Cybercrime has become a powerful tool for hackers looking to steal our personal data and extort money. The speed, anonymity and convenience of the internet has enabled criminals to launch highly targeted attacks with very little effort.
According to a recent report from cybersecurity firm Norton, hackers stole a total of £130bn from consumers in 2017, including £4.6bn from British internet users.
Despite the increasing sophistication of the hacking and phishing attempts used by cyber criminals, there are still a number of steps we can follow to ensure we don’t become the latest victim of the hackers.
1. Create strong passwords
Creating a unique password is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from being hacked online. By gaining access to our passwords, hackers can steal our money, access our personal accounts and in turn use this information to scam our friends and family.
Stealing passwords is one of the oldest tricks in the book for hackers and unfortunately, we make it all too easy for them by using the same password for multiple accounts and choosing a word or numbers with a personal connection such as the name of a loved one, birthday or address, all of which are easy for us to remember and even easier for a hacker to steal.
A strong password should be between 8-15 characters long, a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters and include numbers or symbols. The longer and more obscure the password, the harder it is to crack. A simple way of remembering your password is creating a sentence or phrase that is unique to you. The first letter of each word will form the basis of your password and letters can be substituted with numbers and symbols to add a further line of defence.
2. Never click on suspicious links
Phishing continues to be one of the most popular ways for hackers to steal your personal information and install malicious software on your computer. The most common type of phishing scam involves tricking people into opening emails or clicking on a link which may appear to come from a legitimate business or reputable source.
These emails often create a sense of urgency, so the user feels compelled to click on the link or open an accompanying attachment. The link may direct you to a fake website where you are prompted to enter your personal details or take you to a website that directly infects your computer with ransomware.
Red flags to look out for on a suspicious email include threatening language, a generic greeting, poor grammar, spelling mistakes, a mismatched URL, claims of prizes or a request for personal information. Legitimate businesses will never send emails requesting you click on a link to enter or update personal data.
Phishing is constantly evolving and the best line of defence to ensure you don’t fall victim to the hackers is to trust your gut and if something doesn’t seem right about the email, don’t click on the link.
3. Be careful what you post online
The internet and social media has transformed how we communicate with each other on a day to day basis, however this culture of sharing has provided cyber criminals with an easy way to profile potential victims ensuring their phishing attempts are more targeted and harder to spot.
Hackers are increasingly turning to social media sites to access personal information such as age, job title, email address, location and social activity. Access to this personal data provides the hackers with priceless information that can be used to launch a highly targeted and personalised phishing attack.
To reduce your chance of falling victim to the hacker, think more carefully about what you post online, take advantage of enhanced privacy options, restrict access to anyone you don’t know and create strong passwords for your social media accounts.
4. Install anti-virus Software
One of the most important ways to protect yourself against malware and cyberattacks is through the installation of up to date anti-virus software. Anti-virus software is the first line of defence in detecting threats on your computer and blocking unauthorised users from gaining access.
In addition to installing anti-virus software, it’s vital to ensure that your software is regularly updated to ensure hackers are unable to gain access to your computer through vulnerabilities in older and outdated programmes.
5. Avoid using Public Wi-Fi
As tempting as it may be to hook up to free Wi-Fi when out and about in public, accessing free Wi-Fi puts us in the direct firing line of the hackers. Public Wi-Fi requires no authentication to establish a network connection, allowing hackers direct access to unsecured devices on the same unencrypted open network. This security risk opens us up to hackers stealing valuable info such as login passwords, credit card information and other personal and financial details.
Unsecured Wi-Fi networks can also be used to spread malware into devices connected to the network allowing hackers unrestricted access to everything on your device.
One of the most important ways to protect yourself while using a public Wi-Fi network is to use a VPN. A VPN encrypts your internet connection making it secure and protecting your privacy. Other safety measures include turning off sharing, sticking to secure sites and switching off Wi-Fi when not in use.
For further information on how we can help you protect your staff from falling victim to the hackers, click here