Most of us are experiencing the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on our personal lives and employment. For the fortunate employees that have been working from home the last few weeks, the transition from working behind company firewalls and secure servers to working from your home office or kitchen table can be a challenge. For many of us, the adjustment is a daunting task, coupled with the chaos of balancing kids’ home school schedules, video chats, and navigating through multiple stores looking for toilet paper. There are a number of helpful cybersecurity lessons and tips to keep your data and business as secure as possible.
Basic Cybersecurity Lessons
Here are 5 quick cybersecurity lessons based on suggestions from the FTC:
1. Keep your security software up to date. This includes antivirus applications, VPN or video conferencing software, your internet browser, and your computer’s operating system. These updates often eliminate recently-discovered security vulnerabilities, making you a harder target. Norton, McAfee, and Kaspersky are all great options. If you want a standalone VPN, Express VPN is a great option.
2. Use unique passwords that are at least 12 characters long, consisting of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Never share these passwords with anyone, even coworkers who might say they need them to help out with a project.
3. Verify your home network uses WPA2 or WPA3 encryption. The encryption scrambles information, causing potential hackers to look for easier targets. Refer to our previous article “Digital Home Security: 5 Easy Ways to Protect Your Home WiFi Network” for a detailed guide on this subject.
4. Keep your computers, tablets, and phones password protected – walking away from your device without a screen lock will put you at risk if anyone gets physical access to it. That might be one of your children, one of their friends, service personnel, or a burglar.
5. Shred your trash – do not throw away anything with sensitive data that would allow someone to use the collected information against you. If someone went through your trash can, could they determine your bank, insurance company, kids’ schools, or any other details about your life or work? For tips on what to shred at your home or office, refer to this article from ShredIt.
Hackers have an abundance of tools to target complacent individuals that may believe sensitive data is protected. Various online tutorials and free software gives anyone the tools to target unsuspecting individuals for easy data collection. Bank account information, social security data, and other sensitive data can easily be collected by a motivated hacker.
Victimization & How to Avoid It
Cybercrime is more profitable than the global illegal drug trade, according to a study by Cybersecurity Ventures. The most common goals of a hacker are:
- To grab enough personal data to obtain access to financial information to sell or use for goods and services
- Obtain sensitive data to use or sell
Common mistakes to help avoid becoming a potential victim or easy target:
- Reusing the same password for all accounts. Using “password123” for everything from online banking to your Netflix account is not a great strategy!
- Keeping copies of Social Security Numbers, Drivers License photos, bank info, and tax documents on your computer can be potential targets – consider saving paper copies in a safe deposit box, fireproof safe, or encrypted file storage.
- Assuming that a firewall, VPN, antivirus software is bulletproof. These hurdles are momentary obstacles for seasoned hackers that are motivated to breach their intended target. As with any other form of security, there’s an arms race between protective measures and the breaching techniques used to defeat them.
Spread the Word
In today’s challenging environment, hackers are getting faster and moving through various inventories of tools at their disposal. Some of us tend to be aware of our physical security and situational awareness, but we also need to consistently evaluate our digital environments with these cybersecurity lessons in mind.
Discuss these threats with your family members as well. You can develop good habits in your daily digital world – you might not expect it, but a spouse or teenager could inadvertently open your stable environment to an array of exploitation attacks on the same network. Discuss the danger of email phishing scams, catfishing, and the dangers of sharing personal data with anyone online – even someone they trust. You may think you are having a conversation with a friend online, responding to a coworker’s email, or participating in a harmless quiz on social media, but each of these scenarios could be a creative hacker fishing for information.
Further reading on cybersecurity lessons:
- Herjavec Group: COVID-19 Security Considerations
- Norton: Cybersecurity Best Practices for Employees
- StaySafeOnline: Online Safety Basics
About the Author
Frank Aguilar has worked in a variety of industries over the past two decades, ranging from IT in the financial sector to electrical testing in the utilities sector. His array of hobbies include camping, off-roading, shooting, and tinkering with electronics.