Data breaches and cyber attacks at major companies like Equifax, Target, eBay, Yahoo and Sony dominate the headlines and more attacks are reported almost every day. In 2017, the Identity Theft Resources Center (ITRC) recorded 1,339 U.S. data breaches, exposing more than 174 million confidential records, a 21 percent increase from 2016.
In 2018, the number of cyber attacks and data breaches are expected to increase. Individuals and businesses need to protect their sensitive information from ransomware, malware, phishing emails and other cyber threats.
Here are eight ways to stay safer and improve your cybersecurity
Create Strong Passwords for Important Accounts
Many cyber attacks occur due to simple or easy-to-guess passwords. Create strong, unique passwords for each account including email, social media, financial, etc. Passwords should consist of 16 or more characters with combinations of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Change the password regularly at least once every six to 12 months and don't use the same password for any of your accounts.
Backup Important Data and Information
Regularly update critical data and store on the cloud or to a backup hard drive or USB drive.
Update Software and Operating System Regularly
To defend against viruses, malware and other cyber threats, update your computers with latest security software, web browser and operating system. Turn on automatic updates for your operating system and software. Use Chrome or Firefox to browse the internet as they receive frequent security updates.
Implement Multifactor Authentication
A password is no longer enough to prevent hackers. Many services offer multi-factor authentication to secure sensitive data. Multifactor authentication requires more information than a password.to access to computer systems, network and online accounts. Authentication factors include security questions, fingerprint or facial recognition or digital certificate.
Use a VPN for Public and Free WiFi Networks
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) enable users to securely access a private network and remotely share data through public networks such as a public Wi-Fi hotspot. The data transmitted through a VPN is encrypted, preventing anyone from viewing the data or monitoring online activities. There are many VPNs to choose from, free and paid. You can find options for U.S. VPN on Bestvpnrating.com.
Tighten Social Media Security and Privacy Settings
According to Pew Research, 69% of all US adults use at least one social media site. Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media channels occasionally change their privacy options. Visit your social media accounts regularly to review privacy settings. Disconnect any apps you don't use from your social media accounts. In addition, consider what you post on your social media accounts and ensure you do not share any personal or sensitive information, which could be valuable for hackers and cyber thieves. Make sure to log out of your accounts when you are finished with your session
Install Security Software
Install antivirus software from a known vendor to protect your computer against viruses and schedule the software to scan regularly. You also may want to consider anti-spyware and other privacy programs to prevent any sensitive data from being stolen. Use a firewall to protect against external attacks on your computer. In addition, always purchase security and software products from a reliable vendor.
Be Aware of Phishing Scams
Phishing scams use social engineering tactics to deceive you into divulging personal information, which could be used to steal your identity. While most phishing attacks are done through email, increasingly they can be carried out over the phone, text or through social media sites. Be very suspicious of any request for personal information.