.Protecting Your Personal Devices: The Most Important Steps You Can Take for IT security
With so much (rightly deserved) emphasis on IT security in the workplace, it can be easy to overlook basic security maintenance of your personal online activity. Plus, with more of us working from home on our own equipment, the risks are even higher than normal. Thankfully, some relatively simple tasks can keep your personal devices secure… all without the need for help from an IT professional.
Let’s examine the four most important habits you need to put in place to have adequate safety measures with your personal devices and accounts.
1) Strong Passwords That You Can Actually Manage
The security of your online financial dealings, email inbox, and online shopping depends on how well you create and safeguard your many passwords.
Strong passwords are longer than eight characters, are hard to guess, and contain a variety of characters, numbers, and special symbols.
The greatest challenge is to create distinct passwords that you can actually remember. Don’t be allured by the temptation of using the same login credentials for multiple accounts. A trusted password manager such as keeper, LastPass or 1Password can create and store strong, lengthy passwords for you. These managers work across your desktop, tablet, and phone. The one small caveat is that, you’ll still have to memorize a single master password that unlocks all your other passwords. So don’t skimp on effort in making that one strong!
Popular browsers like Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox also offer password managers, but some tech review companies have expressed concerns about how browsers secure the passwords they store and recommend using a dedicated password manager app instead.
If all else fails, you can always keep a written log of your passwords. It might feel antiquated, but it’s a far better approach than using the same simple passwords for multiple logins.
2) Be Proactive in Setting up Two-Factor Authentication
If thieves do steal your password, you can still have another line of defense from them gaining access to your account. Using two-factor authentication (also referred to as two-step verification or 2FA) creates a security safeguard that requires you enter a second piece of information that only you have (usually a one-time code) before the app or service logs you in. This second factor becomes necessary in confirming that it’s truly you attempting access, rather than a hacker who has stolen your password.
While it’s a common, and admittedly convenient, practice to receive these codes in a text message or as a voice call, many hackers steal phone numbers through SIM swap fraud and then can intercept verification codes.
A much more secure way to receive verification codes is to generate them via an authentication app like Google Authenticator or Authy. Once you’re set up with 2FA, you can choose to register your device or browser, so you don’t need to keep verifying it each time you sign in.
Two-factor authentication is strongly recommended by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and many others to secure online accounts. Using an authentication app on your smartphone is the most accessible way to do so.
3) Be Extra Cautious with Email Attachments and Links
Malware is commonly spread by users clicking on a malicious email attachment or a link. (Malware is a short term for malicious software.)
Exercising vigilance when checking your personal email can protect your devices:
Don’t open email attachments or click on links unless you’re confident they’re safe. Even if they come from a person you know does not mean it is safe. If you’re unsure, contact the listed sender to see if they truly sent the email.
Be especially cautious of attachments with sensational names, emails that contain misspellings, or emails that try to entice you into clicking on a link or attachment (for example, an email with a subject that reads, “Is this you? You won’t believe what I found online!”).
Double-check the sender’s email address. It’s very common for an attacker to spoof a display name to look like it is coming from someone legitimate, but when you hover over the display name in your inbox, you may find that message is actually coming from someone else.
4) Software Updates Are Key in Protecting Your Devices
The update notifications might come at some inopportune times. But keeping up with updates on your devices’ operating systems, applications and security software is among the most important things you can do to help keep hackers out of your personal devices.
Hackers feast on software vulnerabilities or security flaws. When a hacker defines a particular weakness, they get to work writing code to target the vulnerability and develop malware to be delivered through it.
The continued use of old versions exposes your computers, phones, and tablets to a spectrum of these types of vulnerabilities. Most of this could compromise your personal and private data stored in these devices. You may even allow the attacker to gain control over your computer and encrypt your files.
Simple Ways to Update Your OS Applications & Security Software
Operating system updates install fixes to possible bugs and security holes. This is along with cleaning up outdated software that may slow down your device. Similarly application updates update security vulnerabilities as they add new features. Updated security software is key in addressing constantly evolving hacker exploits. Taking some simple steps to ensure these important elements are up-to-date can save you from much difficulty.
Ideally, before you install any major OS update, you should completely backup your device data either via the cloud or on another device. Once you secure your backup, update your device as soon as possible. Alos, ensure that your computer, mobile phone, or tablet uses the latest version of its OS to protect your devices and data from cybersecurity issues.
Beyond that, you can set to install automatically most updates – for both mobile devices and personal computers. This is the simplest way to ensure that you constantly update your computers and other devices. The only trick? Taking the time to enable the automatic updates in the first place!
Open your device at off hours
We usually receive update notifications at the worst times. That is when we run out of time meeting the deadline. Yet we must done our work as soon as possible.
Software updates frequently require your device to be unavailable (and then likely have to restart) for at least a period of time. That makes it tough to put a pause in your work or personal time for you to complete the update.
Timing your updates to automatically run during off-hours can help to solve this issue. Many users set the updates to run during an off-period. This approach ensures you don’t need your computer or phone during the time you’ve set aside for software updates.
Also, checking for software and security updates before bed can help – it’s simple to let them run while you sleep.
Maintaining a watchful eye, being diligent in updates, and just being aware that scammers are always looking for an entry can help you protect your personal devices and information. Keep your guard up!
Need more help with your IT security? deskside can be of help.