In today’s digital age, our lives are more connected than ever. With such accessibility comes a pressing responsibility: staying safe online. The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a staggering 600% increase in cyber crime. Yet, it’s worth noting that individuals and businesses can significantly bolster their online safety by following some crucial steps.
Strong passwords and password managers: The power duo
Password security is a cornerstone of digital safety. Worryingly, 73% of passwords are duplicates. We call it password re-use. This repetitive use of the same password poses a significant risk since hackers, armed with one password, can potentially access multiple accounts.
Solution: Implement a robust and unique password for each account. It sounds daunting, but a password manager can make this manageable. These tools generate strong passwords and remember them for you, so you only need to remember one master password.
Multifactor Authentication (MFA): A necessary upgrade
MFA (or 2FA) requires a user to provide at least two types of authentication, e.g. a password and a one-time code generated by an app. This provides an additional layer of defence, ensuring that even if your password is compromised, unauthorised access can still be prevented. MFA options are not equal. In November 2020, Microsoft highlighted the vulnerabilities of phone/SMS-based MFA. They urged users to transition to app-based authenticators and security keys, which offer a much higher level of protection.
Solution: Investigate what MFA options each of the online services you use offers. Use an authenticator app, such as the Microsoft Authenticator app, and start securing your accounts as soon as possible.
Read our article: How to choose the right MFA solution for your business
Phishing: Recognise, resist, report
Phishing has become increasingly prevalent, accounting for over 80% of reported cyber incidents in 2020. This shows that we are all vulnerable to this type of cyber crime. Phishers employ crafty tactics, often disguising themselves as legitimate entities to deceive users into sharing sensitive information.
Solution: Stay vigilant. Be sceptical of unsolicited communications, especially those urging immediate action. Verify websites’ URLs before entering details, and most importantly, educate your circle on these threats. If you come across phishing attempts, report them.
Software updates: Not just a nuisance
Software updates often contain vital security patches. Unfortunately, 62% of small businesses aren’t investing sufficiently in cyber security and neglect regular software upgrades or updates. This oversight leaves them vulnerable to potential breaches.
Solution: Ensure all your devices and software are always updated. Activate automatic updates where possible.
The startling reality for small businesses
66% of small businesses are deeply concerned about cyber security risks. This concern isn’t unfounded, given that half of all cyber attacks specifically target SME’s. These stats aren’t meant to instill fear but to underline the significance of proactive defence.
Other Steps to Enhance Online Safety:
Educate and train
Knowledge is power, especially in the realm of cyber security.
- Stay informed: Keep up to date with the latest threats. Cyber attackers are always evolving, and staying one step ahead is key.
- Regular training sessions: If you run a business or manage a team, organise regular training sessions using real-life scenarios to help your team recognise potential threats. These can vary from regular online security awareness training to tailored and fun face to face sessions with a professional trainer.
- Stay updated on trends: Forums, cyber security news websites, and online courses can be excellent resources. By understanding the attacker’s mindset, we can better defend against their strategies.
Loss of data can be devastating, both emotionally and financially.
- Regular backups: Schedule automated backups. This ensures your latest data is stored safely without you having to remember.
- Multiple locations: Store your backups in multiple places. This includes cloud storage, external hard drives, and, if possible, an offline location. If one backup fails or is compromised, you’ll have others as a safety net.
- Test your backups: Periodically, it’s essential to check if your backups are working correctly. Restore a file or two to ensure the backup isn’t corrupted.
Firewalls and Security Software
Think of these as the first line of defence against cyber attacks.
- Activate firewalls: Ensure the built-in firewall on your computer is activated. It filters incoming and outgoing traffic, blocking malicious data.
- Deploy security software and keep it up to date: Cyber security software companies frequently update their databases with new threat definitions. Keeping your software updated ensures you’re protected against the latest known threats.
- Consider advanced security solutions: For businesses, consider advanced security solutions that offer real-time threat intelligence, intrusion detection, and incident response capabilities.
- Diversify your defence: Don’t rely solely on one security solution. Having a diverse set of security tools can provide layered protection, making it tougher for cyber criminals to breach your defences.
Despite the concerning stats, with the right measures, you can significantly decrease your vulnerability online.
We would add to this list of recommendations that having a trusted partner on your side, means you have a powerful ally to help with the fight against the ever-evolving cyber landscape.
We’re here to assist you with anything you’ve read in this article. Please get in touch if you have concerns about anything we have highlighted.