The ongoing COVID-19 crisis means that we’re relying on computer networks to keep us connected more than ever before. Unfortunately, this is creating a lot of opportunities for hackers.
According to one report, there have been around 4,000 cyberattacks per day during the coronavirus lockdown.
Thankfully, there are some relatively straightforward steps you can take to safeguard your computer network from cyberattacks. This article gives 11 useful online safety tips that could protect you or your organization from being hacked.
1. Consider Social Engineering Attacks
If you want to truly protect your organization from cyber attacks, it’s not enough to simply have anti-virus software and firewalls.
Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that they’re safe just because they have security software installed. In reality, many hacks come about due to social engineering rather than through hacking a system.
For example, someone who works for the organization might be tricked into giving away their password. If someone does this, even the best firewall in the world isn’t going to protect you.
The only way to protect against this kind of attack is to have a security culture ingrained into your organization. You need to make sure all your employees are trained in identifying attempts at social engineering.
Protecting against social engineering is a constant process. You can’t just have a single seminar about it and call it a day. This means you need to raise awareness of social engineering attacks and also keep it fresh in people’s minds throughout the year.
You might achieve this through reminder emails. You might also consider doing vulnerability testing in which you subject employees to fake social engineering attacks to gauge how they react.
2. Have a Security Culture
If you want to be truly resilient against cyberattacks, one of the best cybersecurity tips is to have a strong security culture. In a security culture, members of your organization will be empowered to report anything that they think is suspicious.
In many organizations, people often don’t report things that they consider suspicious because they think they will not be taken seriously. People also worry that they will be embarrassed if they report something that turns out to be nothing.
In reality, if you want to catch the true threats, you’ll need to deal with a lot of false positives. It’s only by empowering members of your organization to report any and all suspicious behavior that you will find the true threats.
You never know where a threat will come from. This means that you should always be appreciative and encouraging of people reporting things. If people don’t feel like they can report their suspicions, you leave your organization extremely vulnerable to attacks.
3. Be Aware of Phishing
One of the biggest online security threats is phishing. Phishing involves tricking someone into inputting their password somewhere that will reveal it to an attacker.
For example, attackers might send an email made to look like it came from your organization. They might use a fake login page that looks identical to the official one. But when the victim “logs in,” they’ve given away their password.
The easiest way to defend against this kind of attack is to make sure all members of your organization can identify the warning signs.
You should also make sure that your organization doesn’t require a lot of logging in. The more someone needs to log in, the more likely they are to get careless and fall for a phishing scam.
4. Set Permissions
One big mistake that many organizations make is that everyone has access to everything. This is a huge mistake to make as it means that if someone gets hacked, the hacker will have access to the whole organization.
If you want to achieve a good level of security, people should only have access to the parts of the system they need to do their job.
This means that if someone’s account is compromised, the amount of damage the attacker can do will be significantly minimized.
You should do an organization-wide evaluation and establish exactly what people need to have access to. You should then revoke their access to everything else.
If someone needs access to another area of the system, they’ll need to apply for permission and demonstrate why they need access to that particular part of the IT system.
5. Download Updates
To keep your IT network safe from cyber attacks, you need to make sure all your software is up to date. When developers find out about security vulnerabilities with their software, they bring out updates to patch them.
If you don’t keep your systems updated, you’re making yourself into an easy target. Eventually, security vulnerabilities in software become common knowledge among hackers. This makes it easy to breach outdated systems.
Some software ends up being discontinued by the developer, meaning security updates will never be released. If you want your system to be secure, you simply can’t use outdated software.
6. Use Multifactor Authentication
If you’re serious about online safety, you need to use multifactor authentication. This simply involves verifying your identity using multiple steps. For example, a system might send a verification text message to your phone.
No matter how good your password is, it can always get stolen. Multifactor authentication makes your accounts a lot more secure. Most programs these days will have some kind of multifactor option.
7. Don’t Use the Same Password
One of the biggest online safety mistakes you can make is to use the same password across multiple services. While you might be confident that your IT system is secure, you can’t say the same for all the services you use.
Companies get breached all the time, and lists of passwords and email addresses end up being leaked to hackers. All a hacker then has to do is try your email and password combination on other websites.
If you use the same password on everything, it won’t be long before the hacker breaks into something. Consider using a unique password for every single service you use.
8. Keep an Eye On Kids
Kids are notorious for installing viruses and other malware. A lot of malware developers specifically target kids because it’s often easier to trick them than adults.
If kids are using your computer or are connected to your network, make sure you keep an eye on their online activity. You might also consider setting up special permissions for them.
For example, you can set up a kids account that doesn’t have the ability to download or install any programs. You should also take the time to educate kids about online safety techniques.
9. Use Anti-Virus Software
If you spend much time on the internet, using anti-virus software is essential. If you only go to a few trusted websites, you can probably get away with using something basic such as the anti-virus included in Windows 10.
On the other hand, if you tend to visit a lot of different websites, you should consider getting a premium anti-virus. You also need to make sure to keep your anti-virus software up to date at all times.
10. Have Backups
One of the most destructive forms of malware in recent years is ransomware. Ransomware encrypts your files and demands a cash payment to get your files back.
This kind of attack can be so devastating for some victims that they have no choice but to pay up. The only trouble is paying doesn’t even guarantee you’ll get your files back.
The only way to properly protect yourself against a ransomware attack is to have backups of all your important files. If you can simply revert to a recent backup, ransomware has no power over you.
A good backup system should involve at least two different backup locations. A common method is to backup on an external drive and on a cloud storage service.
11. Use a Virtual Machine
If you must install risky software, you should install it on a virtual machine. A virtual machine emulates a real computer system – it’s essentially a computer within a computer.
A virtual machine is isolated from your real computer. If you manage to install a virus on one, you can simply turn off the virtual machine, and any damage you did is erased.
Take Online Safety Seriously
Despite the risks of cyber attacks, computer users often think it won’t happen to them. As you can see from these online safety tips, it’s not hard to protect yourself.
By taking some of these simple steps, you could save yourself from a huge cyber-incident.
All it really takes to have the peace of mind that your data is safe is to run a high-quality backup system. With a good cloud backup system, everything is automated and runs behind the scenes. You can just set it up and forget about it.
If you want to learn more about our cloud backup services, take a look at our storage page.