We live in a world surrounded by advanced technologies which are emerging every single day, and it has become clear over the past five years that smartphones, computers and tablets have (and will continue to) play a huge role in our lives.
Technology aims to make life easier, opening up a world of GPS location tracking and contactless payments directly from our smartphones. However, while we expose our personal lives every day to these smart devices, we are, in fact, making it easier for hackers to gain access and cause damage.
Since 2019, there have been at least 16 billion records of data breaches, including credit card numbers, home addresses, phone numbers and other highly sensitive data, resulting in criminals stealing over £1.2 billion through fraud and scams.
This is often down to people’s lack of knowledge. So to mark Data Privacy Day we’ve got together with business growth experts at Comparisun to highlight the five most common mistakes people are making that could open doors to hackers and how best to avoid them.
One of the most common mistakes people are making every day is their choice of password.
By using the name of a pet or loved one, a street address, you are making it extremely easy for a hacker to find it out, as they can access your social media accounts and map out words and phrases related to your life. You should always create a strong password which contains letters (both upper and lower case), numbers and special characters.
People also tend to use the same password for all their logins (even if it’s strong) and this is very dangerous because a hacker will try to log into several of your social sites and bank accounts if they get hold of it. Passwords should be changed at regular intervals.
Where you store your passwords is also very important. Those working in an office will write them in notebooks or sticky notes by their desk where there is always a risk of them being lost or stolen. Even storing passwords on the notes page in your smartphone, tablet or in an email on your computer without using encryption is very risky, because if your device encounters a virus, hackers could easily get hold of them.
LastPass is one of the best ways to protect your passwords, even if you are using one for a few sites (which you shouldn’t). That’s because its AES-256 encryption tool makes it extremely safe. To create a LastPass account, you’ll have to create a strong master password, which is encrypted when you create it and cannot be recovered, so if any data leaks do happen, your master password won’t be in that database.
Phishing and spear-phishing are very common forms of email attack. It happens when you click on a malicious link or attachment which has come from an untrustworthy source, often intending to steal data for malicious purposes. Here is how you can tell the difference between the two:
Phishing emails tend to look like official email, for example from a well-known delivery company saying that “Your package has been delayed, click here for details.” By clicking the link, the malware might be downloaded onto your device, or you might go to a fake website where you’re asked to enter your name, address, and social security number. That information could then be sold on the black market or used for fraud or identity theft.
Spear phishing is an email or electronic communications scam targeted towards a specific individual, organisation or business. Often intended to steal data, cybercriminals may also intend to install malware on a targeted user’s computer.
Whilst knowing how to look for signs is useful, hackers are extremely clever and can make emails look extremely legitimate. By taking advantage of software, these emails can be detected and indicated as spam.
Barracuda Essentials uses artificial intelligence to scan your email traffic to block malicious attachments and URLs, including those in phishing and spear-phishing emails.
Use anti-virus software
It seems like an obvious one, but antivirus software is so important nowadays, as you are always just one click away from a malicious website that will bug your laptop and potentially destroy files, steal personal information and damage your computer.
In 2018, there was a 270% increase in malware attacks on Apple systems, and while Malwarebytes breaks down where the most common kinds of malware found in personal users, there are the five types of malware and viruses to look out for:
- Adware: a type of malware that makes advertisements pop up on your screen without your permission
- Trojan Viruses: a virus that’s packed inside a legitimate programme and that can be used to gain access to your device and your data. Because they’re generally put into software that’s legitimate and that you want to download they’re particularly easy to get.
- Riskware Tool: a tool that hackers implant into your system and then can use against you.
- Backdoor: a programme that enters your device and “leaves the backdoor open” so that hackers can get into your system.
- Hacktool: similar to Riskware Tool, a tool that hackers send into your system that
To protect your device, here are the best antivirus software packages this year: https://www.techradar.com/uk/best/best-antivirus
Update your operating system
Smartphone and computer brands will regularly make tweaks and changes to their operating software, as it helps patch security gaps and improve your device’s overall performance. However, performing these updates too late can leave your device vulnerable to hackers.
To update your smartphone/computer to ensure it’s on the latest firmware, follow these steps:
- Android: Tap Settings, and then scroll to Software update. On some devices, you’ll need to tap System to access the updates page. Tap Check for update.
- Apple/ Macbook: Open Settings, then head to General and tap Software Update. If there are updates ready to download, you’ll need to be connected to the internet and have the phone plugged in, or have around 50% or more battery, to complete the download.
- Windows: Open the Control Panel. If using ‘Small icons view’, click the Windows Update option. If using the Category view, click the System and Security option, then click the Windows Update option. Windows Update checks for any available updates for your computer.
Using public wi-fi networks means you don’t have to burn through your data allowance when out and about (once a day at the moment), but you still need to take care when using these free networks, as it’s possible for an attack to happen when you’re using unsecured wi-fi.
This is known as a ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack and involves a hacker intercepting your logins, passwords or financial information as you use wi-fi. Logging in to your bank or entering any credit card or personal details while using free networks is a no-go.
If you do need to check your bank account or make a payment, use your 3G or 4G connection instead as it is much more secure. Also, make sure your phone doesn’t automatically try to connect to wi-fi. You can turn it off using the steps below.
- Android: Swipe down from the top of the screen and tap the wi-fi symbol. It will show green when it’s activated and grey when it’s off.
- Apple: Swipe up from the bottom of the screen and tap the wi-fi symbol. A message will appear to tell you that you’ve turned off the wi-fi.
By following these five pieces of advice explained above, your personal data and devices will be far less likely to be targeted by threats, but remaining vigilant and on the lookout for unusual behaviour is always important to ensure you and your data stay safe.