Businesses and companies are usually at the top of the list for hackers, and the reason for that is not far-fetched. Due to the mine of customer and consumer data (profiles, credit card details, etc.)which companies usually have on the database, hackers have a bigger payday when they do get their hands on such.
However, the truth is that these hackers are not magicians.
They, simply, look for loopholes in the system and exploit it. So that you don’t become the loophole at your workplace, we have curated some cybersecurity tips for you.
1 Always Upgrade System Software
Depending on what form of software your computer is running, you should always check to see if there is a new version that should be upgraded to. This is true for all of MacOS, Windows, Linux or any other dedicated servers your computers are running on.
More often than not, this would be the job of your company’s IT department. That does not stop you from knowing a thing or two about how upgrades work – and when there is a new one to be installed for your computer too.
This is important because software developers use these upgrades to not only boost the functionality of your computer, but also to improve security in flawed areas.
Not upgrading leaves your system exposed to whatever bugs had been found in the previous version. Taken control of by a motivated hacker, that could be all they need to gain access into your computer.
Speaking of upgrades and updating…
2 Update your apps
Applications and programs are there to make our work and everyday lives easier. They, like the system itself, are also usually in need of updates. In fact, they need to be updated much more frequently than you would need to do for the system.
The reasons are the same as above, so we won’t overflog that matter here.
It is advisable that you configure your computer to automatically search for program updates and install them. That way, you know you are always running a tight ship even when you forget to manually check for such updates.
3 Never sideload apps
There comes a time when you might need a particular application or program which is not offered in the official application store of you operating system. At these points, it looks harmless to seek out the said program from third party websites and vendors – and that is what we mean by sideloading.
Downloading apps from your computer’s official app store means you are getting a list of programs which have been vetted by experts at the other end of the table. They have checked all these apps to ensure they do not contain malicious code that could harm you, or your computer, in any way.
Usually, your computer is pre-configured to prevent the installation of apps and programs from outside sources. When you reconfigure it to allow such, though, one of the following could happen:
- Nothing – Here, you get the app and go on using it without any problems at all
- Data logging – Most sideloaded apps have lines of code designed to collect data on your computer and send it back to a remote server, from where a hacker has access to this information. This is usually in the form of trojan virus attacks, keyloggers, etc.
- Ransomware – While the approach above may be subtle, ransomware attacks are deployed almost immediately. Your files are held hostage till you make a sort of payment to the hacker, after which they can decide to release control of your computer to you or not.
Now that you know this, do you really want to take the chance of nothing happening?
4 Avoid public Wi-Fi
Most businesses have an internal internet connection that they broadcast to all of their computers. In the case that is not available, or you have stepped outside of the office area with your computer, connecting to a public Wi-Fi network is something you should never do.
Of course, they bring the convenience of allowing you consume insane volumes of data without having to worry about the costs. But then, you might be paying so much more than you know for this perceived convenience:
- Data monitoring – Public Wi-Fi operators (that coffee shop, airports, hospital lounges, etc.) can collect, record and save your internet traffic data anytime you connect to their network. That means all of the websites you visited, and everything else you did on the internet while connected to them.
You cannot fight them for this either since they must have written it into the Terms and Conditions you agreed to before using the network.
Now, if those people have a backdoor to monitor your activity online, best believe a hacker can do the same thing. To make matters worse, Wi-Fi snooping tools are sold on the internet – and they come very cheap too.
- Man in the middle attacks – Given that public Wi-Fi networks are unencrypted, it becomes possible for conversations and internet traffic to be hijacked.
In this case, a hacker can simply place themselves between your computer and the server you are communicating with (websites, online accounts, apps, messages, etc.). Everything sent from your computer to that server passes through them first, giving the hacker unrestricted access to all your sensitive information.
- Malware installation – Another dirty trick that can be played with public Wi-Fi networks is the installation of malware on the connected device. As soon as you make that connection, the free network downloads any malware (virus, ransomware, keylogger, etc.) which has been uploaded to the network.
If you must use public Wi-Fi networks at all, we recommend that you layer your connection over a VPN. The same is important for the workplace network as this ensures encryption. With that, it becomes impossible for a hacker to either deanonymize you or sift through the many layers of protection provided by this piece of software.
5 Set secure passwords
A recent study by IBM showed that younger employees are putting their companies at a higher risk of cyber breaches than the older folks. Reverse should have been the case since the younger generation is supposed to know better about passwords, and how to secure them.
Unfortunately, that is not what we have on our hands. So that you don’t become yet another one of this unimpressive statistic:
- Make sure your passwords are as secure as can be. Using default passwords that come with your computer or accounts is not advisable.
- When setting new passwords, stay away from personally identifying information like name, date of birth, street name, etc. In fact, we recommend using an online password generating software to come up with the best and most secure passwords.
- Don’t use the same password for more than one account. This goes beyond the company into your personal life too. That way, you can be sure a data breach on one account does not open doors to the same on yet another account.
- Never share your passwords with anyone. If you must collaborate with others in the workspace, change your password to such collaboration accounts as soon as the job is done.
- Enable two factor authentication on your accounts. Even if your account password were to get hacked, the hacker will still have no access.
6 Beware of USB Sticks
When hackers can’t break into a company’s computers from the outsides, they usually try their luck on doing so from the inside. That is why you should never plug just about any USB drives, dongles, or other external storage media into your work computer.
They could have been infected with malware which will surely find its way onto your computer as soon as they are plugged in.
Should you happen to find a random USB stick lying around on your table, on the floor of the parking lot or elsewhere, never plug it into your computer.
7 Download an Antivirus
This sounds like a no-brainer, but we had to wait till now to introduce this point. Afterall, you now know how dangerous malware (of which viruses are one) can be to your computer.
When choosing an antivirus, make sure it is from one of the leading companies out there. This way, you ensure you are getting the best protection that they should offer.
Likewise, update your antivirus apps as soon as there is a new version to ensure they are always in tune with the latest virus definitions. Otherwise, they will not be able to detect and protect you from the latest forms of computer viruses.
8 Secure your email
Emails form a very important part of every work day. They aid the receival and sending of internal memo, external correspondence, improve collaboration and so much more. Likewise, emails also contain sensitive data about the company – payroll data, internal trade secrets, contact details of high-ranking clients, etc.
Those are just some of the reasons why you should ensure your email is a Fort Knox of its own. For a more comprehensive email security plan:
- Encrypt your emails with TLS/ SSL before sending them. This not only protects your end but encrypts the receiving server too.
- Avoid phishing attempts – Never click links in emails, unless you have properly vetted them. Even then, we recommend typing out links manually in your browser’s address bar.
- Never download attachments from unknown senders, especially when it is unsolicited. If you get attachments from senders you don’t fully trust yet, always scan them with an antivirus before downloading. You can also use the email service provider’s in-app document viewer to access the file before downloading it.
- Keep your email passwords safe and secure. You can refer to the section on password above for that.
When it comes to protecting yourself against cyberattacks, you can never be too careful.
No matter how sophisticated the company is, too, don’t ever believe hackers can’t get their way in. If you doubt this, you might want to recall the 3 billon accounts which hackers compromised right under the nose of Yahoo.
Implementing the tips above, you will be doing yourself, and the company at large, a great deal of good.