In today’s digital world, cybersecurity is not just a concept to acknowledge but a necessity to embrace. Gone are the days when one can afford to be complacent with one’s data online.
While the cybersecurity industry has made great strides over the years, human error remains the leading cause of data breaches. According to a 2023 report by Verizon, a staggering 74% of data breaches today can be attributed to the human element — errors, negligence, or misuse.
October is “cybersecurity awareness month,” so there’s no better time to rethink the habits contributing to the above statistics. Join us as we explore the growing significance of cybersecurity and learn what you can do to make data security an integral part of your life.
Cyber Security importance & why it matters
First things first — it’s important to understand that the digital landscape is far different from what it once was decades ago. The inescapable truth is that we live in an age where our personal information is constantly at risk, whether through emails, web searches, social media, or any of the myriad we make online. It’s this that makes cybersecurity so important.
Let’s take, for example, a cyberattack on a business, which can lead to the theft of sensitive customer data, along with financial and reputation losses. The same goes for cyberattacks on an individual level, resulting in damage to one’s personal and professional life.
By determining to make cybersecurity a part of our day-to-day habits, we can protect ourselves (and others) from falling prey to these hidden online dangers. But where to start?
How is Cyber Security used in daily Life?
The first step towards this goal is specifying the areas of our lives where cyber security cannot be sacrificed. Only then can one fully appreciate the insights offered later in this guide.
The following are some aspects that we can all relate to:
- Online banking: Online transactions have quickly become the norm; and cybersecurity is a crucial part of doing these transactions safely.
- Social media: Social networks have become an integral part of people’s lives. Along with many benefits, this makes it a prime hunting ground for cybercriminals. Adopting robust cybersecurity practices will make you a less likely target for these attacks.
- Online shopping: While convenient, customers must be mindful of the online stores that they choose to buy from. Make sure that you buy only from websites that implement data security practices such as HTTPs encryption and multiple authentications (to make sure that transactions are legitimate).
- Emails: Phishing remains a serious threat to data security. While spam filters and fraud detection do help, there’s no substitute for awareness — e.g., not clicking on unknown links.
- Work-from-home: Many businesses have embraced the shift to remote work but people have to deal with new challenges in this environment.
10 Top Cybersecurity Habits to Cultivate
Now that we’ve established the significance of cybersecurity in our daily lives, we can now delve into specific tips and strategies to keep ourselves safe in today’s digital world. Read on!
Use strong passwords
Finally, for our first cybersecurity tip of the day — strong passwords! While this might seem fundamental to the point of silly, passwords are always your first line of defense against a data breach, so it’s important to get them right.
But what, exactly, makes a strong password? Here are a few things to look out for:
- Make sure that your passwords are long and complex. Aim for at least 12 characters and include various types — letters (uppercase and lowercase combinations), numbers, and symbols.
- Never use common phrases or personal information (e.g., date of birth) that hackers might be a able to guess or find online.
- Never use the same password on multiple accounts
- Get help protecting your passwords using a password manager. That way, you don’t have to remember them all, and each may be adequately complex.
You can use this free tool for generating your strong password.
Turn on Multi-factor authentication (MFA)
MFA adds another layer of security to your accounts online by requiring, (in addition to your password), an additional code to be submitted before access is granted. This additional verification can come as a code, usually sent via text or email, or biometric information like fingerprints, facial recognition or retinal scans.
Many online platforms today offer some form of MFA for increased security. While it might seem like a hassle, it’s a small price to pay regarding keeping your data safely under lock and key.
Make regular updates a norm
As most humans know well already, software and apps all come with regular updates; in addition to keeping the software itself working optimally, patches fix known vulnerabilities that the developers, from time to time, uncover. Of course, these updates won’t do you any good unless they are installed and implemented in a timely manner.
Make updates a part of your regular cybersecurity check. An easy way to do this is to enable automatic updates when available and to never ignore update notifications.
Be cautious of unknown and unsolicited links
Unsolicited links in emails, text messages, and pop-ups are all common methods cybercriminals use to deploy malware and steal personal information. This practice is known as ‘phishing,’ and it’s designed to trick you into revealing sensitive data such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details.
