In October 2021, Hillel Yaffe Medical Centre in Hadera, Israel, postponed all nonurgent procedures since the entire hospital IT infrastructure collapsed after a cyberattack.
The incident is just one of many that illustrate the same point – nothing is safe on the internet, including your digital assets. But how does one go about protecting their valuable online data?
More companies and individuals are investing heavily into cybersecurity than ever before. However, you don’t have to invest much time or cash into building a private data fortress. With tips and tricks included in this article, you’ll have mighty digital walls to protect your assets in no time.
1. Manage your passwords
The first step is the most crucial and easiest to complete. Make a strong password for every account. Many users are guilty when this essential cybersecurity practice is concerned. You’d be surprised how many still use “password123” on every single app or online service.
Cybersecurity experts suggest using 12-to-16-characters-long passwords made up of letters, numbers, and special characters. Such passwords are very tough to crack. Of course, they’re also very easy to forget or mistype several times, after which your account might get locked. You might be tempted to write the password down on a piece of paper or use the same password everywhere. That is the last thing you want to do. Documents get lost or copied, and using the same password is a disaster. Hackers can already wreak havoc after gaining access to just one account or service. The last thing you want is them gaining access to multiple accounts at the same time.
The best way to solve this is to use tools like password managers for generating and storing strong passwords for all apps and devices. These apps are not entirely immune to cyberattacks, but they’re still much safer than any alternative.
2. Set up two-factor authentication
Having a solid set of passwords is a good step, but you might need an additional layer of protection to sleep peacefully.
Enter multifactor authentication. Besides logging in to an account and entering the password, users need to type in the code or answer a security question to gain access. It’s elementary to use two-factor authentication (2FA), and most online services have already integrated this protection layer. For services or apps that don’t have full 2FA integration, you merely need to download a 2FA client app for iPhone or Android devices. These apps will generate access codes for you.
In 2018, Google revealed that more than 90% of Gmail users don’t have two-factor authentication active, thus making their accounts more fragile and exposed to cyberattacks. And on the online gaming service, Steam, the number of hijacked accounts that didn’t use 2FA is growing exponentially every year. Avoid being a part of these grim statistics and activate an authentication protection system.
3. Set up alerts and access rights
Having just one employee who’s careless with data security can be enough to endanger your digital assets. That’s why you need to set up access rights that determine who’ll be able to review or download specific files. Provide full access only when necessary.
Begin by creating a list of people and deciding which employee will have what level of access. Then manage access privileges for everyone, leaving full access only to those to whom it’s indispensable. Most apps have this option available out of the box, and if not, you can quickly download access privilege apps and services.
In Google Drive, for example, you can effortlessly create access permissions for all users and limit who can see, copy, or modify stored data. Windows 10 also has this option you activate via Group Policy Editor or Registry Editor.
Another possibility people often overlook is the option to turn on account activity alerts. When the system detects someone logging on to your account from an unauthorised or unknown device, you’ll immediately get an alert popup. From there, you can take quick action to protect your account, such as immediately changing the password, locking the account, or reporting suspicious activity to customer service.
Most online services and downloadable apps have this option available. Activating it will save you many headaches later on and preserve your account privileges.
4. Keep your system updated at all times
Just like everything else that’s manufactured, apps can have errors in their coding. These errors can be exploited as security gaps. That’s why users of any operating system receive a steady stream of security and performance updates nearly every month. Without these updates, hackers would easily find a way to access your system, even with the most sophisticated third-party cybersecurity installed.
Updating your system and apps is crucial for keeping your data protected. Go to Options or Settings to activate the automatic update function if it’s not on already.
5. Implement safe internet-browsing habits
Browsing the internet and even merely connecting to it can be perilous to your data security. Avoid using unprotected, public Wi-Fi networks. On a public network, anyone can try to access your device. Instead, use your router. Change the default name and password on the Wi-Fi network and activate the router firewall. Update your router firmware regularly to plug any potential security holes and keep hackers from planting an unwanted security surprise.
Get antivirus and anti-ransomware protection to keep your system safe when browsing. There are plenty of robust and free solutions you can download. These apps and services will be your primary line of defense while on the internet.
Lastly, don’t open emails and attachments from unknown sources or visit sites that look suspicious. Use an antivirus program with an option to verify links, downloads, and email attachments. Most antivirus solutions have this feature included. If you’re still unsure, contact the system administrator or technical support to verify the link or digital package for you.
There is no absolute protection from cyberattacks, but these quick and straightforward steps will significantly improve the level of your security and enhance your data protection. The frequency of cyberattacks has been on the rise in recent years. Some IT experts even suggest this will be the primary battleground in the future. Hence, being proactive about cybersecurity and taking the necessary steps to protect your assets today is the wisest course of action you can take.