10 Ways to Secure Your Digital Life
Computer security also known as “cybersecurity” has become more and more of a household concern. Most people either consider themselves to be secure if they have Anti-virus installed or are in constant fear about what might happen because they truly do not understand the pitfalls of digital security or how to avoid them . Here are Equicore’s top 10 tips about how to secure your digital presence and sleep easier at night.
The dreaded password… Now websites might as well make us have 12 characters completely randomized with alien symbols. They end up being so complicated that we can’t remember them, so most people put it on a “hidden” post it note somewhere on or in their desk. We may think this is a major hassle but the truth is passwords are the gatekeeper. There is something called bruteforce which tries hundreds to thousands of combinations to break a password. Our suggestion? Create a complicated password and then store it with an app like LastPass which is multi-browser, cross-platform, and encrypted. Also be aware of shoulder-surfers, which are people who can read your computer password or phone code just by seeing you enter it in once.
A virus is one of the most common ways for a hacker to get into a machine. Piggybacking or sending hidden files along with other files is often a way to either gain access to a system, turn it into a bot (automatically have the infected system start hacking in the background for the infiltrator), or a zombie (a sleeper system that will start working for the infiltrator at a certain date). To handle downloads, make sure you only download something from someone you know or a trusted site. There is no need to get too paranoid but remember that viruses can be included even in pictures (which is why the default setting in some email clients is to not show pictures). Most anti-virus programs will scan files as they download along with most browsers and Norton does provide both a Mac and Windows version.
Most people might think that viruses, malware, and spyware are all different things. Malware is defined as: malicious software, hence the name Mal-Ware. This includes viruses, worms, Trojans horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, scareware, etc. Most of these have the definition built into the name. Ransomware acts like fake anti-virus then charges you to unlock the anti-virus and causes problems. Spyware “spies” on your computer activity, adware just throws up a ton of different ads to try to bring in revenue. While it can be beneficial to know all the different definitions, it can help to just have a singular program that removes all of it at once. Our suggestion is one of the top programs, Malwarebytes. It has a free version and a paid version for more features. It is available for Windows, Mac, and Android.
The most traditional form of communication today, email has come under the limelight recently about security protocols and what it means to have secure email. If you are using gmail, office 365, or another online service use secure passwords and be careful about logging in on public computers. For private corporate emails, ask your IT department the following questions:
- Are we using TSL/SSL certificates?
- What is done with archived or deleted emails?
- What are the company email policies?
- What devices should I have email on?
Most desktop email clients like Outlook, Mac Mail, and Thunderbird can support encryption. If you are nervous about email security it is best to use a service like Protonmail.
Firewalls are a lot like “big data”. Everyone has heard the term but not a lot of people really know what it means. A firewall is simply software that runs on a server and blocks ports in the network. A port is something through which information passes. You may have heard of “port-forwarding” which will just forward that internet traffic to a number chosen by the IT department. Firewalls exist in home routers, enterprise network servers, and our personal computers.
Wireless internet has become the standard for how most people connect to the internet. This has caused security to become an increasing concern. Something that can be done easily is to make sure that private information such as banking and ideally even shopping be done from private networks. This includes laptops, tablets, and cell phones. This is because the actual packets being transferred on the web can be picked up and then the private information can be used. So try not to log into your bank during that coffee break. Also for a minimum security setup, make sure your home internet has at least a WPA2 password along with the home router security setup. Enterprises or small businesses looking to save money would do well to use hardened linux firewall systems such as:
This can be a bit tricky to utilize because encryption requires decryption. If one is just looking to encrypt their files then there are many free programs. For encrypted emails we must make sure that the recipient can decrypt the email, otherwise the system is useless. Also be aware that different countries have different allowable encryption standards. Encryption is by “bit” meaning 256-bit encryption is the standard in the USA. However, many countries prohibit the use of encryption altogether and you can get into very serious trouble. You are best off not carrying encrypted external devices and encrypting the hard drive which is included with Mac OSX, iOS, Chrome OS, Linux, and Android. For windows users read this article on how to enable your encryption.
Most people have heard the stories of using silly putty to replicate fingerprints on biometric scanners. More and more devices are using retinal, fingerprints, or device proximity (apple or android watch) to unlock devices. Now with the advent of Apple HomeKit and Android Home we must make sure that these devices are truly safe. Using top of the line equipment will help prevent thieves. Also remember that the point of having biometrics on our devices such as our phones is a moot point if our code is 1234 or some other easy unlock code. There are also more and more external storage devices with biometrics (but remember be careful when travelling overseas due to varying encryption laws).
- Cloud Services
We may have all heard about the famous breaks into iCloud for stealing photos and personal information from the celebrities. We must remember that certain clouds have different levels of security and storage. For those who are unconcerned about security and want maximum storage, check out Amazon Drive at $59.99/yr for unlimited storage (Terabytes) which is unheard of today. For maximum security a private cloud would be recommended per organization. We recommend using openstack to decrease costs and implement custom security.
Mobile devices have become the bread and butter of our digital lives. While the recent issue with the FBI and apple might lead one to believe that certain mobile devices are unhackable, the truth is… and remember this… anything is hackable given enough time. Installing the updates available for your mobile device is the first step to ensuring it’s secure and staying ahead of any dangers. In addition, utilizing several of the previous points on your mobile device will strengthen your device security. Check out this nice article on securing your iPhone from hackers. And for Android users this article has some additional tips.