By cultivating a heightened awareness and skepticism toward unsolicited links, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to a phishing scheme.
Use cyber security software
Cybersecurity software is a must-have tool for anyone seeking to protect their digital environment. This category includes antivirus programs, firewalls, and anti-malware tools that detect, quarantine, and remove malicious software from your computers and devices.
What you should know:
- Only choose reputable cybersecurity software, as not all security tools are created equal. Choose software from a reputable vendor like AVG or Norton.
- Keep your security software updated. Just like your operating system and applications, your security software should be regularly updated to recognize and guard against the latest threats.
- Run regular scans. In addition to real-time protection, you should run full-system scans regularly to check for any threats that may have slipped through.
Tread carefully with public Wi-Fi networks
Public Wi-Fi networks can be a convenient way to access the internet, especially when on the move. However, they are often unsecured, making it much easier for cybercriminals to intercept your data. It’s a good idea to avoid these networks if you can.
If you must use a public Wi-Fi network, it’s a good practice to verify it first. If you’re using one at a hotel, you can simply ask the staff about it and confirm that it’s safe to use.
Even then, don’t let your guard down — public Wi-Fi networks often fall short regarding network security. You should avoid doing things like online banking or replying to sensitive emails while using one.
Despite your best efforts, a data breach might still occur and you could lose important data. Hackers are a motivated bunch. This is a big reason why regular backups deserve a home in your list of everyday cybersecurity habits.
This can be as simple as storing your most important data on an external hard drive. However, we recommend using an online backup service to automate the process.
Think twice before giving out any personal information
Do you really need to give an app your home address, just to open it? Probably not—it’s a good idea to be cautious and think critically about whether such requests make any sense.
By becoming more conscious of the information you choose to give out online, you can significantly reduce your chances of this data falling into the wrong hands.
Keep up with the latest Cybersecurity trends
Cybersecurity is and always will be an ever-evolving landscape; your ability too must grow to protect your data from online threats. New avenues for cyberattacks can come at any time; the sooner you understand them, the better your chances are of avoiding danger.
A good way to do this is to follow the blogs of industry leaders like Hacker News, Wired, and TechCrunch. You can also join communities on Reddit and Quora dedicated to cybersecurity, where experts share the latest news and data security trends.
Another great way to stay informed is to subscribe to newsletters of cybersecurity companies like Symantec and Norton. These companies regularly publish reports on the latest trends and statistics to keep their audience well-informed of the latest threats (and promote their services).
Up your personal Cybersecurity with a VPN
Now, if you’re really serious about cybersecurity, you can take things to the next level by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) in your online activities. Doing so will encrypt all data from your device, so even if it’s intercepted your data will be unusable to third parties.
VPNs offer the added benefit of masking your real IP address and location. Websites, apps, and anyone monitoring your activity will instead see the information of the VPN server you’re connected to. This is handy for when you want to bypass censorship or keep your information away from prying eyes.
Of course, it definitely matters which VPN service you use; you’ll want to make sure that you leverage one with a proven reputation for providing a secure connection for users. One such VPN service is ClearVPN — a fast and user-friendly premium VPN service with a strong focus on privacy.
Unlike most other VPNs, ClearVPN does away with the complicated options and features. Using it as a part of your cybersecurity habits is as easy as running the VPN app, selecting the “Smart connection” mode, and clicking the “Connect me” button.
That said, it’s important to note that a VPN is not the end-all regarding cybersecurity. Instead, it’s just one part of a comprehensive strategy when it comes to data security and should be implemented in combination with all the other strategies we’ve outlined in this guide.
Keep in mind that safe habits around cybersecurity aren’t a task to check off your to-do list but a mindset with habits to incorporate into your daily routine. By adopting these practices, you can make cybersecurity second nature, ensuring your digital world remains safe and secure.
Remember, when it comes to cybersecurity, prevention is always better than cure. Are you ready to make cybersecurity part of your daily habit? With the right tools and consciousness, you can stay one step ahead of cybercriminals, protecting your data and identity from attack.