As our dependency on technology increases, so does the risk of our cyber security being compromised. Many of us work with technology all day – especially since the migration to working from home due to Covid-19 – and it’s important to remind ourselves that as our devices and programmes become increasingly sophisticated, so do the hackers. Hackers rely on today’s fast-paced working environments; many of us are doing multiple things at once, using tools that are intended to simplify and accelerate the speed at which we can complete tasks. Scammers can take advantage of this pressure to perform actions quickly, relying on the likelihood that your attention on completing the task at hand will result in you being less likely to notice the tell-tale signs of fraudulent communications. To help stay safe and keep your data protected, remember these tips.
Look out for Phishing Emails and Texts
Phishing is when a scammer attempts to obtain a person’s or business’ data through fraudulent emails, text messages or advertisements, often assuming the identity of legitimate and established companies. These communications can also be used to install malicious spyware or malware onto the individual’s device which in turn can reveal their data and sensitive information. Whilst these messages often appear legitimate and trustworthy upon first glance, upon further inspection there are often clues that indicate that they are fraudulent.
- The greeting or opening line will often be generic, e.g. ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, and not include your name.
- There might be spelling or grammatical errors.
- The email address from which the email is sent might look unusual or illegitimate – there might be full stops or dashes in places there shouldn’t be.
- The email will probably ask for personal information or ask you to complete a form immediately.
- There might be unsolicited attachments.
If you are unsure whether an email is legitimate or not, it is always better to err on the side of caution; you can call or contact the supposed source of the email using contact details from an alternative source to check its authenticity. You can also take tests and quizzes online to check whether you can detect a phishing email.
Passwords and verification codes
Passwords are the first line of defence when it comes to protecting your accounts and information – to reduce the chances of someone being able to access this information, you need to ensure that your passwords are strong, changed regularly, and not repeated across different accounts and devices. A strong password should include a mix of letters, numbers and special characters (e.g exclamation points or question marks). Passwords should not include names or personal information. The most secure passwords are not words that appear in the dictionary.
Some accounts and services will offer another level of security by requiring a verification code for some actions; this means the input of a code sent to another account or device will be required in order to proceed with the action. If this is an option on an account, we recommend setting it up.
Keeping your devices’ software updated is a good way to ensure that your devices are equipped to deal with potential security threats; as the methods and programmes used by fraudsters becomes more sophisticated, tech companies strive to stay as up to date as they can, implementing new software updates to further protect your accounts. It is also recommended to install anti-virus and security software on your devices; these can help detect viruses and malware and protect your information. However, bear in mind that scammers will often disguise themselves as services offering anti-virus software, so ensure you are downloading genuine software before installing.
Wi-Fi and VPN
Hackers can access your information using your Wi-Fi, or a Wi-Fi network you are using. To help prevent this ensure that your own Wi-Fi network is protected using a secure password, and do not join Wi-Fi networks you do not trust. Remove all networks from your device’s network list that you no longer need and disable the ‘auto-connect’ feature. If you have no option but to connect to a shared or public connection, using a VPN can help disguise your traffic and keep your identity and information secure.
What to do if you suspect you have been hacked?
If you think you have been hacked – perhaps you have seen some unusual activity on your bank statement or can no longer access one of your accounts – you need to be proactive and react quickly. If you can, change the login details on the account, making sure they are completely different and that the password is secure. You should then contact the company with whom the account is held (e.g. Netflix, Gmail, your bank) and notify them of the activity. To regain control of the account you will need to prove your identity with additional information, so be prepared for this. It is also a good idea to notify those around you that your account has been compromised, to help prevent confusion or communication issues. If one of your accounts has been compromised, there is a chance that others may be at risk – check your security settings and passwords and adjust if needed.
When it comes to cyber security, you cannot be too careful. Remember that a lot of the time it is not only your information at risk, but those around you and even the security of your workplace. By following the tips above you can help keep yourself, and those around you, secure only, building good habits that will only become more relevant as the technological world continues to develop.