In the same way most of us get out of bed each day and look forward to carrying on our productive lifestyle, there are some who get up with the same enthusiasm to set in motion their disastrous, destructive plans of varying degree such as hacking. You may have already been directly affected by the password thefts at LinkedIn last year or Evernote this year, or have had your own social media account, email, website, network, or computer hacked. What’s worse is that many of you have been hacked but don’t even know it.
So how can you minimize the damage and risk of hackers? Below are several tips – some familiar and some not so much. As you go through the list, check off the ones you’re already doing and make a list of new ideas to implement to protect your business and personal assets.
Don’t Sign Your Life Away
Your signature might look great in a graphic in your email signature line, your website, or your newsletter, but it’s a huge risk. You’re giving away your handwriting, and forgers can easily replicate, master your handwriting, and impersonate you. To reduce identity theft, don’t publish your real signature anywhere.
Help Secure Your Money
Implement strong passwords on all of your financial accounts: banks, credit unions, PayPal, credit cards, and your accounting system. Of course it’s painstaking to keep up with the various passwords we use on a regular basis, but do not use the same password for your financial accounts anywhere else, especially on social media! If possible, use a different password for each account to further reduce the risk of all of them being hacked.
Put Some Thought Into Your Passwords
- Do not use your name, your pet’s name or your kid(s) names in your passwords. There’s just too much information available publicly to do that safely anymore.
- Use a mixture of letters, numbers, capital letters, and special characters – if they are allowed.
Make passwords long! The longer the password, the more secure they will be.
Change passwords at regular intervals – on a quarterly basis minimum, to be on the safe side.
Most apps that help you save time with passwords are NOT safe! Here’s what I do and don’t recommend:
- Password-protect your computer, even though you don’t have to.
- Keep a separate file of your passwords on your computer, but DO password-protect that file and make sure it is not shared with anyone on a network. Also, name the file something totally unrelated like fishing trip, my letters, or favorite recipes; do not name it “passwords.doc!” You can also opt to keep a record of your passwords offline, but be sure to lock it up in a safe.
When you make file and disk backups, be sure those are locked away and password-protected too. They will no longer have your computer’s password to protect them.
- Don’t give in to your browser or any website when they ask to remember your user ID and password, especially for your financial accounts or client information. All of the major browsers have been hacked – Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and even Safari.
If you use password management applications, proceed with caution. Be sure you have properly vetted their security claims. Most of them are simply form fillers that are not safe.
Maintain Active Subscription to An Internet Security Suite
These software are designed to not only get rid of malware, spyware and other hacking devices, but also to detect upon attempted intrusion and block them all. Software such as Norton Internet Security
are the best at keeping your computer and personal information safe. I have used it for years and continue to do so because of its tight security measures and reliability to protect my privacy.
Monitor Vulnerable Applications
Avoid leaving vulnerable computer ports open and unattended, including: chat, messaging, FTP (file transfer protocol), Skype, webinars, Google hangouts, video sharing, and such like. It’s like having all the doors and windows of your home unlocked; an intruder has a lot of choices for easy entry. When you are on these more vulnerable connections, shut the others down and close the applications you don’t need. You should also ensure you logout when you are done using the program or will step away for a while.
Install Your Software Updates
As soon as a hacker has found a new exploit, the software companies will learn about it and make an update available within days. The hacker community is tight; other hackers will look for software that is not updated and exploit the hack. Avoid the copycat hackers by staying on top of your software updates; not just your anti-virus, but also your Microsoft and other similar software updates. Doing this, will eliminate a great deal of the risk out there.
Separate User Accounts
If multiple team members need to access your software, consider setting up additional users rather than having one account. If one person gets hacked, the others will likely still have access and can react quicker to the intrusion.
Take Advantage of Two-Step Verification
Opt to use two (2) step verification system, even if it is not mandatory. You know those annoying security questions that you have to setup and must answer in order to gain access to some bank accounts online? Those are mandatory, thank goodness! But there are many other instances where it is not a requirement but optional; opt to use them as they are only meant to further secure you and your personals.
When you sit down at your computer or fire up your latest device, security is probably the last thing on your mind. You want to check your email, catch up with friends on social networks, play some games, purchase online goodies, or just attend to your business. The problem is, you actually need security! That new game, may be infected with malware, and the hilarious post from your best bud may actually have been planted by a hacker. If your computer and devices are not protected, neither are you; a data-scraping bot could well use your online shopping trip to steal your credit card info. and create havoc in your life.
Make the necessary changes, and stay safe out there!