Hacking is a growing problem for businesses, as demonstrated by recent headlines about data breaches that affected tens of millions of Target customers and now potentially 145 million eBay users. Hacking is an issue for consumers and companies of all sizes, not just big corporations.
Hackers are constantly trying to gain access to private consumer and company data, and everyone who shops or banks online or manages a business should take common-sense security measures to reduce their vulnerability. Here are 10 tips that can help:
1. Never use personal information as a password
Avoid using your or a family member’s name, a birthday, your occupation or a sports team name for a password. This information is widely available on social media or public records, making it easy for hackers to find.
2. Use complex passwords
A short, all-lowercase password that is also a word that appears in the dictionary is easy to hack. If possible, use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters(e.g., @, #, etc.) to make it more difficult to guess.
3. Make sure you log off and close your browser after Internet sessions
A hacker can use an open browser to quickly access pages you just visited, login information and even saved passwords. Always log off and close your browser when you go offline.
4. Install the latest software and browser updates
Virtually every platform and all browsers provide periodic updates that can be installed at no charge. Often the primary reason for the new release is to close security gaps. Make sure your software is up to date.
5. Create a cyber security policy for employees
The best way to get employees to take security seriously is to give them training on safe cyber practices. Then ask them to sign an acknowledgement that they understand the policy and hold them accountable.
6. Password-protect your mobile phone or tablet
Millions of users don’t take the basic step of establishing a PIN or password to access their smartphone or tablet, which is a huge mistake. Protect yours with a secure PIN or password in case it falls into the wrong hands.
7. Create strong passwords using the “keystroke” method
If you find it challenging to remember passwords, pick one you’ll easily recall and then type it in using the key above and to the left of each actual letter. This method transforms “baseball” into “gqw3gqoo.”
8. Set incoming mail to be read in plain text only
If you have email settings that automatically allow images to open, hackers can tell when you’ve opened an email. Instead, set your email to open as plain text, and click images only from trusted senders.
9. Don’t store a list of password
Some people who take cyber security seriously by creating complex passwords and frequently changing them undermine that effort by saving a list of passwords in an unencrypted file. It’s an open invitation for cyber thieves.
10. Maintain a burner email address
Email is one of the primary gateways for hackers, so it’s a good idea to limit the number of people who have your main email address. Create a free account to give out to merchants, etc. This also helps keep your inbox spam-free.
Hacking incidents will likely continue to make headlines for years to come, but you can be proactive about the threat and put safeguards in place to protect your personal and business data. Don’t forget that passwords are generally your first defense, so make sure you follow best practices such as using a different password for each site and changing passwords frequently.
If you have trouble remembering multiple passwords, you might also consider using a password management system to automate and streamline the process. Either way, keep these tips in mind to make sure your personal and business information stay safe.