Updated: May 4, 2020
Why is it cybersecurity important?
Take a moment to think about all the things you do online. Perhaps you use the internet for things like banking, social media, e-mail, shopping, checking lab results, and many other essential things. Now take a moment think about all of the different internet-connected electronic devices that you use on a daily basis. Perhaps you have an echo dot, cellphone, GPS, tablet, home alarm system, TV, baby monitors, even pet cameras may be part of your day-to-day life. Finally, think about how much of your personal information are stored and constantly exchanged among all of these websites and devices. Do you really take the time to read all those privacy policies and end-user agreements? Do you really know what happens to all of your information, who sees it and how much of it is actually protected?
Perhaps at this point, you might be slightly freaking out or thinking "I just rather not know, ignorance is bliss." I am here to tell you that you should care (aaanndd maybe you should not freak out. It's 2020 - sis get it together.) and you most definitely should educate yourself on the matter. So, let's talk cybersecurity. :)
What exactly is cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting any hardware, software, and networks against malicious cyber-threats and/or cyberattacks. The truth is there are individuals and entire organizations around the world who want nothing more than to gain access to your data. What they intend to do with that access or data varies. Some cyber criminals attack just for the fun of it or to make a statement, while others are looking to steal and sell your information (in places like the dark web). What type of data are they most interested in? Well... pretty much everything; however, protecting your most sensitive data is what should be priority. Data such a personal identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), intellectual property, personal financial information and much more. This is all information that can be stolen, sold, or used to threat individuals or seek ransom.
Cybersecurity should be an important aspect of our lives. Knowing the different methods for securely navigating our digital world has become a critical skill that we must all be educated on - it isn't something that just "big corporations" should worry about and simply having an anti-virus program installed on your laptop is not the answer.
What information is most at risk?
Although business remain as the industry with the highest number of data breaches (hackers most likely seeking intellectual property), what is more concerning is the alarming rate at which medical and healthcare breach incidents are rising.
I recently attended a cybersecurity talk where the speaker made the entire room aware that your credit card numbers are essentially worthless in the dark web. They literally sell for cents. What DOES sell is personal health information. Why are they so valuable? Hackers sell this information to other criminals in order to conduct medical fraud and other financial pursuits.
How can I cyber-protect myself?
Cybersecurity is not something that should be left for corporate or government entities to figure out. We are ALL responsible and play a vital role in protecting our data. When it comes to personal digital security - we are all at a different place. Thus, in order to get started it is important that you are aware of the following:
What areas of my life are vulnerable or at risk? (think financial, health records, etc)
What information about you is "out there"? (think of all of your profiles/accounts - is it possible to do some clean-up or consolidating?)
How is you sensitive information stored and secured?
There are some very basic and fundamental precautions that we can implement in our daily lives to minimize vulnerability.
Passwords: Yes, I know that we have all heard this before. But I guarantee there are still some of you out there the same non-complex password for every login you have out there. Stop that nonsense right now. Hackers have become extremely sophisticated in their ability to generate potential passwords based limited information they may have about you. So stop using your dogs name and birthday as your password. A strong password is long (at least 12 characters or more - the longer the better), includes numbers, symbols, and mixed-case letters. A good method for developing a strong password is to think of a phrase you will remember and utilize the first letter of each word, substitute some of those letters for numbers and embed symbols or special characters within the password. Also, never save your password on your browser. (Note: I also do not recommend using a password generator for many reasons.)
Secure Storage: Do a self audit and try to determine how much of your sensitive information is stored within insecure places. Any and all information should be stored in a secure location (whether it be a personal owned storage device or using a cloud service). If you are storing sensitive data on your own devices, ensure those devices are encrypted. Most laptops come with this option. (I highly recommend encrypting any backups your laptops and/or cellphones).
Secure connections: Free WiFi is all great and dandy until you realize how easy it is to hack into a free WiFi connection and steal all of your data! When you connect any of your devices to the internet - use a secure connection. It makes no sense to have ultra secure passwords, storage and encryption if your internet connection is not secure. Always delete your browsing history and cached data/cookies on your internet browser.
Revisit all the security settings: settings such as location services, social media post setting (who can view your posts), in-app security settings, and all privacy settings on all devices, apps, and accounts should be reviewed often to ensure they are aligned with your security needs.
Be Smart on Social Media: be careful about what you post on social media. Assume that anything you post can potentially be made public.
But Wait! There's more - other methods to consider:
Use a Password Manager: Let's be real. Keeping up with all these passwords can seem near impossible. So... there is an app for that! Just kidding (not really). There are many great password managers out there. I highly recommend moving all of your pwd's over to a secure password manger. This helps secure your passwords and also means you only have to remember on master password. I recommend that you change your masterpassword at least once a year (if not more often).
Two-Factor Authentication: Ensure to use 2–factor authentication, if available for any/all app or account. It may be a bit annoying for some, but it is better to be safe than sorry later.
Norton 360 w/ LifeLock: Norton has been known for its great anti-virus software and have been trusted in this space since 1982. However, recently Norton released Norton 360 with LifeLock. This package deal comes with EVERYTHING you need for personal digital protection. The Norton 360 plans include anti-virus and malware protection for all of your devices, secure cloud backup, Password manager, Secure VPN for both your PC and mobile devices, PC SafeCam, Identify Theft Protection and Monitoring, Dark Web Monitoring and so much more! Go check them out. I highly recommend.
If you have any methods or other personal digital security advice that I may have missed, please share in the comments below!
About the Author:
Caroline Saavedra is the author and founder of Tekwomen.com.
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