Top 10 cyber security tips
High profile hacking incidents continue to make headlines around the world. The Target data breach that compromised 40 million customer accounts is still reverberating around the retail universe, and earlier this month a hacker organization targeted CNET, the popular technology and consumer electronics site. The group claims it obtained over a million usernames, passwords and email addresses.
If you run a business and have valuable customer data to protect or even if you just enjoy visiting sites online and shopping at ecommerce hubs and want to keep your personal information safe, you may worry about hacker attacks. But there are steps you can take to reduce the risk. Here are 10 ways to keep your personal or business information safer.
- Make sure your password is secure. Passwords are the first line of defense. Use a password that contains both upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and special characters. The more complex your password is, the harder it is for hackers to compromise.
- Never use personal information in your password. It’s a bad idea to use your name or that of a spouse, child or pet as a password. The same is true of birthdays or phone numbers, as this information is also widely available via a Google search of your name.
- Make sure your OS software is up to date. Hackers continuously come up with new ways to infiltrate security systems, so it pays to make sure your browser has the latest security patches. When prompted to update your operating system software, take time to do it.
- Don’t leave your computer unattended when logged in to a site. It can be tempting to leave your browser open if you have to leave your PC for a few minutes, but that’s a golden opportunity for snoopers. Close all applications and log off before you step away.
- Create a "burner" email address. It’s a good idea to open a free email account with sites like Gmail that you can give out when you’re required to provide an email online or open an ecommerce account. You’ll avoid spam at your primary address and reduce vulnerability.
- Password-protect mobile devices. Many people don’t bother creating a password or PIN for their mobile phone or tablet, which is a big mistake. Like PCs, phones and tablets typically have sensitive account information on them that also needs to be kept safe.
- Use different passwords for all the registered sites you visit. Many people make the mistake of using the same password for all the sites they visit, but that means that a hacking incident on one site compromises all of their online accounts.
- Change passwords frequently. If you change your password frequently, you’ll decrease the likelihood that you’ll lose valuable information in a hacking incident. Aim for making a change to all registered passwords approximately every 30 days.
- Set your email to read plain text only. One way hackers target victims is to monitor when emails are opened by embedding an image that displays automatically. If you set your email to display plain text only, you can manually open emails from trusted senders.
- Don’t keep a password list. If you’re following good security practices, you’ll create strong passwords and change them frequently. But keeping an unencrypted list of passwords on your PC defeats the whole purpose.
With sites worldwide under threat by attacks from increasingly sophisticated hacking groups, it makes sense to be concerned about your data, whether you run a business or are a casual Internet user. Since passwords are the primary line of defense, focus on creating strong passwords, and make sure you change them approximately every 30 days.
Keeping track of your passwords manually can be a challenge if you use many different sites, so it may be in your best interest to explore an automated password management solution. But whether you manage your passwords yourself or rely on a partner, make sure you follow these 10 tips to improve security and avoid handing account information to hackers.
Bill Carey is Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at Siber Systems Inc., which offers the top-rated RoboForm Password Manager solution. Find out more about RoboForm at http://www.roboform.com.