create a new credit card with your information, and drain the account if they choose to, leaving the victim with no money or recourse. Prescription information can be duplicated and used on your behalf, leaving you without your medication for the week or month.
All the methods used for cybertheft can be deterred by you, the primary holder of the information, but how?
• Passwords are the first step in putting a “roadblock” in place to deter a hacker. A strong password on your computer, tablet and phone is a great way to make it difficult for a hacker to gain access to your information. A strong password would be, at the very least, eight characters long and include a non-sequential mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. For example, 3x@Mp1E5 is a great password that sort of spells the word “examples”. The longer the password, the more difficult it will be for a hacker to gain access to your electronic devices.
• You’re probably asking “What about passwords for websites? I have so many and I can’t remember them all.” The solution to that problem is a password manager. Password managers are applications that store your passwords for you; all you’ll need to remember is one password to open the manager. There are several great applications available, including top-recommended Keeper, Dashlane, and Norton Vault, that will save passwords for the websites you visit regularly.
• Be careful not to open that email! If you receive email from someone you don’t know, then don’t open it. It’s as simple as that. This is a very popular hacking technique called phishing. These emails come in different forms and look very legitimate. For example, you may receive an email from “FedEx” stating that they have a package waiting for you and you need to “click here” to enter your information. This will invariably lead to a “rogue” website that was set up to look like the real thing but isn’t. It may even have your name in the email, which is called spear-phishing, meaning that it is personalized spam tailored to you. When you click on the link it will lead you to a website controlled by hackers that are waiting for you to enter your information. If you are not expecting email from someone, don’t open it. Send it to the spam folder of your email application, or just delete it altogether.
• There is nothing more important than having a back-up plan in place. Nowadays, the cybercriminal can take over your computer and all the files on it, then demand payment to unlock it. This is how ransomware works. The best way to deter a ransomware attack is to have a back-up of your data. In case ransomware gets onto your computer, tablet, or phone you won’t lose all your pictures, music, documents, etc.
There are two different options for a sound back-up solution: cloud-based and physical hard drives. If you opt for a cloud-based solution, then Carbonite is the way to go. It saves all your data to the cloud via AES 128-bit encryption, which keeps your information safe on its way to their servers. If you need to replace or rebuild your computer due to ransomware, all you need to do is log into your Carbonite account online and restore the files to your new computer. The criminals will get no money from you, and you’ll still have all your files.
If you prefer physical hard drives, be sure to buy two and run a back-up on one, then alternate. This will give you two back-ups that are not too far apart from the latest information on them. If one of the drives fail, you’ll still have the other! You can also use both hard drive AND cloud for additional security. You can run the back-up once a week, once a month, or even every day.
Consider that there are constant and ongoing threats to your system simply because we’re connected, and all of your email contacts are also vulnerable to continuous hacking and phishing efforts – one of whom may not be as cautious or aware – placing you further at risk. By implementing these few simple strategies to protect the integrity of your system and ensure the safety of your data, you won’t have to worry about news of another attack by cybercriminals.
Tony Ulman is a Security Specialist for Sanders IT Consulting Inc. Sanders IT Consulting helps businesses understand the latest technology and how it benefits their organization. Their team is comprised of professionals with comprehensive IT expertise who specialize in network strategy, web based software, troubleshooting, maintenance and installations.