Technology keeps changing our lives — in most cases for the better, but in some cases, technological advances have the potential to affect our lives for the worse. This is especially true in cybersecurity. Now more than ever, it is important for each and every one of us to improve our online security habits, and maintain so-called better ‘cybersecurity hygiene’.
There’s an intriguing trend whereby the world is able to adapt quickly to new technologies in times of major economic or political events. A recent example is the Covid-19 outbreak and the lockdowns that soon followed around the world in early 2020. We went almost instantly from working primarily from the office and having frequent face-to-face meetings, to using multi-person online video chats and remotely (and hopefully securely) connecting to the workplace networks in order to continue with our day-to-day work. Online shopping became almost a necessity, and a lot of governmental forms went from being hard copies to being accessible on the web.
During this period, cybercriminals jumped at the opportunity to take advantage of these massive amounts of data and money transactions in order to capitalize on the situation. In some cases, phishing attacks were used in an attempt to steal users’ credentials. In other cases, criminals hacked their way into large databases in order to steal large amounts of user data.
There are many more threats as well, such as advanced spyware monitoring your camera, ransomware, and cryptojacking — unfortunately, the list goes on and on. Some of these threats have had a devastating effect on individual consumers, choosing to infect software that most people would rate completely trustworthy — for example, 30% of all behavioral threat detections were found in Microsoft Office documents. You can read more about major recent threats in our recently published State of Consumer Cybersecurity 2022 report.
So what can we do in order to keep ourselves safe, while trusting the technology? Here are a couple of tips our team at ReasonLabs has gathered in order to improve your cybersecurity habits, and why.
Keep your operating system and software up to date
It’s very tempting to click the “Remind me later” button of an important update, especially when you’re in the middle of browsing through an endless collection of memes and 1-minute videos (I can personally relate!).
But most updates for operating systems and web browsers usually contain security patches to make you less susceptible to recently found hacks and vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals sometimes rely on you not being up-to-date in order to launch all sorts of attacks.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
Most users won’t utilize two-factor authentication (2FA) and add additional methods of authentication besides a password unless they are forced to. This means that once an attacker acquires your credentials, in one way or another, their access to your account becomes pretty effortless. Using an additional method of authentication would serve as a strong barrier against most (and in some cases all) of these attackers.
Stay safe when downloading files
We often download software from third-party sites for various reasons (sometimes unknowingly), but in some cases, users might choose to pirate their software or media from torrents and other types of services.
This is of course an easy way for hackers to find their way onto your computer or device. An interesting example (among many many others) is a malicious crypto-miner our Threat Intelligence Center team found posing as various torrent videos. The first variant we found was for the movie Spiderman: No Way Home; hence we dubbed this threat ‘Spider-Miner’, one of my personal favorites!
If you are tech-savvy and vigilant enough, you would probably be able to avoid most of these malware files. Unfortunately, not all of us are so proficient. Solutions like RAV Endpoint Protection, built by our team at ReasonLabs, are exactly the kind of tool you’d want to have in these instances.
Store your passwords securely
To be completely honest, until quite recently I often reused my passwords. On specific sites (my bank account, my email, etc.) I used more complex and unique passwords. The thing is — I didn’t really store them safely. I promised myself over and over that I would sort it out, but it’s a classic case of procrastination where this status quo remained for a few years. Fortunately, I am now using a password manager.
When storing passwords in a non-secure manner, my online accounts were constantly vulnerable, and re-using passwords made it a lot worse. By using a password manager, you can easily maintain a unique password per account, avoid password repetition, and maintain strong complex passwords without the headache of remembering or storing them.
Beware of Phishing Attempts
There are a lot of tips and best practices around the web on how to avoid phishing attempts. It boils down to better education for cyber practices, but there are a few rules of thumb. For example: when entering sensitive information (passwords, credit cards, special security codes, etc.) — always make sure the URL of the web page you are on seems legitimate, that the website is using SSL (usually accompanied by a lock icon in the address bar), and that you as a user intended to enter this data.
An easy alternative (or better yet — an additional tool) is to use our Safer Web application, developed here at ReasonLabs. Saferweb blocks suspicious traffic at the DNS level (which means it’s almost impossible to bypass) and keeps you safe in this regard. Additionally, it also has the ability to block ads and adult content (if this is of interest).
Technology has a lot of advantages, but ultimately, it is up to us as individuals to use it correctly and educate our friends and loved ones on how to do so too. I hope these general tips will help you to take your first steps to improve your cybersecurity habits and keep you cyber safe!