You might not think you’re worth being targeted by cyber criminals, but you should think again. Cyber criminals are always looking for new marks, and they’re not just targeting businesses. Cyber attacks happen every 39 seconds in the United States, affecting one in three perfectly ordinary Americans each year.
The majority of cyber attacks come in the form of phishing emails, but that’s not the only danger. Viruses and malware can infect your system and hold it for ransom, in addition to damaging your software and files and even turning your machine into a zombie computer. To keep your home network and computer safe from cyber attacks, you need to use unique and secure passwords, install at least a basic antivirus suite, secure your router, and be careful with your Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
Use Secure Passwords
You’d be surprised how much trouble you can avoid simply by using unique, secure passwords for each of your online accounts. It might be obvious by now that you shouldn’t be using passwords like “12345” or “password” or even your dog’s birthday. You need to use a unique combination of letters, numbers, and special characters that’s at least 12 characters long.
Longer passwords are harder for hackers to crack. Change your passwords every 60 to 90 days. Use a unique password for each of your online accounts – never reuse a password. You might want to start using a password manager to keep track of all your passwords. Most password managers include password generators to help you create long, secure passwords, too.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra step to your login process in which you provide additional information to prove who you say you are when logging in to something. For example, after you provide your username and password to login to your email, you might be prompted to enter a code that’s been texted to your mobile phone, respond to a confirmation text, or use your biometric identification. Passwords can be stolen, but it’s harder to fake a confirmation text, a fingerprint, or a face ID.
Install and Use Antivirus on Your System
Viruses and malware are real threats. You might be the savviest internet user out there, but phishing emails are getting more and more sophisticated and it only takes a momentary lapse in judgment to download a malware attachment or give your login information to a mirror site. Hackers can use ransomware to take over your system and hold it for ransom. They can use malware to spy on your financial transactions and other internet activity.
You need at least a basic antivirus program installed on your system. Even a basic paid antivirus program will provide email filters to protect you from phishing scams, and antivirus protection against existing and emergent threats. You can get protection against malware, security for online transactions, and the option to expand your protection with fancier paid versions.
Secure Your Router
If you haven’t logged into your router’s admin dashboard and changed the login credentials and privacy settings, then sorry to say your router is vulnerable to hacking. If your router is more than two or three years old, it probably needs to be replaced altogether to be secure.
If your router is newer, you can secure it by opening up a web browser and putting in your router’s IP address. This will take you to a login page for your router’s admin dashboard. The login credentials might be written on a sticker on the router itself, or they might be in the user manual for the router – if you don’t have it, you can search for a copy online, or simply search for default admin credentials for your model of router. When you see how easy it is to find your router’s admin credentials online, you’ll understand why it’s so important to secure it.
Make sure your router is set to use WPA2 or, preferably, WPA3 – if neither of those is an option, you need a new router. Change your router’s password to something more secure. Turn on automatic updates and disable remote access. You may also want to turn off Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) and Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS).
Have you taken the steps you need to take to protect your home and identity from cyber crime? It’s a matter of if, not when, you’ll be targeted by cyber criminals – in fact, you likely already have been. Don’t remain vulnerable. Protect yourself today.