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Cybersecurity: How to really protect yourself online.

cyber security, cybersecurity, computer security

Cyberattacks are getting worse. According to SC Magazine online UK businesses faced more than one attack a minute in 2019, double from the last year. Within your workplace, you have probably taken courses made mandatory by your employer to make you more aware of cyber-attacks and how it could negatively affect the company. However, there is the issue that training only benefits the company and not you. While businesses do face substantial risk, you as an individual are also vulnerable to cyber attacks. Below are my tips to help you keep safe online.

Consider using a VPN:

What is a VPN? VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and it allows you to create a secure connection to another network on the internet. Your organisation may currently use this but what you need is a personal VPN. A VPN allows for online privacy and anonymity and even stops your Internet Service Provider (ISP) from tracking your internet activity. To avoid leaving a digital trail of your personal information on the public web it is strongly recommended that you use one. Express VPN and NordVPN are some of the best VPN services I would recommend.

Consider getting two-factor authentication:

Normally when you sign in to your email account or whichever service you use, you simply enter your username and password. However, with two-factor authentication, this adds another layer of protection. So when this feature is enabled and you enter your password, if the service deems your password as correct it will then send you a code to your phone in which you enter to sign in. This means you have another layer of protection: password and the code you receive by text. Most services provide this feature and I strongly advise you to consider enabling this. You may not need this feature if your passwords are strong, but a report that came out in 2019 mentioned that the following extremely generic passwords are used by millions, these being ‘123456’, ‘qwerty’, ‘password’ and ‘Ashley’.

If you’re reading this and use any of the above passwords, then you need to get this extra level of security. Another benefit is that if someone correctly guesses your password, they won’t be able to log in because the code will be sent to your personal phone and you’ll know someone, somewhere, is attempting to access your emails. Get in contact with whichever service you use and ask if two-step authentication is available.

Be vigilant in regards to what emails you receive:

Fraudulent emails are the easiest method for cybercriminals to obtain valuable personal information from you. Cybercriminals love sending emails with malicious links that tell you to enter your bank details or even when you click on the link it downloads malware that you did not even agree to download. There are a number of rules that you should abide by when going through your emails. Firstly, never enter your bank account details in links that you click on in emails, because organisations normally do not send you an email to purchase something. For example, when you do online shopping on Tesco or Zara, and you want to checkout, you are then forced to pay on the website itself. Neither website sends you a link to your email to pay for your online trolley. All in all, look out for any emails that are asking you to make a payment that you are not aware of and do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from unknown sources.

Additionally, it is a fact that a lot of phishing emails are poorly written, poorly formatted and contain horrible spelling and grammar. If you come across this, it is likely that the email is spam and has malicious intent. Think about it, when you receive emails from newsletters you subscribe to you can see how nicely their emails are structured and often the complete lack of grammatical or spelling mistakes. Reputable companies care about their reputation and format their emails in a professional manner. This isn’t always the case though as some cybercriminals craft very good emails. Read more about phishing emails here.

Always update your smartphone:

Smartphones are the new computers. Most of us store our personal information on our phones, use it to watch videos and stream music etc. They are now a very important piece of our lives and it would be difficult to imagine a world without smartphones. Can you imagine a day without it?! A week?! Smartphones are just as complex as computers and can be hacked. It is why it is important to always make sure your smartphones are updated with the latest version of Android or iPhone. Updating your smartphones normally includes security fixes and patches to protect you against new threats and malware. My advice is to turn on automatic updates so you receive up-to-date fixes as they become available.

By Michael Ogunjimi

Jargon buster:

  • VPN: A virtual private network (VPN) is a technology that allows you to create a secure connection over a less-secure network between your computer and the internet. It protects your privacy by allowing you to anonymously appear to be anywhere you choose.
  • Two Factor Authentication: An extra layer of protection used to ensure the security of online accounts beyond just a username and password.
  • Patch: A patch is a set of changes to a computer program designed to update, fix, or improve it.
  • ISP: This stands for Internet Service Provider that provides you access to the internet to use. An example would be BT Group.
  • Phishing: This is a cyberattack in which a target is contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone posing as a legitimate business or person to trick the target into providing sensitive data such as bank details and passwords.

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