Top Tips to Strengthen Your Cybersecurity!

Top Tips to Strengthen Your Cybersecurity!

Cybersecurity has become something of a hot topic amongst the general public recently, especially with the Facebook data scandal and US presidential election email leaks. The overall perception of the public (especially the demographics less well-versed with technology and the digital space) is that our online data is not secure and it’s best to just keep things offline. That, however, is a bit of a hard sell, seeing as cloud computing is everywhere and you basically cannot function without the internet anymore.The reality of the situation is that data is collected everywhere by every app to improve services and target advertising. This is a part of the agreement that you sign when you click “accept” on any app’s policy and give it access to your data (they always ask for permissions, you have agreed to share it). Sometimes the scope of this data collection can seem a little alarming (like Google Maps collecting information on your whereabouts at all times) but this is just routine.

However, we should be legitimately concerned about our data and so here are 

tips to improve your Cybersecurity

Educate Yourself

This probably seems like very vague advise but since the scope of the internet and the services you can use is so vast, this is vital. Before using any service, try to look it up via a simple Google search and see how reputable the company is. You can look at websites like Quora or Yahoo Answers where people who have used the service or app would have already answered questions about it. Always look through the reviews of any app on the AppStore/PlayStore as most of the issues and bugs would have been raised there itself. Additionally, you can check YouTube videos about the service and look at the comments to get a good picture.

In case you’re using a new app on your phone, for starters, never download and install 3rd party apps unless you know the developers and are experienced with this. Apps from the Apple AppStore and Android PlayStore are verified and are kept within limits of data collection, however, you should always pay attention to the permissions you give the app (especially if it requests admin access). 

You don’t need to go as far as reading the entire Policy Agreement before hitting agree, but just covering your bases in this manner can take you half the distance to much better cybersecurity. 

Remember, everyone isn’t out to get your data for malicious reasons but you do have the right to whatever level of privacy you desire.

Use A Virtual Private Network

Setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can sound like something you might need a computer engineer to come in and do but it’s really a very simple process and is unbelievably helpful when it comes to fortifying your electronics.People tend to connect to a lot of open WiFi hotspots when they are out of the house or traveling, especially when they’re on their phones. The problem here is that an open WiFi network is completely unencrypted, meaning anyone who hosts it can see your data.

Imagine this scenario, you’re near a coffee shop and on your laptop (and if you’re a coffee drinker and use your laptop with it, please invest in a Mighty Mug, you will not regret it) and you see an open WiFi connection named the name of the coffee shop. You connect to it and go about your business, accessing your emails and other such tasks (if this is your sort of work, you may want to look into buying a 2-in-1 PC like the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1). All the information you entered into your browser on this network is available to the owner of the network and there is a small chance some malicious person actually set up a WiFi hotspot and named it the coffee shops name. In this scenario, your data was just stolen. If you made a payment, they have your card details as well and you may not even know about the theft until they make a massive purchase on it. Only access new WiFi hotspots that require a sign-in or a password.

However, if you do want to access such a hotspot, you just need a VPN to protect yourself. Essentially, a VPN bounces your IP address off a different server, thereby protecting your identity and information. It may slow down your connection a little bit and can have a data cap where you need to pay for more data, but it is absolutely worth it. Airport WiFi is another place where people aren’t very careful while accessing their accounts through their phone, so using a VPN app like TunnelBear or TurboVPN is ideal.

Use Tape

No this is not a joke. There is a reason why several tech CEOs and reviewers use a little tape to cover up their webcams and sometimes even their microphones. Before I even get into the reasoning, there’s this image of Mark Zuckerberg that’s worth taking a look at.

If the CEO of Facebook thinks it's necessary, I think we should all be doing it. The idea behind this is: create a physical barrier between your real life and your digital one. The tape is a simple (albeit not exactly elegant) solution to the problem and really isn’t obstructive in any way. You can simply take the tape off your webcam if you need to use it and put it back on when you don’t. I’d suggest using a 3M Masking Tape so you don’t damage anything and it comes off easily when you need it to.To be clear, you do not need to worry about being recorded. The CEO of Facebook may have a legitimate fear of this because he is a billionaire but this is more for your own peace of mind as there is a possibility. If you are not accessing websites on the deep web (read below) then you should be fine. Also, covering your microphone is something you may want to do if you are a little more paranoid, but it really isn’t very necessary.

Check The URL

The last, basic tip to increase your cybersecurity is a very simple one: check the URL of the website you are accessing. On Chrome browser, if you access any website that is secure you will see a lock icon in the URL and the word “secure”. This is especially vital when you are accessing your banking information through a bank website as “phishing” websites exist to fool you this way. 

A phishing website is made to look almost exactly the same as the website you are trying to access, with a slightly altered URL. For example, if you are trying to access Facebook but mistype it to “Facebool” but still get the website, look at the URL, this is likely a phishing website trying to get your login information (which you would put into this website now). If it says unsecured, simply navigate away from the website. Chrome will often just give you a page that says your connection is not secured if you are accessing a website like this.If you access the deep web through a TOR browser, be sure to use a VPN as the network is unsecured in general.

Be Aware

This is basic but very important for your cybersecurity. Consider your virtual space the same as your home. Don’t give out information on anything related to your location if asked for permission by a shady website or by someone on the phone. Always be aware of the damage this can do. Do not run “.exe” (windows) or “.dmg” files from sources you are unsure of.

While it may not be necessary for most, purchase a copy of BitDefender (you can purchase a CD or USB key instead of downloading it from the internet) so applications do not install themselves on your computer and you are protected from Malware.Be safe everyone!

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