How To Protect Your Sensitive Information From
Cyber Threats that have the potential to cause worldwide disruption to private and business computer networks are increasing. Cybercrimes like identity theft lead to financial loss and are also emotionally distressing for victims of this digital criminal activity.
Whilst as individuals we cannot fully prevent Botnet activity that can lead to cyber threats such as worldwide denial-of-service attacks, spam distribution and the spread of Ransomware such as the 2017 worldwide WannaCry Ransomware attack.
By doing more to protect our personal and financial data from being stolen. We can play our part in reducing the chances of our own home computer networks being used for such purposes. This article offers some helpful advice on how to protect your sensitive data and home networks from cyber threats on a personal level.
Protecting Your Sensitive Data And Information
When you share your personal information online with websites and organizations. You are placing your trust in them and their ability to secure and protect your data. In 2017 there were a number of notable security Data Breaches including large organizations such as Yahoo and Equifax so no one seems to be immune to these Cyber Threats.
In order to protect yourself as best, you can you need to be aware of how these cybercriminals attempt to get access to your sensitive data and what steps you can take to limit the chances of their success.
It’s also important to point out that once your information is stored in the cloud it’s not always all that easy to remove it. So before you sign up for any online accounts ask yourself, do I really need this account?
Sharing Your Personal Information And Data
In today’s digital age it’s not always possible to avoid going online and sharing sensitive information, the majority of people today shop and bank online. So we need to careful when we use the internet to carry out such tasks.
Public Wi-Fi Networks
Do not use public Wi-Fi networks to transfer sensitive information for purposes like online banking and shopping. Often such networks are not secure because cybercriminals can set-up fake Wi-Fi hotspots which enable them to collect your personal information. Such as your account passwords and your bank or credit card information.
Cybercriminals are expert con men well versed in tricking people into giving away their personal data. They often create fake websites that seem to be identical to the original website address you where intending to visit. They set up these fake sites to steal your personal sensitive information. Such as your credit card and bank account details or passwords. Another reason for fake websites is so that you inadvertently download malware or viruses that can infect your devices such as laptops and computers.
Always check that the website address of the site you are using is correct because fake sites will seem to be very similar to the real website address. Apart from a minor change in the spelling of a company name that can go unnoticed if you are not checking the validity of the site thoroughly.
Not all internet links are what they seem, although most of the time they are safe. Always check the address you are clicking on. If you already know the address of the site then it’s safer to type it into your browser manually.
When using a desktop or laptop a good tip is to hover your mouse pointer over the link before clicking. Whilst doing so take a look at the bottom left-hand side of your screen. In most Web Browsers it will confirm the real address you are clicking on. If it looks suspicious don’t click on it.
Nowadays we are getting used to looking for a padlock or ‘https’ indicator in the address bar of our Web Browsers. Remember that their presence only confirms that the data on that site is being encrypted. Whilst this is a good security feature for genuine websites, fake websites can also display these icons.
When opening emails never click through to any links that seem to be suspicious. Especially If they are from an unknown sender asking you to update your account details by clicking on a link.
Examples of this are when you get an email warning you of a pending account suspension. Or an overdue bill that you owe to a company you’ve never heard of. Often these emails will seem to be genuine because they include the logo of the organization they are pretending to be.
Sometimes these emails can easily be spotted because they are written in poor English. Most email clients will show you the real destination address of the link if you hover over it.
Fake emails are getting more advanced appearing to be a genuine person or a company that you know. If a message is unexpected or unusual, contact the sender directly and check that they have sent it to you.
If you think the email is a scam don’t reply to the sender. Doing so will let them know your email address is active. This will result in even more spam being sent your way.
Carrying out a regular online search using the keyword “email scam” or something similar can also be helpful. Doing this will bring up links to reports of recently identified email spam campaigns so you can keep an eye out for them in your inbox.
Always Backup Your Important Sensitive Data
Even when being careful about the way we share our sensitive data we can never guarantee 100% device protection from Cyber Threats. If hacked, infected by a virus or malware your data may still be damaged, deleted or held for ransom by Ransomware preventing you from accessing it.
So always remember to backup your Important Sensitive Data such as identification documents to an external hard drive. Schedule regular backups and remember to disconnect your backup hard drive from your device afterward. If you leave it permanently connected your external hard drive would also be open to attack. Backing up your data will make sure you have another copy of it should the above happen.
Passwords Are Important
If cybercriminals get hold of your email address they can try to use it to get access to many of your personal accounts. Enabling them to commit identity theft by accessing sensitive personal information about you. Such as your bank details, address or date of birth.
Make sure that you create and use a separate strong password for each account that you have. Don’t make the mistake of using one password for all accounts however strong that password may be. A good method of creating a strong and memorable password is to use three random words along with symbols and numbers. For example, 1greenssquareapple#.
Never use words in your password that are linked to yourself or personal life. Such as your pets name, birthplace or the name of your employer. This is because cybercriminals often search social media accounts to look for information like this as they attempt to piece together your private info.
If your online account providers offer two-factor authentication on your accounts. It’s a good idea to set it up because it provides a second layer of security. When activated your account can only be accessed on a device that you have already registered.
Security Tips For Your Devices
Whatever device you are using to get access to your online accounts you don’t want your information falling into the wrong hands. The following device security tips will help you to protect your personal sensitive data from Cyber Threats:
- Always Update your device software and applications to ensure it’s running the latest version.
- Regularly update the device drivers for all your hardware. For example, your router, printer and other devices connected to your home network.
- Keep operating systems like Microsoft windows updated, ideally by setting up automatic updates.
- Make sure your web browsers such as edge, i.e, Firefox, Safari, and chrome are up-to-date.
- Make sure your smartphone and tablet operating systems are up to date.
- Secure your tablet or smartphone with a screen lock.
- When possible use antivirus and firewall security on your devices.
- Never leave your devices unlocked and unattended.
- Don’t leave your computer permanently turned on.
Protecting Your Sensitive Information From Cyber Threats – Conclusion
Always be careful about where, when, how and who you share your personal sensitive data with online. Remember if an email seems unusual or to good to be true it probably is. Take time to think about what you’re doing online so you are not caught off-guard.
If your not sure about the validity of the website you are visiting or an email you have received contact the person or organization directly to check.
One last note, especially for those of us with children, is to keep an eye on what our children are doing online. Aside from the cyber threats already discussed above. Online predators exist and operate solely for the purpose of the grooming and sexual exploitation of children. It’s important to teach them how to use the internet and connected devices safely.