Many of us have had occasion over the past year to be grateful for what digital technologies afford us. And as we’ve leaned on digital communication tools to work, socialize, and relax, we’ve also learned a little more about how important strong cybersecurity practices can be.
So, what can you do in 2021 to protect yourself from cyber-attacks? For the most part, good cybersecurity practices haven’t changed. If you’re diligent with software updates, password management, and using two-factor authentication, you’ll prevent many attacks. Install a strong security suite and know the signs that you’re being targeted by a social engineering attack. With the right precautions, you can keep your devices safe even as you ease back into normal life this summer.
1) Keep Your Software Updated
Software updates are a pain, especially when you’re just trying to get to work, but your system needs to install 80 updates before it can boot up the operating system. As annoying as they can be, though, it’s important to always schedule them promptly as soon as they’re available. Manufacturers use software updates as an opportunity to issue fixes for common flaws and bugs in their operating systems and device firmware, so you’re leaving yourself vulnerable if you don’t install the updates. Hackers are counting on you being too lazy or uninformed to protect yourself.
2) Use an Antivirus and Firewall
Even in 2021, strong internet security still means installing a comprehensive antivirus suite. Get one with two-way firewall protection that monitors the traffic coming into and going out of your network. That way your security suite will spot if malicious software or an unauthorized device enters your network, and it should also be able to identify sensitive information leaving the network.
Of course, you’ll also need all the other features antivirus programs to offer, and it’s well worth paying for a suite that offers all the bells and whistles, more customer support, and a user-friendly interface. Ransom attack support, email spam filters, transaction security, and parental controls are just some of the features that can help you optimize network and device security for the whole household.
3) Manage Your Passwords
Most paid antivirus suites come with a password management tool, and you should use it. It lets you generate unique, strong passwords for each of your apps and online accounts so that if hackers get their hands on the password to one account, they haven’t cracked them all. Password managers generate hard-to-guess passwords that are composed of random letters, numbers, and special characters. You’ll be able to store each password with its username and other relevant information, like security question answers, and you’ll be able to access your passwords easily. The best part is, you’ll still only need to remember one password!
4) Be Wary of Social Engineering Attacks
Scammers these days aren’t just trying to sell you a new roof. They’re using social engineering techniques to get you to give up your own information. Those Facebook surveys asking you to list your first pet’s name, the name of the street you grew up on, your high school mascot, and your mother’s maiden name? They’re not “just for fun,” they’re so scammers can get the answers to your security questions. Sometimes they’ll even call you up and try to engage you in conversation to get your sensitive data.
5) Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security to your online logins by asking you to enter a code texted to your phone or sent to your email to verify that your login attempt is legitimate. You should turn this feature on for important accounts, like banking and email, or online retail accounts that contain your credit card information and address. At the very least, if a hacker tries to break into one of your accounts by resetting the password, you’ll get the text with the verification code, and it should serve as a heads up that something is going on with your account.
You don’t need to do anything differently to protect yourself from cyber attacks in 2021 — just keep doing what you’ve always done to keep scammers and hackers at bay, and keep your personal information private.