Becoming more digital in a post-Covid world was a good thing. We became more efficient, more productive. But there is always a cost-benefit for everything. One of the costs of a digital world is protecting yourself from hackers and scams. Below are some practical tips for cybersecurity:
Choose passwords that are acronyms. For example, take the first letter of a nursery rhyme that you can easily remember; Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall, or HDSOW, and use that, along with signs or numbers to make it more unique. The problem with using language or words as passwords is that a hacker can find words easily by running a dictionary program on your password.
Try to avoid using free public Wi-Fi if you can. A hacker can easily intercept the public Wi-Fi without you knowing. When I’m on the road, I’ve always used a device from my internet provider to connect me to the web using a dedicated phone line.
Never click on links of emails or reply to them if you haven’t verified the email address with the person who sent it to you. Hackers mimic our email addresses which is called “spoofing”. They can actually use our real email address as well! To protect yourself it doesn’t take much effort to send a separate text to the sender to verify, or even better, to call them the old-fashioned way to confirm that email was sent. By texting or calling the sender, you are using multi-factor authentication. You may have experienced multi-factor authentication already when, for example, a text is sent to you on your phone from a Google service to verify it is you when you are using another device to access it.
Social engineering is when hackers are gathering information about you to gain your trust. You’ve probably heard of “phishing” which is when hackers are “fishing” for personal information. It could be as inconspicuous as a response to a recent email that you have sent to someone you know, from an imposter that responds to the email using the same context of the conversation. Hackers can be intelligence gathering for months before they attack.
Installation services connecting our smart devices at home such as TVs can be points of entry for hackers. Change your password after an installation service.
Our digital world is constantly feeding others data about us, who is watching? Streaming services tell others, for example, what we like, and when we like to see or hear them. Website ads trade data about us. Our smart devices at home can have sensors that hackers can pull information from. Always ask “What does it say about me?” Unplug devices all around to be completely secure in a private meeting. Physically cover a camera from a device so no one can watch.
In a Zoom meeting use a virtual background for privacy instead of your home or office background. Go to Settings/Background & Filters to pick up a virtual background like a beach, the Golden Gate Bridge or the Northern Lights. Not only is it more private, but fun too to watch the palm trees blow in the wind!
Review the privacy settings of your phones. For example, under Settings/Privacy/Location Services limit allowing your location access by choosing “never.”
A criminal will always find a way, the best that we can do is to have the right tools and policies to deter them. Apply all software updates. Use password managers if you like. Subscribe to an encrypted email service. Last March before the first COVID-19 lockdown I subscribed to a Canadian company called E-Courier to securely send an encrypted file or message.
Happy Holidays! Spikes of cyberattacks happen during holidays so be alert during the festive times!