The number of internet users around the world in 2017 was 58 billion, says market research and business intelligence platform Statista. That’s a huge leap from just over 1 billion in 2005. This is mainly because people have easier access to computers and countries around the world are becoming more modernized.
Of course, along with that technological boom is a rise in the number of cybersecurity threats. According to the latest cybersecurity statistics compiled by Heimdal Security:
- 99% of computers are vulnerable to exploit kits, which are automated threats designed to redirect web traffic, scan for sensitive applications, and run damaging malware.
- Social engineering, a practice of manipulating individuals to execute an action or reveal information considered confidential, allowed an Eastern European cybercrime ring to steal $1 billion from 100 different banks in two years
- Governments are creating malware to use as digital weapons
- 68% of funds lost to a cyberattack are unrecoverable
Alarming statistics, if we must say so. But is there anything a regular user can do? Fortunately, you can take proactive actions to safeguard your security online.
Cybersecurity Tips: How to Ensure Data Security Online
#1. Make Sure Your Password Is Strong and Hacker-Proof
When creating passwords for your online accounts, consider the following best practices:
- Use long, unique alphanumeric passwords that are difficult to decode or crack
- Avoid words or numbers that can easily be associated with you such as birthday, phone number, company name, spouse’s or kids’ name, etc.
- Use symbols, plus a combination of upper and lowercase letters
- Don’t share your passwords with anyone
- It’s a bad idea to regularly change your passwords, but change them when you need to (i.e., your password has been compromised, you shared it with someone, the password you’re using is weak, you’ll feel better if you changed it, etc.)
#2. Use Password Managers
Use a password manager, such as LastPass or 1Password, to store your passwords in a secure vault. Once set up, all you need to remember is one master password instead of every password for every online account you have.
#3. Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication adds another layer of security to your accounts. This means to log into an account, aside from your username and password, you will also need to input an SMS-delivered code, for example.
#4. Know What Phishing Scams Are
Phishing scams are used by fraudsters to trick unsuspecting users into divulging confidential information such as credit card information, passwords, or bank account numbers. The scammer contacts you via email, social media, text messaging, or a phone call pretending to be your boss, bank, phone company, or internet service provider to obtain the information they need from you.
As a precaution, never open email attachments from someone you don’t know, or click links in suspicious emails. Various phishing scams exist, and it pays to educate yourself on what they are so you don’t become a victim.
#5. Install a Security Program on Your Computer
Install a security program capable of blocking common threats such as viruses, malware, spyware, and other malicious codes from infiltrating your computer and stealing your data. Examples of these security suites include McAfee Antivirus, Norton Antivirus, and AVG Security.
#6. Password-Protect Your Wireless Router
A home wireless router that isn’t password-protected is accessible to anyone within range, including hackers.
#7. Only Use Encrypted Sites When Sharing Sensitive Data Online
When sending sensitive information online, especially financial data, ensure that the website is encrypted by looking for the lock symbol and the “https” in the website’s URL.
#8. Update Your Apps and Software
Hackers take advantage of weaknesses in apps and software to attack your device, so never ignore prompts to update them. Skipping software updates leaves the door open for cybercriminals and puts you at risk for identity theft or financial loss.
#9. Watch What You’re Installing
“Don’t download malicious apps” is a simple enough code to live by. But sometimes, malware in the guise of fake or copycat apps are hard to spot. You’ll only know you’ve downloaded them once your phone starts acting up or is rendered useless. What, then, can you do?
- Stay away from third-party app stores
- Read app reviews
- Ensure you’re only downloading apps from reputable developers
- Keep your phone’s OS up-to-date
#10. Be Mindful of What You Share Online
You finally got your passport - no, wait, your driver’s license, too! In your excitement, you snapped a photo of each and shared on Facebook. Whoops, wrong move.
According to research from Kaspersky Lab:
- 93% of people share their information digitally
- 44% of internet users make their information publicly available
- 37% share payment and other financial details
- 41% share scans of their driving licenses, passports, and other personal documents
- 30% share their passwords
- 20% share sensitive information with people they don’t even know well
Oversharing personal information is never a good idea, especially if your settings are set to public. What’s shared online can travel beyond your control, so think twice about sharing personal details so you don’t expose yourself to identity theft.
Expand Your Cybersecurity Knowledge with NCU
If you’re interested in a cybersecurity degree to help companies and private parties protect themselves from online threats, Northcentral University’s comprehensive Online Cybersecurity Degree is a graduate program designed to prepare students for a leadership role in thwarting hackers and making the cyberspace safer.
Call us at 866-776-0331 for any questions. You may also submit a request for information using our online form.