Phishing scams, malware, and identity theft are some of the most common types of cybercrimes. These could cost individuals, companies and even nations millions to billions of dollars in damages.
Fortunately, there are things that you can do that can help you protect yourself, your data, and your privacy from the most common types of cyber attacks. Here’s a list of those tips gathered from the book Hackers Exposed: Discover the secret world of cybercrime (2019)
Tip #1: Don’t over-share
If you’re an avid social media user but aren’t looking to grow a fan base, make sure that you’re not over-sharing. Your first name and last name should be okay. Your hometown, where you currently live, where you currently work, your entire job history, your relationships, and many other details of your life are best kept offline where they matter most.
Tip #2: Use secure passwords
Use strong passwords. Sites nowadays may require passwords to be of a certain length, to have both uppercase and lower case characters, and to have non-letter characters such as special characters or numbers. Follow these password rules, and remember to use different passwords for different sites.
Don’t use the same passwords, especially for all your social media accounts, emails, and their recovery emails. If a perpetrator successfully hacks one of your accounts, it’s highly likely that they’d try the same username and password to access your accounts from different sites too.
Tip #3: Avoid spam mails
E-mail providers nowadays can successfully differentiate regular mail from spam mail, so don’t be surprised if your spam mail becomes full when you haven’t even defined the spam mail rule. E-mail providers usually look at the subject of the message and look for trigger words.
Spam mails will usually contain harmful links and attachments. Never click on any of these links or download any of these attachments.
Tip #4: Review your bank account statements
Some hackers could go for months or even years undetected because of what is known as salami slicing. Instead of one big purchase from one credit card, salami slicers will distribute their theft over multiple credit cards. Their unauthorized purchases aren’t as grand as other types of credit card hackers, but they could continue on for an extended period because of how unnoticeable their thefts are.
Review your bank account statements and make sure that there aren’t any unauthorized purchases. Worse is if the perpetrator orders something illegal under your name.
Tip #5: Turn off your computer
A computer that is connected to the internet is more vulnerable than a computer that isn’t connected to the web. One that’s turned off is even less vulnerable. Keeping your PC’s up time to only when you’re using your device is one way that you can prevent hackers from spying. It’s a low-tech tip, but an important one nevertheless.
Tip #6: Install updates
Make sure that your firewall, OS and anti-virus programs are all up to date. Firewalls are your machine’s built-in anti-virus. It protects you by preventing you from visiting harmful sites. It blocks potentially harmful connections in and out of your computer.
Anti-virus programs as a whole are used to protect you from downloading, installing and executing files that could potentially be harmful to your device and your files. Make sure that your anti-virus database is always updated so you don’t have to worry about new and emerging threats.
OS developers may sometimes release critical security updates that deal with bugs and vulnerabilities in your OS. Always check for updates or set your PC to automatically download and install these updates when they come.
Tip #7: Consider a VPN
Have you ever wondered how some sites could somehow magically figure out the country or the area you’re living in? This is because these sites could track where the data is coming from, and use this information to tailor the ads they show you. And while this seems harmless enough, this is also how hackers can intercept your data and do more harmful things.
Virtual private networks (VPNs) encrypt your outgoing connections until they reach their destination. A VPN encrypts all outgoing traffic so that even if a hacker comes across your connection requests, all they’d see is encrypted data.
Tip #8: Secure physical documents
Have you recently received a parcel? Don’t throw the box out just yet. This package holds some personal information that you might want to get rid of before you throw the package out. The package receipt has your name, your address and your contact number on it. Simply take out the receipt and dispose of it in a way that your personal information isn’t readable.
Keep documents such as contracts, certificates, IDs and any other official documents safely stashed away. If you want to get rid of any unneeded documents, don’t just throw them away as is. Make a quick trip to the paper shredder before you dispose anything that contains personal information.
Tip #9: Avoid phishing sites and emails
Phishing scams are easy enough to avoid if you know what you’re looking at. For example, if you’ve already registered to your online banking account but suddenly, you receive an email to confirm your login and personal details again, it may be a phishing email directing you to a phishing site.
The phishing site may look exactly the same, but the URL is a dead giveaway. The URL needs to be exact, and this is where phishing sites fail since no two URLs can be exactly the same. Any variation such as dots, dashes, and any other extra or missing characters or misspelling are telltale signs of phishing sites.
Tip #10: Stay out of the bad side of the internet
Crime rates are higher in bad neighborhoods, and the same goes for the internet. Stay out of phishing sites and avoid opening spam mails. Don’t engage in stranger conversations and be wary of your personal data. Viewing adult content may also expose some security vulnerabilities. If at all possible, don’t go to sites that don’t have updated SSL certificates. Stay out of sites that begin with http:// instead of https://.