When the Internet was first made available to the public in the late 1960s, very few people would have even considered that it could become the global sensation that it is today. And yet, as of July 2020, 60 percent of the population is able to access the Internet, and this number is only increasing in recent months.
While the Internet is undoubtedly a helpful and necessary part of our lives (case in point – the current pandemic, which would be making life much more difficult for many people without the Internet), the rising global dependency also makes it an enticing target for hackers, scammers, and other people with malicious intentions to take advantage of users.
Because of this, it’s important to make sure that you’re protecting your information while browsing or posting on the Internet, so I’ve made a list of basic cybersecurity guidelines that all people should follow:
- You Are a Target to Hackers
Most people think that because of the vast number of people on the Internet, they won’t be targeted, but it’s actually the opposite. Most scammers go for ordinary people who, under the delusion that they wouldn’t be a victim, have been less than careful with the spread of their personal information. So, the first step is to recognize that you are a potential target and that you must protect your information.
- Passwords! Passwords Everywhere!
As I’m sure you know, passwords are a critical defense against hackers. However, choosing the right password makes all the difference. Many people set their password to “password” or “bluesky” or some other variation of an easy, dictionary level, all lowercase password. Unfortunately, passwords like these can be hacked in milliseconds.
Most sites have password requirements that prevent such simple passwords, but even they are not enough. When thinking for a password, try to make it at least 10 characters, with upper and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols. For example, a secure password might be: WeAreTheChampions492!
One last thing – it’s important to keep your passwords random. For instance, don’t use FaceBookTime123! for a Facebook account. Instead, try to come up with unique base words, or, if you’re having trouble, find a random word generator online.
If you’re like me and have the memory of a goldfish, coming up with random passwords (and remembering them!) may seem daunting, but using secure password managers can help ease the burden on your memory.
- Always Think Before You Click
Phishing attacks are a constant threat; using various social engineering techniques, scammers will try and trick you into divulging your personal information. For example, in a scheme used to hack many politicians’ emails, you may receive a message stating that your password has been hacked and your account accessed, and that you must reset your password using a link provided.
Do not click the link unless you are 100 percent sure that it is genuine. Generally speaking, the rule of thumb for such emails is to go straight to the source and perform the action there. If your Amazon account was hacked, for example, go straight to Amazon’s web page and find the legitimate link there.
- Back Up Your Data
It’s important to keep your information secure, just like you would keep your valuables in a safe place. Some ransomware hackers encrypt your data and make it impossible to access it, and force you to pay a fee in order to have it returned to you.
If you make sure to back up your data at least once a week, you can avoid having to pay the unreasonable sums of money presented to you by these ransomware attackers and be on your merry way.
- Declutter Your Digital Closet
Basically what’s on the tin – if you haven’t used an app or account for a large expanse of time (think 6 months to a year), you should probably get rid of it. This applies to social media apps, email accounts, etc. Doing this prevents hackers from exploiting old information or vulnerabilities.
Another way to harden your apps is by updating them, eliminating old vulnerabilities through new patches that can keep you and your information safe. Always make sure you have the most recently updated version of every app.
- The Ultimate Weapon: Common Sense
Obviously, this is a far from comprehensive list, but the overall most important tool when protecting your information from malicious presences is simple common sense. Whenever you receive a “friend” request from someone you don’t know, or an email that looks a bit fishy, ask yourself: Does it make sense?
Most of the time, this question results in an easy yes-or-no answer, but the rule I always follow in the situations where it isn’t so clear is any doubt, throw it out. After all, you can never be too careful! 🙂
Although this is a relatively short list, I hope it helps you guys better secure yourselves and your information from malicious attackers. Thanks for reading!
– Mahak M.