7 Smarter Tips to Protect Yourself from Being Hacked

July 14, 2016

11:00 am

From a technical standpoint, anything that is connected to the Internet has the potential of being hacked. However, there are several different things that can be done in order to protect your data and yourself from attacks.

The following are a couple of tips that can help to mitigate the risk of having your personal data stolen.

1. Be Wary of Emails

Malicious simple email campaigns are used to launch many cyber attacks. Email is an excellent communication platform since it allows you to send anything to anybody. However, there can be a very large security risk as well. For example, phishing sends victims emails that appear to be quite innocuous yet leads victims to phony websites requesting that they make updates to their personal information.

To protect yourself against being scammed by fake email, the best thing you can do is ensure that the sender is actually who you think it is. Make sure to check the email address and make sure it matches up with the website you believe it is coming from. As an extra safety precaution you can also check the sender’s IP address. Phishing attacks are all too common nowadays and knowing what one looks like can save you a lot of trouble

The way you can do that is to locate the email’s source information and look for the IP address following the “Received: from” line. The IP address can then be Googledto learn where the email is coming from.

2. Check Link Locations

When messages are received from an unknown sender, they often contain links to unknown websites. Click over to a mysterious site can result in harmful consequences. It may mimic a website that you are familiar with and trust and lead you to fall for a phishing scam. Or it could be infected with malware or be unsecure.

If clicking on one of those links is something you are tempted to do, you kneed to make sure you know exactly where that link is taking you. To do that, copy and paste the link address into a new browse in order to see what the website is. If a shortened link is being used, there are tools you can use such as URL X-ray that determine what the actual destination is before you decide to click on it.

Encrypted sites are the safest websites to visit. The way you will know they are safe is when HTTPS appears in the URL and your browser contains the lock icon.

3. Only Open Attachments from People You Know

One very good rule to go by is to never open an attachment unless you’re absolutely positive that you know who it is coming from. A very easy way for a hacker to download malicious code onto the computer of their victim is to send emails that contain virus-infected files.

A very common way that companies get hacked is when an unsuspecting employee downloads malicious software which ends up infiltrating the company’s entire network. The most dangerous types of files are .EXE, PDF and Word.

4. Utilize Two-Factor Authentication

As larger companies get hacked, there is a greater chance that your password will be leaked. After hackers obtain passwords, they try to determine which personal accounts can be accessed using the data they have stolen.

With two-factor authentication, users are required to not only type in their password but to confirm entry in another way such as code sent via text to a mobile phone. This can be an effective way of preventing attackers from getting in using stolen passwords. An increasing number of companies are making this standard procedure to log in.

For example, Slack instituted two-step authentication after it admitted to a recent data breach. What that meant is that if Slacker user data was stolen by hackers, they still most likely wouldn’t be able to enter into a account without having another one of the user’s personal items, such as their phone. It is a smart idea to use two-factor authentication for your accounts if you have that option.

5. Use Advanced Passwords

This tip might be the most obvious but overlooked one. A strong password will include lowercase, uppercase, punctuation and numbers. Your password shouldn’t include any personal references, and it shouldn’t be stored in a save files.

What is even more important is you shouldn’t use the same password on numerous accounts.

There are also some excellent tools such as iPassword and LastPass that store passwords securly. It is also very important to change your passwords often – particularly for vulnerable accounts such as banking and email.

6. Be Cautious with the Cloud

Here is a good rule to follow – don’t share information if you aren’t wanting other individuals to access it. That includes cloud storage. A platform may claim to be completely secure, however you do need to remember that you are handing over control to somebody else to look after it. Although it is in the best interest of a company to keep everything secure, numerous privacy experts state that anything you place online does face the possibility of being published online.

That doesn’t mean you can’t store things in the cloud. You just need to stay aware of where you files go. Also make sure you know practices are followed by your cloud storage company and that you choose a good one.

In addition, make sure that if you delete files from your smartphone or computer that you delete them from any cloud backups as well.

7. Don’t Share Any of Your Personal Data on Public Wi-Fi

Are you considering checking your bank account or purchasing a plane ticket while you are at your coffee shop? Well you might want to rethink that,since you really don’t know how secure the connection there is.

The same is true for places such as conference centers and hotels. Security researchers recently uncovered a vulnerability that makes Wi-Fi traffic at some of the largest hotels in the world vulnerable to attack. There isn’t any way for us to be aware this is occurring. Therefore, you need to careful where you surf when using public Wi-Fi.

If you need to access private information while using one of these networks, tools such as virtual private networks (VPNs) should be used. They encrypt traffic so that the Wi-Fi network isn’t able to see where you are surfing to. Or even better, use your mobile data to set a hotspot up.

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As someone with a love of rugby, marketing, social media, craft beer brewer and music - I'm delighted to contribute to Tech.co. Follow me @brightoncormac or check out one of our great infographics

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