Cyberattacks are on the rise. Highly publicized attacks like the one that targeted Colonial Pipeline in May 2021 have sent multibillion dollar businesses into crisis mode, and such attacks affect everyone, including private citizens.
The rise in remote working that resulted due to the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed IT vulnerabilities that put businesses big and small in precarious positions. Ransomware attacks, in which perpetrators seek ransoms after infiltrating and shutting down a network, often target businesses and not individuals. However, cyber criminals can gain access to businesses through their unsuspecting employees, especially when those workers are working remotely. Individuals can take steps to protect their devices from cyberattacks to make their personal and professional information more secure.
According to Ready.gov, a website created by the United States government that’s designed to educate and empower people to prepare for all types of emergencies, including cyberattacks, offers the following tips to individuals looking to protect themselves from cyberattacks.
• Be mindful of what you share online. Limit the personal information you post and share online. Turn off location features and make use of the privacy settings on all your devices.
• Keep software applications and operating systems up to date. Updating apps and your OS ensures your devices have the most current safety features, making you less vulnerable to cyberattacks.
• Prioritize safe passwords. Utilize a password manager and use upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters when creating passwords. Two-factor authentication (two methods of verification) should always be used when available.
• Be suspicious when solicited. Be suspicious of anyone or any message that asks you to do something right away, offers something that sounds too good to be true or requires you to enter your personal information. Think before you click, and when in doubt, do not click. Never provide personal information if you’re suspicious or using websites that do not typically require such information.
• Use encrypted (secure) Internet communications.
• Use a secure Internet connection and Wi-Fi network to protect your home and/or business. If a network is lagging, resist the temptation to seek an available yet less secure connection.
• Make accessing your devices as personal as possible. A strong authentication, such as a personal identification number or password that only you would know, can make devices less vulnerable to attacks. Consider using a separate device that can receive a code or requests a biometric scan (e.g., fingerprint scanner or facial recognition) before allowing access.
• Check your account statements and credit reports regularly.
• Only share personal information on secure sites (e.g. “https://”). Do not use sites with invalid certificates. Use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, which creates a more secure connection. This is especially important for remote workers.
• Employ additional means to block threats. Antivirus solutions, malware and firewalls can block cyberattacks before users even have an opportunity to respond.
• Back up files. Routinely back up your files in an encrypted file or encrypted file storage device so you can access them should you ultimately fall victim to an attack.
• Protect your home network by changing the administrative and Wi-Fi passwords regularly. When configuring your router, use either the instruction manual or speak to your internet-cable provider to set up the Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) setting, which is the strongest encryption option.
Cyberattacks are on the rise, but individuals can take various steps to make themselves less vulnerable.