By Ellie Martin, co-founder of Startup Change Group
e of the most pressing issues of the technological age goes largely overlooked. Cybersecurity is our last line of defence against cyber warfare. Virtually all of our information is online. So much of our delicate personal information sit woefully unprotected on the servers of large corporations.
Cybersecurity matters more than ever
Massive breaches have had devastating effects on internet users everywhere. Unfortunately, trusted institutions have succumbed to feeble cyber attacks, leaving civilians vulnerable to all sorts of nasty threats. When these companies who hold sensitive data about individuals get hacked, the results can be catastrophic. An astounding 70 million were affected by the Target breach, 143 million from the Equifax breach, and 500 million from the Yahoo leak.
Why limiting exposure is important
As sophisticated cyber attacks become more prevalent, users must become more vigilant. At one point in time, it may have been reasonable to trust established corporations and other trusted institutions with your personal data. Now, however, it seems more prudent to protect yourself by learning security essentials. While you may not be able to prevent an enterprise from getting hacked, you can reduce your chances of being exploited.
Here are 3 essential tips to protect yourself in the wake of devastating cyber attacks:
- Keep up-to-date on cybersecurity news
In order to properly protect yourself, you need situational awareness. The only way to know whether or not you’re at risk is to be abreast of the latest happenings in cybersecurity. Sometimes the truth of a situation is unpleasant. Still, you’ll need to gauge how at risk you are by staying informed about the latest hacking attempts, cyber attacks, and data leakages.
Here are a few tips to help you follow breaking cybersecurity stories:
- Check major news outlets for cybersecurity updates on a weekly basis
- Read popular tech publications like TechCrunch, Wired, and HackerNoon for in-depth reporting
- Pay special attention to institutions you do business with, such as your bank, your employer, or your university
- Check to see if you’ve been impacted by breaches
There’s a chance that you all of these attacks have left you unaffected. There are at least a few that remain unscathed by massive cyber attacks and data leakages. The only way to be sure of whether or not you’ve been affected is to check.
Finding out whether or not you’ve been affected by a major attack is shockingly simple. Companies will often provide resources to customers after suffering a cyber attack. Equifax, for example, created a dedicated webpage for those who wanted to whether or not they were directly impacted by their cybersecurity incident.
Another important resource is a site called HaveIBeenPwned.com. While the site may have a silly title, it’s intent is quite serious. HaveIBeenPwned has collected information on trillions of vulnerable accounts across the web. You can search the site’s database to see how you’ve been impacted by data leakages and what information of yours is no longer secure. For online business owners, this type of cross-checking is especially important.
- Change passwords as often as you can
If you find out that you’ve been personally affected by a cyber attack, you must immediately change your passwords for impacted accounts. If your passwords were leaked, simply changing them prevents hackers from exploiting you.
It’s also important to have unique passwords for every single account so that if one password is leaked, only one account is potentially compromised. It can be a bit of a chore to memorize new passwords so be sure to make use of secure, encrypted password managers.
Even if you haven’t been directly affected by a hack, it’s imperative that you change passwords often. A good rule of thumb is to change all of your passwords every six months. This way, even if a hacker did gain access to any of your accounts, he or she would only have access for a limited amount of time.
As hackers become more organized and as hacking attempts become more sophisticated, companies, consumers, and civilians are increasingly at risk. Even though you can’t control when hacks happen, you don’t have to be a sitting duck.
Keep yourself up-to-date on cybersecurity news. Staying informed is vitally important, no matter how painful or fear-inducing it might be. Scan major new outlets for the latest about hacks, the fallout from breaches, and cybersecurity solutions.
After getting informed, it’s important to check your personal accounts to see if you’ve been affected by any of the major hacks. Use trusted third-party sites like HaveIBeenPwned to see which accounts of yours have been compromised.
Finally, remember to change passwords frequently. Even if all of your accounts are unaffected, it’s a good practice and can save you a lot of headache down the road.
Checking cybersecurity news, checking impacted accounts, and changing passwords often can help protect you from the worst outcomes possible. Continue to stay informed and protect yourself using these handy cybersecurity tips.