With all the hacking horror stories in the news, protecting yourself online can seem daunting. That’s why it’s more important than ever to keep things in perspective. While corporate-scale data breaches get a lot of publicity, a few basic protective measures can still greatly reduce most people’s risk of having their data exposed — and help reduce the damage if they are caught in a large-scale hack.
With October being National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, here are three simple tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t open suspicious emails: Most people have heard this advice before. And yet, one in three Americans still open so-called phishing emails. This type of “hacking” is arguably the most dangerous because the perpetrator doesn’t have to fool a smart computer system – just a distracted human.
How to do it: Don’t open emails from unknown senders, and never, ever click on anything inside a suspicious email – not even the “unsubscribe” button. This simple mistake has caused misery for people around the world ranging from college students to major political parties. And, try to use email and internet service providers who work to protect their customers from phishing before the email even arrives.
- Ditch the defaults: According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, leaving your Wi-Fi router and other wireless devices with their default security settings is an open door for hackers to install malware, steal information and generally cause trouble. In the case of a router, it can also let strangers piggyback on your Wi-Fi without permission.
How to do it: Change your Wi-Fi password every 90 days, and whenever you get a new router. Modern routers can do some pretty cool stuff, including helping you with your security. But that won’t do you much good if hackers can find your password right in the product manual.
- Keep your software updated: Software updates can be a pain, but skipping them is a bad idea. Most modern software programs receive security updates over the internet, so when you skip those updates, you’re leaving open a weak spot that hackers likely already know about.
How to do it: Most major platforms such as Windows and macOS allow you to opt in for automatic updates. While this can occasionally be inconvenient, it’s a good way to ensure you have the latest security patches, especially if you aren’t tech-savvy or tend to forget to update your software on your own.
If you prefer not to take automatic updates, you might consider setting your own reminders to download the latest patches at a time that works for you. Don’t delay for too long!
If your Viasat plan offers a free zone, it’s a good idea to plan system updates for your free period. That way the downloads won’t count against your priority data allowance.
In the end, data security is all about taking reasonable steps that you can stick to. By keeping it simple and consistent, and by choosing security-conscious products and services, you can minimize your risks without spending too much time worrying.