Everyday hackers are finding new and creative ways to gain access to your Personal Identifiable Information (PII). Sometimes they will send you incredibly personal emails known as Phishing. These are used to get you to freely give up PII. They’ve even been known to hack directly into your Wi–Fi enabled smart-home devices such as baby monitors or your thermostat. Computers, routers, networks, cyberspace… it can all be pretty intimidating.
Thankfully there are some things you can do that will help make you less of a target and discourage potential hackers from attempting anything phishy (yes, that is a terrible pun!). It is nearly impossible to be completely secure but think of it this way: You are at the fair playing a game. The object is to throw darts at balloons and pop them from ten feet away. Are you going to aim at the balloon the size of a golf ball or a basketball? Implementing simple security measures will make you a much smaller target and make it less likely for anyone to waste time trying to get through all those measures.
1. “Password” is not a password.
You’ve probably heard this a thousand times by now. There is a good reason for that. Having a strong password provides essential protection from financial fraud and identity theft. One of the most common ways hackers break into a computer is by guessing passwords. Can you believe that? Consider using passwords at least 12 characters long with a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t make it easy for them. Don’t write these passwords down on paper or store them on some list in an unprotected notepad app. Try using a secure password storage app like Last Pass or Bitwarden.
2. Social Media isn’t just for friends and family.
Think before you share. More people are seeing the content of your social media accounts than you might realize. Something as innocuous as playing a game that asks you for the first letter of your birthday month and day as your new name for something silly. You just gave potential hackers your birthday month and day. Make sure your security settings are setup properly, change passwords regularly, and if you click on a link of an “unbelievable video” your friend shared, don’t follow the prompting to download any software needed to watch the video (hint: there is no video, your friend was hacked). If you really want to see if there is a video, look it up on YouTube. Chances are if it is a scam, it has already been reported.
3. WEP? Don’t you mean WPA2?
WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) is an older type of encryption used by routers to provide data confidentiality. Software programs to crack this encryption are widely available for anyone to download and use. This means just about anyone can wiggle their way into your home network and look around for your PII. We provide a WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) device. This is will keep your Wi-Fi much safer from potential hackers. We manage our devices and keep the firmware up to date which also keeps them more secure. Ask us for more details.
4. Clicking without thinking is reckless.
Links can come in your email, are found within compromised websites, social media and even a text message. At times, malware can automatically be downloaded without consent. Like a hidden passage leading into a secret entrance behind a dull portrait, it’s a way for intruders to get in without being spotted. Make sure you trust the sender before following a link anywhere. You could just be opening the door to the big bad wolf.
5. Software updates… tedious but necessary.
Shutting down your system to allow your computer to complete its update is almost always an inconvenience. Honestly, didn’t you just update it last week?? As mundane and annoying as it might be, software updates are important because they often include critical patches to security holes. In fact, many of the more harmful malware attacks out there take advantage of software vulnerabilities in common applications, like operating systems and browsers. A little tip: Make sure to turn on automatic software updates for your system and browsers. A little annoyance now could save you a major headache later.
We highly encourage making these tips common practices. We value each customer’s privacy and do our part to make sure all of our equipment is up-to-date and safe for use. If there are ever any questions, please don’t hesitate to call our office or drop by anytime.