12 Simple Cybersecurity Tips to Ensure the Safety of Your Data

Did you know that ransomware attacks increased by 40% during the pandemic, and nearly three out of four companies experienced a phishing attack in 2020, according to the most recent statistics from The Computing Technology Industry Association? With the staggering costs (in both money and trust) associated with data breaches, cybersecurity is increasingly vital. At the same time, most of us are spending more time online and sharing our personal data in more ways as we do so. An unwanted release of that private and/or financial information could be devastating. That’s why it’s critical for businesses and individuals to protect their privacy. How do they do that without a cyber security company always on call?

Why is Cybersecurity Vital?

First, you have to understand the importance of cybersecurity and why your IT company should be fixated on it. Last year’s headlines saw industry giants like Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook come under fire for breaches and privacy practices. Your Managed IT firm might even have used those occurrences to illustrate the importance of handling data safely and securely.

If a corporate data breach impacts your personal security, it means that your personal information is no longer private. Your Social Insurance Number, banking information, medical information and more might be in the hands of hackers. Once that type of data breach happens, identity theft is often not far behind.

There are many other negative outcomes for organizations that go through a data breach. The financial impact can be tremendous, with the average cost of a data breach in 2021 pegged at $4.24 Million, according to IBM data. That includes lost revenue, increased insurance, legal and public relations fees, and intellectual property losses. More subtle but no less costly is the damage done to an organization’s reputation with the public and with clients.

Both as an executive and as a private individual, there are ways you can protect your personal data and that of your company before you even bring in IT support. Indeed, better cybersecurity practices can often begin with individual efforts of everyone involved in a company. What steps can you take to secure your organization’s data?

One Dozen Simple Cybersecurity Tips

Cybersecurity doesn’t have to be complex. Here are 12 simple cybersecurity tips that can help you keep your personal data secure. Most importantly, share these simple steps with your employees to protect your organization.

1. Change up Passwords

Simple isn’t always best when it comes to cyber security. It might be tempting to use the same password for multiple accounts, but it can put you at risk. Your IT solutions company will tell you that the best practice is to vary your password across all of your accounts. Why? Because if one company gets breached, those credentials won’t give hackers unfettered access to all of your other accounts. So how can you remember an evolving list of passwords? That takes us to our second tip.

2. Consider a Password Manager

To effectively manage (and remember!) all those passwords, get a password manager – a software program that tracks all of your passwords. You simply have to remember one “master key” password and the program remembers the rest for you. That eliminates office sticky notes filled with passwords, which are a security issue in and of themselves.

Consider programs like LastPass, 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass, or Roboform. Some of these programs have free versions, while some are completely free. Plus, if you use Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive, you can save that password database on the cloud so that you can access it from anywhere.

3. Multi-Factor Authentication Adds Layers

If you want to add a further layer of protection to your passwords, enable multi-factor authentication (MFA). This type of login will ask you for an additional method of verification before allowing you to log into your account.

Perhaps the most common example of MFA today is when you log into a website and it asks for a one-time code or password that it send to the phone number or email associated with your account. IT support companies favour MFA because it establishes multiple layers of defense that make it more challenging for someone to hack into your account.

4. Treat Every Link With Caution

The most common tool that hackers use to prey on private individuals and employees of targeted organizations is emailing a fake link. These links might be disguised as a password recovery email, a link to a bank statement, hotel or flight reservation, or some similarly urgent request.

Once a user clicks one of these false links, they are directed to a counterfeit site that probably looks and feels very similar to the genuine site. The fake site will then ask for their login details or other personal information. If they type it in, it goes directly into the hands of a hacker who can then use it to access the user’s account.

How do you avoid this ruse? Be cautious of any email or text links. Don’t click on anything that looks suspicious, and make a habit of going directly to the provider’s site rather than clicking an email link.

5. Don’t Use Debit Cards

We are all making more purchases online, but how you pay for them does matter. When making any online payment, don’t use debit cards or any other payment method tied to a bank account.

Safer payment methods include credit cards that offer protection against online hacks or online payment methods like PayPal. No matter which method you choose, opt for those that are isolated from your bank accounts.

6. Choose Payment Safety Over Convenience

Many websites strive to make the buying experience better by storing your credit card information, enabling future payments with a single click. Unfortunately, hackers know this too, and may specifically target those sites. While it can seem inconvenient to type in your payment details on sites you frequent, it’s much less time consuming than dealing with identity theft.

7. Social Media is, Well, Social

Remember that your family and friends aren’t the only ones looking at your social media profiles. Assume that anything you post publicly – from your travel plans and where you are at a particular time, to pictures of your home and information about where you work – can and is being viewed by hackers.

8. Be Careful Where You Venture

We’ve all become very accustomed to sharing links, yet we should use caution when visiting new sites. Some sites utilize something called  “drive-by download attacks” to threaten your privacy.

These types of attacks are nefarious because they don’t require a visitor to click on or download anything for their device to become infected. Merely visiting one of these sites will pass on a very malicious code. To avoid this, only visit well-established sites that you trust. Your network support team might be able to assist in blocking certain sites.

9. Keep Current

When it comes to security, the latest and greatest is often the best. That’s because new systems haven’t given hackers time to discover and exploit their vulnerabilities. If you are running old versions of software, your operating system, or your browser, there is a greater chance that malware or hackers can find weaknesses in them. Updating your system whenever that window pops up can leave you less vulnerable.

10. Anti-Virus Software is Your Friend

Your data can be placed at risk in myriad ways ranging from phishing attacks, spyware, malware, viruses, and more. Anti-virus software installed on all your devices is a simple way to help fend off these continual attacks. Just as with any other software, make certain it remains up to date so that it continues to stay ahead of trending cyber threats.

11. Avoid Downloads

One of the favorite methods hackers use to gain access to a network is through malicious downloads. Your company’s IT services team should require employees to get authorization before downloading anything from the Internet. On a personal level, avoid downloading any unneeded browser or software extensions unless they are from trusted sources. If you believe it is safe, select a custom install and observe the process so that you can decline any add-ons or extensions during the installation.

12. Paranoia is Good

We live with so much technology that it’s easy to get comfortable with it. While you don’t have to be overly suspicious, it’s best to turn a critical eye toward links that you click, sites that you visit, and random texts or emails that look sketchy. A little caution goes a long way toward prevention.

The Journey to Cybersecurity

If you and your team follow these simple steps, you can increase your organization’s cybersecurity and feel good about your online digital security. If your business is finding it difficult to navigate today’s new reality, Dyrand Systems’ IT experts can help you get to work quickly and securely.