Improving cyber security has never been more important as we increasingly live our lives online. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated to significantly increase our safety while browsing. Try these simple steps to harden your system against potential attacks.
Strengthen your Passwords
Sometimes the most obvious step is the most effective. Just like remembering to lock the front door of your house prevents most burglars, having a strong password successfully deters the vast majority of opportunistic cyber-attacks. It can be challenging to remember a strong password that utilises numbers, different case letters and symbols to complicate its derived sequence but a good password manager can generate these for you and store them securely in an encrypted vault for when you need them.
In 2020, NordVPN shared the most frequently used passwords on the internet and listed how each of these was able to be cracked by data breach research organisations in less than 1 second. Among the most common were “password”, “111111” and “123456” – it goes without saying that if your passwords resemble these it might be time to invest in the likes of NordPass or LastPass.
Ditch the Trackers
The economy of today’s internet is largely driven by data collection. Ostensibly free platforms like social media giant Facebook, or ubiquitous search engine Google are able to offer their comprehensive features at zero cost because they are earning money by tracking what you are doing on their platforms. This information is incredibly valuable as it represents market research and enables web services to target you with adverts relevant to your interests.
While this may seem innocuous, the extent to which these services monitor our lives is poorly understood. Taking steps to regain some measure of sovereignty of your data and web activity is worthwhile for the peace of mind it can bring you. What’s more, should the data they are collecting fall into the wrong hands, it could potentially be very damaging. There are steps we can take to limit these activities and they’re relatively simple.
You can explore the option of changing your web browser away from Chrome to trusted alternatives like Firefox. You can also swap out Google as a search engine for a more privacy focused option like Qwant or DuckDuckGo. Any steps you can take to swap out apps and services by “big tech” organisations for open-source alternatives is also going to have an impact on the amount of data being stored about you against your wishes.
Add Two Factor Authentication
Passwords can be strengthened further by setting up what’s called Two Factor Authentication, which greatly increases the security hardening of an account it’s attached to. This is because it forces the user logging in to verify their identity across numerous trusted devices before being granted entry. This can be by way of an additional pin or even with biometric verification, such as the fingerprint scanner on most smartphones.
Gaming platform PokerStars India demonstrates how effective this can be in protecting its users from potential fraud. They offer the ability to order an RSA security token, which is a separate device made exclusively for two-factor authentication. When prompted by logging in, the device generates an extra password that remains valid only for a few seconds. It is extremely unlikely that such a system with all these steps in place can be compromised.
Virtual Private Networks
One extremely beneficial step users can take to increase security is investing in some VPN software for their systems. Short for Virtual Private Network, these clients have a great impact on your security and anonymity when you’re online. This is due to the fact that they mask your IP address, search history, location from prying eyes who would wish to exploit this information to their own ends.
Some of the better-known services in the space to consider if you’re looking to add this layer of security are Surfshark VPN and NordVPN. Though there are many more options, and even Google has begun offering its own VPN to users of its Google One subscription storage service.