It can be difficult to know where to start with cyber-security, but don’t worry – you don’t need to be Edward Snowden in order to have a secure set-up. Below are the fundamentals every internet user should know and employ.
Sometimes the most effective step in a process also tends to be the most overlooked. In much the same way that using the correct set of keys is the easiest way to enter a locked building, having access to the appropriate password is the most effective means by which someone looking to infiltrate your system security can achieve their goal.
While many websites used to require you to set up a unique account for their services, and with it, another combination of username and passwords to memorize, nowadays many apps and websites utilize smart passports. Examples of this are when you go to a third-party website and are given the option to sign in with your Google or Facebook accounts.
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This streamlines the entire process for the user but has the unwanted side-effect of placing all your eggs in one basket. If a hacker, or some malicious software, acquires your Google or Facebook password, they would then have access to every website and service that benefits from these integrated sign-up procedures.
Secure Login Management
Ensuring these passwords, if any, are strong is an essential step in competent cyber-security. Tech security company Nord, in collaboration with a specialist data research organization, published a list of the top 200 most frequently employed passwords on the internet in 2020. The most common listed were strings of numbers such as “111111” and “123456” and sequences of letters that follow the conventional layout of a computer keyboard, such as “asdfgh” and “qwerty”. Of course, “password” also made it into the top 10.
Ensuring you have a password that is strong, which is defined as a long password with a blend of numbers, letter cases and symbols, makes your system security hardened at its most vulnerable point. The passwords on Nord’s list were all cracked by computer algorithms in less than one second.
It can be difficult to remember a sophisticated password, but you can use a password manager such as Nord’s own Nordpass, or similar branded managers like Lastpass. These not only auto-generate strong passwords for you but keep them secure in an encrypted vault for when you need them.
System security often breaks down as a result of human error or carelessness. Ensuring you have a hardened login procedure can go a long way to defend against malware attacks. Activating multiple verification procedures, such as two-step verification, is highly recommended to this end.
Many reputable websites and secure services offer two-step verification methods that utilize the presence of a registered smart device to double-check the identity of the user attempting entry to a system.
Nowadays, due to the presence of biometric scanners and facial recognition in many modern smartphones, it can be extremely difficult to falsify this procedure. Organizations that have to maintain tight security against the prospect of fraud, such as banks like American Express, or gaming platforms like PokerStars, often use a method of verification known as RSA SecurID Software Tokens.
They utilize a simple custom piece of hardware that generates a unique pin number that corresponds to a one-time login attempt. Due to the requirement of the user attempting access to have the security token device on them at the point of entry, it is considered an extremely security-hardened login protocol.
There are numerous steps you can take to minimize the potential of being tracked by advertisers and spyware. Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), conceals your unique IP address from trackers by bouncing your web activity through intermediary locations. In addition to this, utilizing encrypted forms of messaging, such as Signal or Telegram on mobile platforms, can go a long way to ensuring you’re not vulnerable to data breaches.
Using security-hardened web-browsers like Brave or Mozilla’s Firefox browser gives you greater agency and control over the degree of cookies, tracking and advertising you are exposed to when browsing. This minimizes the risk of spyware and malware significantly.
Ditching Google where possible can also be beneficial for those with ethical and privacy concerns about their data and activity being sold. Alternative search providers like DuckDuckGo and Qwant value user anonymity and privacy and provide peace of mind.
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