Cyber security is a big part of everyday life, even if many people don’t acknowledge it, or even realize it. With technology and digital services becoming more and more intertwined with people’s day to day lives – think of how often you check your phone, or how quickly you interact with something that is computerized or connected to the internet – it is essential that everyone takes steps to improve their personal cyber security.
When most people think of cyber security, they think it’s something only businesses, governments, and other large organizations need to worry about – but the reality is that anyone could become the victim of a cyber-attack. The two main things that cybercriminals are after are money and sensitivity, and they aren’t picky about who they target for them. While a business may be able to rely on an IT support company to help them with their cyber security, individuals need to be able to do it themselves. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways in which the average person can improve their cyber security, and you don’t need to be a tech wiz to do them.
Encrypt Your Wi-Fi Network
While your home Wi-Fi is certainly much safer than using mobile data or connecting to a public Wi-Fi network at a café, it is still not the impenetrable fortress you may assume it is. The fact is that the Wi-Fi signal can be very far-reaching these days; it doesn’t just stop at the boundaries of your home – if you live in a block of apartments, it is very likely that your neighbor’s devices can pick up the signal. If your Wi-Fi is not encrypted, anyone that is within reach of your Wi-Fi signal will be able to log onto it and surf the web on your network. This may not seem that dangerous, but once someone is on your Wi-Fi network, they theoretically have access to everything you have connected to the network – from other devices like phones and computers; to shared drives containing pictures and documents; and potentially even your email and other online accounts.
This is precisely why Wi-Fi encryption is important. There are a few different types of Wi-Fi encryption – this includes WEP, WPA & WPA2; all you really need to know is that WEP is rarely used anymore, as it’s only marginally more secure than an open network, and WPA2 is the best commercial Wi-Fi encryption protocol. Most modern routers support WPA2 encryption, but you may need to set it up yourself (you will need to follow different instructions based on which router you own).
Use Strong & Diverse Passwords
Most people are familiar with encryption in the form of passwords. We are encouraged to use them for every account we have (and you certainly should be). The trouble is that there is a persistent tendency for people to use incredibly basic passwords and, even worse, reuse passwords for multiple accounts. Just consider that, if you use the same password for multiple accounts, and someone finds out the password to one of those accounts, they could easily try that password with every other one of your accounts, and gain access to them all.
This is why using a diverse array of passwords is important – ideally, you should be using a different password for every single account you have. This may seem like an overwhelming number of passwords, considering how many digital accounts most people have, but you can make it easier if you use a digital password manager.
What is more, your passwords should achieve a certain level of complexity. Passwords such as ‘continue’ or ‘password’ are used embarrassingly often, and a strong password should not be a single word – ideally, your password should contain a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and special symbols. Most accounts require you to use a password that is at least 8 characters long, but the longer your password is (with a good mix of letters, numbers, and symbols) the stronger it will be.
Use a VPN
Lots of people these days browse the internet using mobile data – this is like Wi-Fi you carry with you on your phone, but it does not require a password, and data that is sent from your phone to the internet is essentially unprotected. Data in transit, as it is known, is highly susceptible to being intercepted, and so when you are browsing the internet or logging into accounts, using a mobile data internet connection, you might be risking having your data stolen.
Using a VPN is essential for a couple of reasons. For starters, every activity of yours is getting tracked on the internet, by your ISPs and multiple government agencies. Secondly, if you want to use torrenting sites like the pirate bay, you need to bypass the restrictions that have been imposed by your ISP. Using a VPN allows you to access and download content from torrenting sites while protecting you identify at the same time.
The easiest solution is to utilize a VPN client on your phone. A virtual private network is a network of servers that works across the internet and provides better encryption and security than public networks. There are many different VPN clients available – such as VPN for ios – which you can pay for and have downloaded on your phone; then, when you’re using an unsecured network, simply turn on your VPN, and you will be protected.
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