Make yourself more cyber secure (in five simple steps!)
October 15, 2019
Cyber security can sometimes seem out of reach.
There are so many different cyber threats and so many different ways for cyber criminals to access your information, steal your identity and compromise your accounts.
But becoming cyber secure is more achievable than you may think.
Just follow these five (relatively) simple steps to become more cyber secure.
Step one: Create a strong password
Having a strong password is one method of protecting your information from cyber crime. Your banking records, your social media, your identity – this information is all just a stolen password away from being compromised. A weak password means you’re an easy target for cyber criminals looking to break into accounts to take what they want. A strong one means it will be difficult for cyber criminals to get access to your information.
So how do you create a strong password?
Step two: Enable two-factor authentication
Want to become more cyber secure?
Enabling two-factor authentication on your most important accounts is one of the fastest ways to do so. Two-factor authentication gives you an added layer of security should anyone try to break into your account.
One example of two-factor authentication works like this:
- You provide the service you are trying to log in to with your phone number (at this point they should already have your email address as a log-in)
- The service sends you a text message (SMS) that contains a code you need to enter to log in
- You enter the code into the service and log in
You can also use another factor such as:
- Something you know: PIN, Password
- Something you have: phone, fob
- Something you are: a fingerprint or voice recognition (also known as biometric)
Two-factor authentication is an effective way to immediately boost your cyber security. That way, there will be a safeguard should anyone try to break in to your account.
Step three: Delete any suspicious emails
One of the most common risks to Canadians’ cyber security? Email.
A common tactic for cyber criminals is to send Canadians emails that look like they are from a trusted institution, but in fact are attempts to steal your information and identity.
Example: A cyber criminal might send a victim an email that looks like it’s from their bank asking them to update their contact information. The email looks legitimate but is in fact an attempt to get you to visit a website that can steal important information. This method – known as “phishing” – is just one way suspicious emails can compromise you. The best thing to do with suspicious emails? Delete them! If you think you are receiving a legitimate notification from a bank or other body, try to contact them through an independent method (such as looking up a phone number on a website). Otherwise, junk it!
Step four: Download any system updates
Hands up if you’ve ever spent a day (or even several) putting off downloading a system update on your phone or computer?
Yeah, that’s what we thought!
It can be tempting to avoid system updates. Who wants to take the time to wait for an update to install then, if necessary, restart your device? But here’s the thing: Not downloading that update is putting your device or computer at risk of a cyber attack. Your operating system (OS) manages all functionality on your computer or device, including many security aspects. As a result, it can be a vulnerable weak spot targeted by hackers if it isn't kept up-to-date.
The solution? Pretty simple:
- Make sure you enable automatic updates on your OS so your device will automatically download and install these fixes as soon as they're available.
- If your OS asks you to take action or download a fix manually, do it – your OS can't protect you if you don't empower it properly.
Updating your OS when you're prompted is one of the simplest things you can do to protect your computer. After all, it's easier to allow an update than to have to reinstall your operating system.
Step five: Secure your smartphone
We use our smartphones for everything these days: Social media, taking photos and sometimes, on rare occasions, even for making phone calls. We also store a lot of information on them – web history, passwords, email, calendars, and contact information – that can make us vulnerable to cyber crime. That means it’s important for us to protect our devices.
- Protect your phone with a password: This will make it more difficult for others to gain access to your information if your phone is stolen and it encrypts the info inside.
- Update your operating system: OS updates provide security features designed to keep your information safe
- Be wary when using Wi-Fi networks: Unsecure networks can be used to steal your personal information.
- Be careful with apps, content, MMS and SMS: These can offer opportunities for fraud, malware and predators.
- Watch your Bluetooth: If hackers can detect your Bluetooth, it's also possible for them to hack your device.
If you’re putting all of this advice into practice, you’re on your way to being more cyber secure. But it’s still not a fool proof system – nothing is. To prepare for the worst, make sure you back up your vital personal information and practice recovering it at least once. This way you’ll know what to do if you’re the victim of a cyber crime like ransomware.
Think cyber security is beyond your reach? Think again!
With these five steps you’ll be well on your way to being more cyber secure.
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