Cybercrime is becoming more and more commonplace as the world shifts to using an increasing amount of technology and data. Today, the use of social media and other online services has led to data becoming one of the most valuable commodities in the world, and cybercriminals are constantly attempting to get their hands on personal, private, and business data in ways that can often be devastating to their victims. Password breaches, hacking attempts, phishing campaigns and other cyber-attacks are on the rise. Here are some of the main cybercrime threats to watch out for in 2021, and how to protect yourself from them online.
Your password falling into the wrong hands could have devastating consequences. There are various ways for hackers and cybercriminals to get hold of your password, which is why it’s so important to have a strong, unique password for every account that you hold online. Passwords can be breached by hackers using software that guesses sequences of letters and numbers, or in some cases, lax security that leaves your password exposed, such as writing it down or sharing it with another person.
Some phishing attacks can be spotted a mile off – for example, you know that the random email you received from an overseas prince claiming to be distantly related to you and offering you money is just a ploy to get your bank account details. However, some phishing attacks are much more sophisticated and harder to spot. Many hackers create emails and text messages that could easily be mistaken for coming from a trusted source, which is why it’s so important to double-check the link and verify the sender before you provide any of the sensitive information that you’ve been asked for. Any messages that ask you to log in to an account, that you weren’t expecting to receive, should be verified.
This type of attack commonly targets businesses, although depending on the personal data you hold or the amount of money that you have, it can happen to individuals too. The name tells you everything that you need to know about this type of attack; it is when hackers hold your data to ransom by installing a program on your computer, and threaten to release the data unless a specified ransom is paid. The worst part is that in most cases, the data is still breached and compromised even if the ransom is paid; there’s no guarantee that the hackers will not use it anyway.
Even in 2021, human error is still one of the biggest risk factors when it comes to cybersecurity. Simple things such as failing to update antivirus software, using the same password for two or more different accounts or writing sensitive data down at work on a post-it note can lead to devastating consequences.
How to Prevent Cyber Attacks and Improve Your Online Safety
Online safety and privacy are becoming more and more important, not just for companies, but for individuals too. No matter how you use the internet, there are plenty of strategies you should employ in order to keep yourself and your data secure. This is especially important if you log into online accounts where sensitive information is stored, such as online banking services. Click here to learn more about the growing trend of cybercrime and how Canadian law enforcement are fighting it. And, read on to learn more about what you can do to protect yourself online.
1. Use Strong and Unique Passwords
Using strong, unique passwords whenever you sign up for any kind of online account is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to improve your online security. Using the same password for every account can be very risky as all it will take is for one of these accounts to be hacked for the hacker to have access to everything you’ve signed up for. Using a password manager tool to create unique, strong passwords for every account will ensure that hackers do not gain access to personal information on yourself such as your address and other contact details or financial information. Avoid using any words for your password that could easily be guessed by visiting your social media such as your spouse’s name, child’s name or pet name; this is all too common and these passwords are all too easy for cybercriminals to figure out.
2. Use a VPN
Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a good habit to get into every time you go online; however, it’s absolutely essential if you are accessing the internet through a public Wi-Fi network, e.g., the networks that are typically available in cafes, restaurants, libraries, and airports. Having access to public Wi-Fi can be very handy, but it’s also much riskier compared to accessing the internet through a secured private network in your home. If you’re not protecting yourself with a VPN when using public Wi-Fi networks, you’re putting yourself at risk of a hacker getting access to your connected device and any data stored on it.
3. Double Check Email and Message Sources
Phishing emails are not always blatant and obvious. Sometimes, you might receive an email that could fool anybody, and safely assume that it’s okay to follow the link included. This is why it’s so important to be on high alert when receiving online messages and emails. It is always best to verify the sender, especially if you have received a message that is requesting that you sign into an account via email or reply providing any type of sensitive information. If you’re being asked to log into an account, the best way to stay safe is to come out of your emails and log in using the website instead. You may also want to get in touch with the company that the email is seemingly from to ensure that it’s actually them requesting information from you.
4. Protect Your Devices
Identity theft and other hacking risks online aren’t just associated with hackers getting into online accounts and stealing your information. Having your device stolen could also mean that a lot of information ends up in the wrong hands, especially if your device is not password protected. Make sure that any devices such as your smartphone, tablet, and laptop are protected with strong passwords or biometrics and use tracking services such as Find My iPhone, which allows you to wipe your device completely of any data if it is lost or stolen.
5. Use Two-Step Verification
Wherever it is available, using two-step verification is a great way to add an extra layer of security to your online accounts. This provides you with the need to complete an additional step when logging in, usually by going through a link in an email or entering a code that is sent to another of your devices. This can deter hackers, who may not have access to your email account or another device, from logging into your account. However, do not assume that two-step verification offers complete protection; it should always be paired with a strong and unique password.
6. Be as Private as Possible
Today, sharing information about ourselves online has become the norm, especially on social media. And while there’s nothing wrong with updating your friends and family about what you have been up to, it’s important to ensure that you’re being private when it comes to information that hackers could potentially take advantage of. It’s a wise idea to lock down your social media profiles so that you’re in control over who sees what you post online.
7. Check a Website’s Security
Online shopping has become the most popular way to get new goods these days, and being able to buy anything that you want and have it delivered to your home is hugely convenient, especially right now, with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to business closures all over the world. But when online shopping, you will need to enter your financial information online, leaving this activity vulnerable to hackers. Even if you think that you are shopping at a trusted retailer such as Amazon, it is best to double-check the site address and look for the padlock symbol in the browser bar to ensure that you’re shopping at the legitimate site rather than a duplicate set up by hackers to fool unsuspecting shoppers into handing their card details over.
8 Stay Up to Date
Finally, it’s important to always keep your software and apps up to date. Software and app updates aren’t just for adding new features, but they often include additional security that has been designed as a result of hackers getting around the security features of the last version. Cybercriminals are constantly evolving and learning new ways to get past security barriers, which is just one of the reasons why it might seem like there’s a new software update every few weeks. Two types of software that are especially important to keep updated are your operating system and your antivirus security, which are particularly vulnerable to hacking and cybercrime attacks.
Today, staying safe online is more important than ever. Along with educating yourself about the common cybersecurity trends, everybody should take the necessary steps to deter cybercrime on their online accounts.