Cybersecurity matters, whether you're an individual using a smartphone on public networks, a gamer looking to prevent DDoS attacks or a business that needs to avoid devastating data leaks. And the threat posed by cyber-criminals is rising, with an epidemic of smartphone malware, and the ever-rising cost of internet fraud.
Sometimes, there's not much we can do to negate the threat posed by online crime. But a lot of the damage inflicted by digital outlaws is caused by poor personal cybersecurity and simple laziness. With that in mind, we've put together a quick list of tips for tech-savvy people who want to tighten up their cybersecurity game.
If you manage a business network (or you're concerned about your home systems), there are ways to test for vulnerabilities, and it's definitely a good idea to incorporate them into your everyday practices.
The most useful for most small and medium-sized businesses are a set of apps called Penetration Testing tools. Often developed by "ethical hackers", these tools essentially simulate common forms of cyber-attack, such as DDoS, SQL injection, and XSS.
Good packages include Acunetix and Core Impact, both of which cover a wide variety of possible weaknesses, including most of the latest Windows or Linux exploits. Running their tests is a great way to plan mitigation strategies and get a truly accurate image of how safe your networks really are.
We all know that passwords are a major security weak point. Most data leaks stem from the ability of hackers to brute force (or simply guess) user passwords, and most of the time that's due to the use of weak passwords that aren't hard to discover.
All network security managers should take a look at their password protocols to ensure that anyone with access to the network formulates strong passwords, and changes them frequently. That's a no brainer.
However, it's also a good idea to introduce Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for sensitive applications and portals. This requires an additional form of identification, which could be an externally stored passcode, a fingerprint, or a retinal scan. And it delivers vastly enhanced network security. Even if the cost is a slight inconvenience, that's a price worth paying.
If passwords aren't to blame for security breaches, using unsecured public wifi networks could be. All-too-often, staff working remotely in coffee shops, bars, or even conference centers, use unsecured wireless networks that offer zero protection for data flowing across them.
That's an open goal for anyone who wants to stage a man-in-the-middle attack. And it's a totally unnecessary security lapse, as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are available to provide a ready-made solution.
VPNs encrypt the data leaving and entering smartphones, tablets, and laptops. So if staff need to work outside the office, any sensitive emails or attachments should remain confidential. VPNs are lightweight, so they shouldn't sap system resources, easy to install, and not too expensive. So there's no excuse for companies who don't require employees to use one.
For a rundown of the best VPNs at the moment, head to https://vpnpro.com/best-vpn-services/. You'll find plenty of ratings and reviews, with information about features and costs, and advice for business users.
If you're reading this, then you're probably using some form of a virus scanner, and you may well have a specialist anti-malware tool from tech companies like SpyBot or MalwareBytes. That's great, but it only goes so far. If you don't update your virus registries regularly, even the best anti-malware apps will start to fall behind.
And if you only use an antivirus application, it's worth investigating additional tools. Not all antivirus apps have the ability to screen for adware or spyware, both of which are growing threats in 2019.
There are a few leading apps to go for, including the aforementioned Malwarebytes scanner. That's great for general use. However, if you regularly torrent or deal with sensitive files, and want a way to screen them individually, we'd recommend BitDefender Antivirus, with its handy 'drag and drop' system.
Some of the most damaging cybersecurity threats start with an innocent click in the body of an email. We've all seen them. Messages from major corporations or tax collection organizations, which entice us to "claim our refund" or "look for sale bargains", but only deliver suspect attachments and - if we're very unlucky - a nice parcel of malware to eradicate.
Fortunately, there's a way around these problems with standard email providers, and that's using an encrypted email service. Companies like Proton Mail and Tutanota allow users to encrypt messages sent to individual contacts, while also incorporating active malware scanning.
Couple those secure email packages with a short course in applying common sense to email attachments, and anyone can upgrade their cybersecurity. That's something we should all be doing in 2019 and beyond. So take these tips, put them into action, and enjoy a new level of protection from digital threats.