In today’s digital-based world, staying safe online is more important than ever. Viruses, keylogging programs, malicious software, data breaches, and other online threats can compromise your personal information and lead to financial problems, identity theft, unrecoverable loss of computer files and more devastating effects.
Unfortunately, these threats can never be perfectly avoided, since people who hack find ways around cyber security measures intended to thwart their efforts every single day. However, you can definitely take some steps to reduce the probability of your computer systems being compromised.
1. Don’t neglect the importance of strong passwords. Make sure to use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols in your passwords in order to make them difficult to guess — complete words are the easiest for hackers to figure out. There are many sites online that will generate these types of random secure passwords for you. It is also recommended to never use the same password for two or more websites since it will make it much easier for a hacker to take over your accounts if the passwords across websites are homogenous.
2. Watch out for phishing attacks. Phishing is when someone attempts to obtain sensitive information (like your username, password, or credit card information), by pretending to be a trustworthy entity (such as a friend, family member, or even a company) in an email or text message. Many phishing attempts can look very realistic, which is why many people fall for them. For example, someone may create a fake website for a bank that looks like the official website and send you an email with a link to the site, where you are prompted to input your personal information. However, inputting your information in this site means you fell for the bait — and the attacker walks away with your personal information to use as they please.
The best way to prevent phishing is to always err on the side of caution when receiving an email from a bank or other official entity that requires input of sensitive information. If you have a feeling an email or text may be a phishing attempt, don’t click on any links in the message. Instead, contact the institution directly through an official phone number or an online system that you are 100% sure is legitimate to confirm with them.
3. Use two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is a method of confirming a user’s identity by sending a unique code to your phone or email to use before being able to login to a website. This reduces the chance of your account being breached, because someone trying to hack you would have to have access to both platforms to login successfully. While this does take extra time, we think it’s definitely worth it to keep your account safe.
4. Make sure you keep up to date with the latest security patches. Whenever your computer or phone’s operating system prompts you to update, make sure you do so as soon as possible. These updates often fix bugs in the system, and improve security against malicious software. When you use an outdated operating system, you are vulnerable to cyber attacks.
5. Backup your most important files. Even if you follow all of the tips we’ve mentioned, there is unfortunately still always a chance you can be a victim of a cyber attack. If this occurs, you want to have copies of any files that are important to you readily available. InStream offers services intended to ensure your files are backed up remotely and can be immediately restored if needed — contact us for more information.