Technology has worked its way into every facet of our everyday lives. The evolution of smartphones and the proliferation of IoT (Internet of Things) devices such as internet-connected thermostats and home automation devices has created major security challenges in every home. The biggest problem is that most people have little to no idea how these devices work, and how or if they'll need to be kept secure.
In the rush to connect devices to the internet, even manufacturers have been guilty of ignoring security concerns with their products. This lax environment has already led to several high-profile internet attacks, such as the Mirai botnet, which hijacked IoT devices and virtually brought the internet to its knees in October of 2016. These types of attacks are growing in frequency and scale, taking advantage of weak default security and user ignorance.
In order to stay secure, individual users need to get up to speed on the security procedures that they should be following on all of their devices. Here's a list of the top tech security basics that everyone should follow:
Secure Your Home Wireless Router
A good way to maintain the security of your devices is to make sure they can't be accessed from outside of your home. This will mask some of the security vulnerabilities in your devices by preventing them from accepting external connections. Despite being a fixture in approximately 71% of American homes with a broadband connection, unsecured WiFi access points continue to be a serious issue. Users must take steps to assure that their home routers are running at least WPA2 encryption, and are set to use a complex secure password for access. Here's a great guide for the novice user.
Be Careful When Using Public WiFi Hotspots
Chances are when you're away from home you may be tempted to use one of the many publically available WiFi hotspots to connect your mobile device to the internet. These networks are convenient ways to stay connected during your daily travels. The danger is that a large number of them have little to no security enabled to keep you safe. Since they're publically available, they're also prime targets for identity thieves and hackers to gather your data without your permission. To mitigate the threat, you'll want to either avoid these networks or invest in a VPN service that will encrypt your traffic and keep it safe from prying eyes.
Use Modern, Up-To-Date Security Software
If you're using a smartphone, you should consider installing one of the many antivirus/antispyware solutions available in your device's app store. While they're not as high of a profile target as PC's as of yet, smartphones of all types are becoming a more attractive target for creators of malicious code.
Desktop PC's, and Microsoft Windows devices, in particular, continue to be enormous targets for viruses, spyware, and ransomware. Users of these computers need a high-quality anti-virus solution for Windows to make sure that their devices aren't targeted by anything nefarious. The built-in tools provided by Microsoft offer only the barest minimum of protection and usually aren't enough to protect the average user.
Make Passwords Complex, Change Them Often
You may have noticed that many websites now have complex password requirements when creating an account. This is because insecure passwords are the easiest way for data to be compromised, often on a large scale. If a site is requesting capital letters, special characters, and minimum lengths, that's a good start. If you're using services with no specific requirements, you can also choose to create a long, complex password comprised of unrelated words. These types of passwords are actually much harder to crack than ones crafted with special characters and capitals, and will, therefore, be more secure. They're usually much easier to remember as well. Passwords should also be changed at least every 6 months, and should not be reused across multiple services.
If all else fails, you're going to want to have a safe, secure copy of your data available. In this way, you can be assured that recovering from a security breach will be much less painful. Since no amount of preventative measures is totally foolproof, you'll want to prepare for the worst by signing up for an online backup service. Many of these services will back up smartphones as well, so you won't lose data even if your device is lost or stolen.