How to keep cyber criminals at bay

In this digital age, we rely on the internet and technology for almost everything. Although accessibility and connectivity have improved exponentially, this advancement has also left us exposed to high risks. In order to protect the information we have online and stored on our devices, there are measures that we must take. With a spate of cases coming up in the news, here are a few tips to help you remain safe.

Password management is extremely important to protect your accounts whether social media, devices or banking. Use a strong mix of characters including numbers, symbols and avoid using the same password for multiple sites. Sharing your password with others is a strict no, don’t write it down, especially in visible places.

Never leave your devices unattended. If you need to leave your electronic device in any area, irrespective of duration, ensure its locked so that no one can use it. If you have sensitive information on a hard drive, flash drive, ensure it has a password. Disconnect your device from the internet when not using it for extra protection.

Attachments, links in email should always be opened with caution. If it’s unexpected or suspicious for any reason, don’t click on it. Check the URL twice of the website and the link ittakes you to. These are a few things to watch out for – If it promises money or gift certificates such as ‘get rich quick’ emails that offer you large sums of money and ask you share your bank details. If it offers instructions or attachments claiming to protect you from a virus that is undetected by anti-virus software, if it claims it’s not a hoax, if there are multiple spelling or grammatical errors or the logic is contradictory and if it urges you to forward the message.

Sensitive browsing, such as banking or shopping, should only be done on a personal device or through a trusted network. Whether it’s a friend’s phone, a public computer, or a cafe’s free WiFi—your data could be copied or stolen.

Back up data regularly, keep it backed up in at least 2 other places. Make sure your anti-virus software is always up to date. Keep software updated. Running the most recent versions of your mobile operating system, security software, apps and Web browsers is among the best defences against malware, viruses and other hacking threats, since faults in previous systems cannot be manipulated.

Be careful while plugging in external devices. Be conscientious of what you plug in to your computer. Malware can easily spread through infected flash drives, external hard drives, and even smartphones.

Social media activity should always be regulated. Watch what you share, the information your provide and who you allow access to your pages. Criminals can befriend you and easily gain access to a shocking amount of information—your school, workplace, when you’re on vacation—this could help them gain access to more valuable data.

When offline, watch out for social engineering , where someone attempts to gain information from you through manipulation. If someone contacts you asking for sensitive information, be careful and say no. Before providing any personal or financial information, make sure that you are interacting with a reputable, established source.

Be sure to monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity. If you see something unfamiliar, it could be a sign that you’ve been compromised.

Multi-factor authentication can help you protect yourself from hacking threats. The more authentication stages on your account, the harder it is to hack. A password is merely a single form of authentication. With multi-factor authentications, users are granted access to their account only after presenting several separate pieces of evidence like answering personal questions or providing security codes to prove they are the account holders. Gmail, Facebook, various banks and multiple sites  have the option of turning on multi-factor authentication.

These are just some tips to ensure you remain safe in the new age of technology!

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