Just like getting in shape or quitting smoking, improving your cyber security requires consistent work. Cyber-attacks are getting more and more sophisticated because of the vast information of leaked data out there. If you put something on the internet, expect it to get leaked at some stage. It’s a scary thought, I know.
But you can make your life online safer by working on your routines. Once you know the main principles of cyber security it will become more or less second nature to you. Also, as the world matures the tools will get better and more convenient, even if you’re not the most tech savvy person out there.
1. Learn to value your data.
The best way to prevent someone taking your data is by not sharing your data. Easy right? Well not quite, but you can always start asking why someone really needs your data in the first place and how much of it they really need. Try to make a habit out of filling out as little information as necessary. Does the hotel you’re staying at really need your home address? And your email? And your office fax number? If they really need to get in touch with you, they’ll figure it out.
Also try to keep in mind which of your data is hard to change if it’s compromised. An email address or a credit card is going to be less of a problem replacing than say your social security number or your home address.
2. Keep your apps and electronics up to date.
When buying a device, make sure it comes with updates. When you no longer receive updates, you’re increasing your attack surface. The same goes for the apps on your computer and mobile devices. Also make a habit out of going over the apps you have installed and remove those you don’t use or need anymore. The nice Solitaire game you installed two years ago, could be transferred to another owner and morph into malware. If the software isn’t on your device, it can’t do that.
3. Backup your stuff.
Backup is cheap. But still, most of us learn to use backups after not having one the first time around. Some never learn. You only realize how much important things you had on your computer right after it breaks. The more devices you have, the more often one will break. Thus, less hardware, less breaks. Eventually all electronics will wear out. Make sure you have a solid plan for backing things up. And make sure you have tested restoring that backup at least once before you really need it.
4. Get a password manager. And use it.
By not reusing the same couple of passwords, you will make yourself a lot less vulnerable. Humans are terrible at remembering passwords, especially at the level of complexity that passwords require. A password manager will help you create complicated passwords that you never need to memorize. If one app or web page is compromised, you can rest assured all your other accounts are safe, and you replace one password instead of your whole life. Many companies like Instagram, LinkedIn and Adobe have been hacked. Having a unique password will save you a lot of trouble. You can even store your credit cards and other important data in there if you so choose.
5. Be prepared for some tradeoffs.
Reusing that same old trusted password everywhere is no doubt the easiest way to do it. Just as clicking that “Remember my password” button is too good to turn down sometimes. But eventually you’ll run into trouble. A lot of services these days offer two-factor authentication which adds another layer of security, but it might mean you can’t always log in to your favorite social media if you left your phone at home. If you don’t want to use a password manager, writing down passwords on paper is not a bad idea, as long as you store them in a safe place. The likelihood of someone stealing a password from your home is probably lower than someone finding your password online.
That’s some basic principles on how to strengthen your cyber security. If it feels too difficult, pick the principles that you find easiest to get you started. Step by step you can implement more principles and soon you will be up to full speed, safe and sound!
Author: Erik Nylund, CTO, Gambit