2019 was a year characterized by significant security breaches. From a number of high-profile GDPR violations and huge fines that accompanied them, to news articles suggesting that smart speakers are listening to us when they shouldn’t be, last year drove the issue of personal cybersecurity to the top of the news agenda. In this post we suggest three cybersecurity best practices that you should consider implementing as part of your New Year resolutions in 2020.
Secure your smart devices
Following the gift-giving bonanza of the festive break, it’s inevitable that the number of smart devices found in homes across the globe will have increased. Whether you receive a smart speaker from you aunt, a new smart watch, or even a smart coffee machine that automatically makes you a coffee when your alarm goes off in the morning, smart devices make great gifts. However, if they are not properly secured, they also pose a significant security risk. One horror story from last year, for example, involved a couple who had their smart thermostat hacked and the temperature increased to its maximum of 32 degrees Celsius. Whenever they would turn the temperature down, the hacker would increase it again.
It’s no secret that in spite of the benefits of smart home products, they can also be prone to hacking. Cybercriminals probably already know the default passwords that come with many IoT products. That makes it easy for them to access your IoT devices and, potentially, the information on them. Therefore, in order to reduce your vulnerability, it is essential that you change the device’s default password and replace it with a strong one.
What’s more, your IoT devices might come with default privacy and security settings. As such, you might want to consider changing them, as some default settings could benefit the manufacturer more than they benefit you. For instance, Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) helps IoT gadgets discover and connect to other network devices. However, this feature also serves as a gateway for hackers to infiltrate your devices and network.
Make 2020 the year of the trusted password manager
Weak passwords are among the main causes of cyberattacks, but with them still being an essential route to accessing online services, having strong, secure passwords is crucial to keeping your online identity safe from malicious cyber actors. In addition, if you use the same password for a multitude of different things, if a hacker gains access to one account you may soon find they are also able to control the others.
Nonetheless, it can be difficult to create a range of strong passwords across your various devices and accounts that you can remember. This is where a password manager can help manage your login credentials.
A password manager is essentially an encrypted digital vault that stores the login information you use to access apps, websites and other services. Besides keeping your identity, credentials and sensitive data safe, a password manager can generate strong, unique passwords to ensure you aren’t reusing them across your devices and services.
If you decide a password manager isn’t for you, we have a written numerous previous posts on how to create a secure password, including tips like using a ‘passphrase’ instead of a password.
Update as standard
As we move into the New Year, it’s inevitable that cyberthreats are going to evolve. Not only are they becoming more widespread – as the means to carry out cyberattacks gets easier, prompting the rise of ‘everyday’ hackers – but they will invariably become more sophisticated too.
That being said, so many consumers are leaving the front door open to hackers by simply failing to update their security software. Manufacturers are always releasing new patches for the latest vulnerabilities as and when they are discovered but they aren’t always implemented – leaving the user open to assault.
Yet while updating devices is often as simple as the click of a button on your keyboard or phone, there’s a curious psychology that prevents swathes of consumers doing it. This is often attributed to the perceived time it takes or the fear that it will slow-down your phone for good. While these things can be inconvenient, they are rarely a serious threat – unlike a cyberattack, which can have serious financial implications. So, if in doubt, update in a timely manner.
With the second Friday in January being known as ‘Quitters Day’ when most resolutions are abandoned, it’s important that these good cybersecurity habits are maintained the whole year around. For more information about ensuring cybersecurity best practice, the following links might be of use: