The new year is finally upon us, so it’s time to make your New Year’s Resolutions! 2020 had all of us working from home more often. As a result of this, we’ve seen a great increase in cyber-attacks this year. Now is the perfect time to commit to forming better security habits as you navigate using technology more and more in your daily life. Avoiding the headaches that come with a breach are not worth it! Being proactive about security is some of the best insurance you can get for yourself. We have compiled some simple suggestions for you to bring into the new year!
1. Change your passwords
If you can’t commit to anything else, at least do this one thing and change your passwords. Over the years, it’s tempting to start using weak passwords or even reuse the same one as you need to create more and more accounts online. Put an end to this now!
We recommend using a password manager such as LastPass or Keeper. The setup is easy and will make it so you never have to remember multiple passwords again! Just pick one (LastPass has a free version), and follow their instructions to get set up. We have a longer post making the case for password managers here: https://kitsapnetworking.com/2020/01/07/too-many-passwords-to-remember-heres-how-to-manage-them/. Another good resource with info about password managers can be found at https://www.passwordmanager.com/ if you want in-depth info with comparisons between all the popular options.
Need more convincing? Go to haveibeenpwned.com and try typing in your email. This site will show you if your email has been a part of any large breaches that have been made public. If it shows that your email has been associated with any big public attacks on any certain services, you’ll want to change your password for that site immediately. If you were using that password for other logins on other websites as well, you need to consider those as also compromised and change them immediately.
2. Update your PC/software regularly
Updates for your PC and any software you use are often just there to fix security issues. Updates are not just for new features! This is why it is extremely important to keep everything updated regularly. If you ignore them, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable. For businesses, your best bet is to use Managed services via an IT support provider. One of the many benefits of managed services is that your workstations on the plan will regularly get updates. This way you’ll know for sure that all of your employee’s computers will have the latest security patches – outside of business hours too, so they won’t interrupt work.
For your personal computer, you can go and update Windows RIGHT NOW if you’ve been putting it off for a while. Do that, and you’ll already have a little head start on your new year’s resolutions! Going forward, just let that update go through on whatever software you’re using, and use that minute to stretch your legs while you wait.
3. Enable multi-factor authentication
Enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your various personal accounts takes only a little bit of setup for a lot of added security. MFA makes it so that you need to use more than one method to log in to your account – say, a password AND code sent to your cell phone to gain access. It’s worth enabling on the most important accounts to you online.
With MFA turned on, it’s going to be much harder for someone to hack into your accounts. If your email, for example, gets compromised when you have MFA enabled, you have a HUGE advantage. If someone had your password and tried to access your email, it’s likely that you just would get an email alerting you of a log-in attempt and that you should change your password. Since you had the added security of requiring multiple forms of authentication, the attacker would be stopped short before they could gain full access to your account. On the other hand, if you didn’t ever bother with enabling multi-factor auth for your email and someone gains access to it, there’s a chance that the attacker could themselves. If your info is tied to the hacker’s own personal phone number and they change your password, you’re going to have a huge headache when trying to get that account back, if you even can.
4. Backup your data
How would you feel if, right now, you lost access to everything saved on your computer forever? If you’re good about keeping backups, then this won’t phase you, because you could just download everything you’ve saved back onto your computer. Losing access to your critical data can be devastating in business and in your personal life. It is far too common for hackers to hijack important data and try to get you to pay hefty sums to get it back. If you have it all backed up somewhere, safely, though, then you don’t have to worry, because a hack will be an inconvenience, but not business-ruining.
It’s especially important for businesses to choose a secure backup solution. Our team can take care of this for you! Choosing a secure backup solution is some of the best insurance there is for any business that stores important data.
5. Stay on the lookout for phishing attempts
It can be easy to get lazy about safe internet browsing habits, but you should take this new year as an opportunity to stay alert and avoid clicking on anything suspicious online! If you’ve secured everything listed in the above tips, you’re in good shape, but there’s always the human element that can open you up to attacks, sometimes called “social engineering.” We have a nice list of tips for avoiding phishing here. Overall, when going into the new year: try to remember not to click on links in emails or attachments without verifying who they’re coming from, don’t pay attention to ANY sort of threatening web pages online (just close the page), and in general just be careful about who you’re giving private information to.
It’s not hard to stay safe when using technology; you just need to make a habit of doing a few simple things. Even if you make just one of these security goals a priority this year, you’ll be in better shape. Serious breaches have the potential to be devastating, so the peace of mind you’ll gain by being safe cannot be understated. If you think your team may need an extra reminder, consider asking about our Internet Security Awareness Training, where we go in-depth on everything you and your employees should know! 🙂