As technology gains a more important role in our lives, it also grows in complexity. Given how quickly technology changes, keeping up with security advice can be confusing. It seems like there is always new guidance on what you should or should not be doing. While the details of how to stay secure may change over time, there are fundamental things you can always do to help protect yourself. Regardless of what technology you are using or where you are using it, we recommend the following five key steps.
- You: First and foremost, keep in mind that technology alone can't protect you. Attackers have learned that the easiest way to bypass most security technology is by attacking you. If they want your password or your credit card, the easiest thing for them to do is to trick you into giving them this information via phishing attacks. Avoid getting phished by being suspicious about any emails that you receive which are unexpected, unsolicited and convey a sense of urgency and want you to disclose your financial information.
- Updating: Make sure your computers, mobile devices, apps and anything else connected to a network are running the latest version of their software and patches. Install anti-virus software on your home computers for additional protection.
- Passwords: Create strong, unique passwords of at least 8 characters (with at least 1 uppercase, numeric and special character) for each of your devices, online accounts and applications. If any of your accounts support two-step verification, we highly recommend you always enable it, as this is one of the strongest ways to protect your account.
- Encryption: Next, we recommend the use of encryption. Encryption makes sure that only you or people you trust can access your information. A simple way to verify if encryption is enabled is to make sure that the address of the website you're visiting starts with "https:" and has the image of a closed padlock next to URL.
- Backups: Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, one of your devices or accounts may be compromised. If that is the case, often your only option to ensure your computer or mobile device is free of malware is to fully wipe it and rebuild it from scratch. The attacker might even prevent you from accessing your personal files, photos and other information stored on the compromised system. Your only option might be to restore all of your personal information from a backup. Make sure you are doing regular backups of any important information and verify that you can restore from them.