5 Steps To Protect Your Personal Information

Secure Personal Data

5 Steps To Protect Your Data

Every so often an event comes up that reminds us, the common folks, of the war taking place in cyberspace. In 2013 it was Edward Snowden who raised awareness of the surveillance on citizens, in 2016 it was the YAHOO breach that led to the data leaks of more than half a billion users, and the latest reminder came thanks to the Israeli company NSO and its Pegasus software. While holiday celebrations were at full force, a human rights activist discovered a hack in his phone that led Apple to send an urgent software update to all their users. NSO’s Pegasus spyware used a weakness in the iOS system, which allowed the infiltration inside Apple devices without the need for user action.

Unfortunately, not all of us can afford to have a cybersecurity expert on speed dial. However, there are everyday procedures that will help all of us maintain the little privacy we still have left. 

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Update all systems

Some of us are creatures of habit, so seeing a software update announcement can ruin our day. However there is a reason they’re being released, and all users should be alert to messages and updates. Outdated operating systems pose a significant threat to our information security:

  • Leave you vulnerable and alone- If vulnerabilities are found, software developers do not release patches aimed at preventing further exploitation of outdated operating systems. 
  •  Known vulnerabilities – Detailed lists of all known vulnerabilities, particularly operating systems vulnerabilities, are published on hidden forums known to hackers. These lists are either open-source and free or offered in exchange for payment. As the operating system ages, more and more vulnerabilities are added to the list, making it easier to exploit them and cause damage to the user. 
  • System crash – Outdated systems don’t support integrations with advanced applications, and there is a great danger of your device crashing. This can create temporary or permanent loss data. 

Following many hacker impersonations, we must ensure the credibility of the update, If you receive a software update notification, it is recommended that you check the device settings -> Information about the device, and check that there is a notification. 

In addition, the web can be a reliable source when ensuring the originality of the update. Articles are usually posted in case of a scam. 

Moreover, it is important to run on an operating system that is still receiving updates, and in particular information security updates. Windows 7 users, sorry to disappoint you.

Be aware of recent cyber events

Follow professional and reliable cyber newsletters, and stay up to date with news about cyber events. Rest assured,  there is no need to be an expert on the subject, just understand the bottom line and actions that need to be taken. It’s too often people find out through news about breaches that are relevant to them and can act before it gets out of hand. 

Don’t overshare- sharing isn’t caring

The social network burst into our lives about a decade ago, and since then it seems impossible to avoid it. Whether it’s Twitter for tweets, TikTok for Gen Z, or LinkedIn for employees, the popularity only increases by the minute:

In today’s era, this may be an exaggerated request, but even if you are addicted to social media, there are a few things you should avoid sharing:

  • Credit card details and bank account
  • User information- usernames, passwords, security questions
  • Home and work addresses
  • Official documents – ID number, driver’s license, social security numbers, car plate number
  • Work information that is not available on the official website- third party vendors, email addresses, and employee names particularly those from the IT department. 

This may sound obvious to some of you, but you’ll be surprised to see how many of these details are available on the web. It’s important to refresh these protocols, especially for teenagers and children who are often excited and post a picture with their new car.

Keep your home network secure

We might not be a global corporation with millions of customers, but the information shared and stored in our home network is just as valuable, and vulnerable. Make sure to set a password with 12 characters or more, containing English letters – uppercase and lowercase – numbers and symbols. In addition, the security of the router itself should be checked, and stricter security rules should be implemented with the help of your telecom provider. If your router supports VPN it is recommended you install it.  It is key you don’t connect strangers to your network and share the password with family members only.

Finally, you can check with the telecom company that indeed all the unused porters remain closed – especially if you have a security camera system.

Lookout for suspicious activity

These are all procedures and behaviors that should be done to maintain maximum security:

  • Avoid downloading pirated files and clicking on links from unknown sources
  • Install official antivirus software – It is important to download antivirus software from a reliable source, even if a subscription is required. The financial damage caused by hacking is far more severe than the cost of this software.
  • Avoid connections with other devices – Connected cell phones and USBs can infect your PC, even if the source is trusted. Try transferring files via Drive, Email, or Bluetooth.
  • Apps – Play Store has countless apps that are either vulnerable due to lack of security or purposefully malicious, so it’s vital you only download high rated well know to download only reputable, high-rated apps.
  • Manage passwords– we’ve all sinned, but enough is enough. No more password recycling- use lowercase and upper case letters and random numbers. Do not use meaningful dates like your anniversary date, and store them in a secure location- not your phone’s notes under the heading “passwords”.

We believe that anonymity protects us- average joe’s, in no possession of sensitive information. Unfortunately, this human weakness is exploited by malicious actors who see us as easy prey.

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