How to protect yourself from cyber attacks

Jul 30, 2020

When the number of remote workers increased a few months ago, cybercriminals started rubbing their hands in glee.

Businesses quickly transitioned to home working arrangements with little or no notice, which left them vulnerable to cyber attacks.

With 4.7 million employees (3.4% of the workforce) in the U.S working from home at least half the week, it's time to consider how you can mitigate the risk of a cybersecurity attack.

Remote workers require a reliable, secure connection to allow internet browsing and access to business information. But home connections generally don’t have the same level of protection that offices do, so the risk of cyber attack increases.

There are approximately 2,244 cyber attacks every day, with 43% of those data breaches involving small businesses.

Cybercriminals are not just happy with stealing your information; they often destroy data, change programs, and use servers to transmit spam, or malicious code. This makes securing your data even more critical.

By putting the following security features in place, you will reduce the chance of being attacked and losing your information.

Create unique passphrases

The days of using a simple password are gone. Strong passphrases should be your first line of defense.

Avoid using passwords that have a personal meaning, as it takes hackers no time at all to crack them.

The FBI recommends passphrases, as they take longer to crack.

Passphrases are made up of three or four words and contain between 14 and 64 characters.

Use a mixture of lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters to reduce your risk of a security breach. You should also choose a passphrase that is meaningful to you, so it is easy to remember.

Once you've decided on a strong passphrase, don't overuse it. If a cyber attacker manages to guess it, they'll have access to all accounts with that passphrase.

To keep track of all your passphrases, consider using a password manager. They generate complex passwords, making them increasingly difficult for cybercriminals to crack. You type a single password into the password manager and are given access to all of your online access points, with the username and password readily available for each.

Use multi-factor authentication

One of the most effective ways to prevent criminals from gaining access to your devices is implementing multi-factor authentication.

Multi-factor authentication makes it significantly more difficult to gain unauthorized access to your computers and applications. Criminals are likely to steal one type of access code, but stealing two or three different types of access codes would be extremely difficult.

Multi-factor authentication includes at least two of the following methods of proving a user's identity:

●      A personal identification number (PIN), a password, or an answer to a secret question.

●      A smartcard, certificate, or a security key.

●      The user's fingerprint or retina scan

In most online settings, multi-factor authentication comprises a passphrase and then sending a PIN to the mobile phone number you provided at setup.

Update your software and operating systems

How often do you click on the “update later” button when your computer advises you to update your device or computer?

Then, a few days later, you realize you still haven't updated.

Every time you delay updating your software and operating systems, you put your information at risk.

Operating system updates often fix security issues and include new features that protect your device.

Updates will add new features and remove old ones, which are essential in the fight against cybercriminals.

Use a virtual private network

Virtual private network (VPN) services give you private internet access and ensure your connection is encrypted.

VPNs create a connection between your local network and a server located in a different location.

The VPN makes it seem like you are in a different place, which provides you with online freedom and allows private information to remain inaccessible to hackers. This information can include:

●      Browsing history

●      IP address and location

●      Identity data like your social security number or banking information

When considering which VPN company to use, ensure the company is well-known and trusted, and that it doesn't keep an activity log.

Top VPN providers include Norton Secure VPN and NordVPN.

Limit public Wi-Fi use

Every time you use an unsecured Wi-Fi connection, you allow criminals to access all the information stored on your computer.

You've decided to stop by the local cafe for lunch; you log in to their Wi-Fi to check your emails and unwittingly open yourself up to a security breach.

If hackers are in the vicinity, they can position themselves between you and the cafe's network, gaining access without your knowledge.

Secure your devices

If you are at home, this shouldn't be a problem, but if you work in a shared workspace, never leave your computer unlocked or your device unattended.

Consider who has access to your devices. If you have kids at home, don't let them access your work profile. Provide them with a unique login and passphrase to avoid them unintentionally sharing or deleting your information.

Avoid using portable storage devices

We've all done it. You store an essential piece of work on a portable storage device, such as a USB or external drive, only to misplace it later.

Where possible, avoid storage devices, if you have to use one, ensure it is encrypted and protected with passphrases.

Use spyware protection software

Spyware protection software is essential to protect your computer and keep your data safe and secure.

You may unintentionally open an email containing a virus that could steal your login information, activate your camera, and track where you have been online.

Antivirus software such as Malwarebytes or Avast Free protects you from this.

Back up your work

Criminal hackers are determined, so you may follow all the steps and still get hacked.

If you back up your data daily, you'll be in a much better position after an attack.

Backup software allows you to back up your files in real time. You can also create multiple versions of the data you want to store.

It's no good putting off data security until tomorrow. The number of cyberattacks is increasing every day, and the impact a breach could have on your business or work could be detrimental.

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send us your blog post.

Susan Elaine

Susan Elaine is a content writer at a2zonlinehub.com. Originally a chartered accountant, she now writes for a living. If not writing, you'll find her with her 3 kids, reading or looking for adventure.