Unless you avoided reading or listening to the news last year (and with everything going on in the world who can blame you), you no doubt heard reports of ransomware attack after ransomware attack occurring in 2017. This type of hacking issue, where cybercriminals break into individual or company systems and hold data for ransom, is rife right now, and according to one report, actually increased almost ten-fold last year.
As such, no matter which industry you work in, and whether you’re an entrepreneur, freelancer, contractor, or employee, it’s imperative to keep all your important information safe from prying eyes, and from downtimes as a result of it being held captive. Read on for some steps you can take to avoid a ransomware attack this coming year.
Install Security Software and Firewalls
First off, one of the simplest things you can do to protect your data is to install top-quality security software on all the devices you use. There are many different products on the market these days, and while there are certainly numerous free versions available, it’s best to op for maximum security software that will protect your gadgets from all types of digital threats, not just some.
Security programs will stop your networks and computers from being infected with malicious code that enables hackers to get access to your data, and they’ll work to protect your privacy when online, shopping and browsing sites where you might put in sensitive details which can again potentially be used to break into your systems.
Firewalls are another line of defense well worth implementing, as they help to stop cybercriminals from breaking in via an internet connection. As above, you can buy a third-party product online or in a department store, I.T. shop, and the like, but it also pays to check your computers to see if they already have something pre-installed on them. Many do these days, as part of their manufacturing process. However, note that these firewalls may not be activated automatically, so double check the settings on your device to ensure your version is doing its job.
Use Proper Passwords
Next, don’t forget to always use hard-to-guess passwords on your devices. This includes not just computers, but also your Wi-Fi router and any smart-home products you have in your property. You should also use comprehensive codes on the various websites and other types of portals where you log in to store or access personal information.
Good passwords are always a minimum of eight characters long (the longer the better, usually, because this makes them harder to crack), and are made up of a mixture of upper and lower-case letters, plus numbers, and symbols. Also, be careful not to use any identifying names or numbers in your codes which hackers could guess from checking out your information online. This includes things you could post on your website or social media pages, such as birth dates, addresses, pet or family names, and lucky numbers.
Be Wary of Suspicious Emails, Links and Attachments
Another key step is to be aware that hackers tend to regularly gain access to systems by way of malicious code they implant in emails, links, and attachments. Often you will open or click on something, not realizing that in doing so, you’re making it easy for cybercriminals to run code surreptitiously on your machine that will crawl through looking for information and taking note of keystrokes.
As such, to stay safe you should never open emails or attachments from people you don’t know, and be on the lookout for messages which have been designed to look like they’re from a legitimate company you regularly deal with, such as a bank or telecommunications firm, but that are really sent out by a hacker. Be careful on social media sites too, particularly of clicking on links on ads or over-the-top headlines which are created specifically to attract more attention and get more clickthroughs.
Lastly, remember to update your tech gadgets on a regular basis too. Install the latest versions of not just your security software programs and firewalls, but also the operating system you use, the browsers, apps and plug-ins on your computers, and your passwords (generally around every two to three months works best here).
It is wise to set up programs to automatically update when a new version has been released. However, if you really don’t want to do this, or if you run some kind of software which doesn’t have this feature, make sure you post regular reminders in your calendar or diary to check for and arrange manual updates.
Jackie is a content coordinator and contributor that creates quality articles for topics like technology, business, home life, and education. She studied business management and is continually building positive relationships with other publishers and the internet community .