Let’s face it: 2017 was a rough year for cybersecurity.
Large-scale hacks were revealed one after another in the year that nothing seemed safe. These cyberattacks highlighted the alarming vulnerability of our personal information in a world where everything is stored online and subject to hacking.
In 2017, Cybercriminals penetrated Equifax in July and stole the personal data of 145 million people. In June, the computer virus NotPetya targeted Ukrainian businesses using compromised tax software; the malware later spread to major global businesses. In October, it was announced that every one of Yahoo’s 3 billion accounts was hacked in 2013 — three times what was first thought. WannaCry, which spanned more than 150 countries targeted businesses running outdated Windows software and locked down computer systems. Hackers targeted school districts, US voter records were exposed, and Uber covered up a massive data breach for over a year. The list goes on and on.
While 2017 was grueling, it was the year that people finally started to pay attention to cybersecurity. No longer is it a concept reserved for large organizations and government entities, but the constant barrage of hack after hack has brought cybersecurity into the mainstream.
With crime organizations, drug cartels, and nation states driving these attacks, how does the average consumer take a stand? It begins with understanding the attacker’s motivation and opportunistic nature.
Imagine a densely populated neighborhood. All of the homes have highly sought after valuables. When thieves come to steal, they indiscriminately check every home. If the door is locked, they move on. Why? Because they know, with certainty, that one of the homes has their doors unlocked with the windows open! The same principle applies to cyber theft. Hackers have little desire to kick down your door, so to speak. Why go to all the trouble when so many other potential victims have done little to prevent a breach in the first place? Hackers are opportunistic in nature. Understanding this is your best defense.
Here are 10 cybersecurity New Year’s resolutions you, as an individual, can make to ‘lock your door’ in the new year..
In 2018, I will…
1 … Always update computer software
We know, software updates are annoying – but they’re important. Most of the time these updates come with patches to fix security flaws that were recently discovered. When your computer wants to perform those security updates, do not delay.
2 … Always use complex passwords.
‘Password1’, ‘123456’, or these other worst passwords of 2017 won’t cut it. If remembering complex passwords is too difficult, we recommend using a sentence as your password. Example: “I always like to travel when on vacation!” This password would take approximately 30 billion years to hack–I think you will be safe.
3 … Never use the same password across multiple online accounts.
It’s a pain to have to remember different passwords for bank accounts, email, Facebook, and every other online service – but it’s a must. Hackers know that once they have obtained an initial password, it is likely used over and over for other sites such as banking, social media, computer logins, etc.
4 … Enable two-factor authentication.
Similar to swiping a debit card and then entering a pin, this is an extra layer of security for online logins. The most common version is a code texted to your phone after entering your password; making it tougher for hackers to gain access to your accounts. Many websites now offer this service. Check the site’s security settings to find out if it’s offered and how to set it up.
5 … Limit the amount of personal information I share online.
When teaching awareness classes, we can often ‘reset’ a student’s Gmail account by leveraging the personal information in their publicly available social media accounts. Too easy!
6 … Think before I open an email or an email attachment.
Be so vigilant with email that you are perhaps flirting with paranoia. This is the number one method you and your employer can utilize to prevent a breach. Never open an attachment unless you are absolutely positive of its contents. Never reveal personal information via email.
7 … Install antivirus software.
Install anti-virus software on every computer you own. Sounds simple enough, but a lot of people still don’t do it.
8 … Be smart when shopping online.
Always use only trusted services for shopping online. Visiting obscure online shopping websites or apps is just too risky. Never use public wifi for online shopping.
9 … Protect my connected devices.
The growth in the internet of things (IoT) is set to continue in 2018 and bring many benefits to our lives. Unfortunately, having more devices connected to the internet brings an added security threat. Apply basic measures like changing the default password and installing software updates regularly.
10 … Backup my data
Ransomware attacks are predicted to continue to explode in 2018. Protect your valuable data by routinely backing up your devices. In the event you are ever hit with a ransomware attack, you won’t risk losing that important work file you spent hours on.
Now go forth and and make 2018 your most cyber-secure year yet.