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5 Things Everyone Should Know About Cybersecurity


Clinton Matos has some simple advice for keeping your accounts safe.
Image: ©Unsplash - Ilya Pavlov Image: ©Unsplash - Ilya Pavlov

Over in the US, the world’s most serious data breach recently took place, with over 14 million account details leaked from the credit-checking service Equifax. Malicious hackers made off with personal details, including social security numbers, leaving people highly vulnerable to identity-theft scams.

So, what should you do in this age of cybercrime and ID theft? There’s not much you can do to fix the security of similar services that have your details, but there are many small things you can do to reduce your risk of  becoming a victim.

1. Patch early and patch often

There’s no such thing as 100% security, and new bugs are found in existing software all the time. That’s why you should make sure all of your applications and operating systems are up-to-date.

“Ransomware that is not spread via email attachments often relies on security bugs in popular applications such as Office and Flash,” says Harish Chib, vice-president for Middle East and Africa at Sophos. “The sooner you patch, the fewer the security holes available to cybercriminals.”

2. Use two-factor authentication

Every account needs a username and password. But what happens if someone manages to guess what they are (or simply watches you type them in)? Two-factor authentication (2FA) means you need a password and something physical to log in –  an SMS sent to your phone, or a code generated in an app, or a fingerprint, for example. Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET South Africa, calls 2FA “an ideal solution for helping to protect many online services if the access credentials of a business are compromised”. Many popular services such as Gmail, Facebook and Dropbox support 2FA.

3. Security warnings are there for a reason

Many users do not heed the security warnings of the software they use. One common problem is emails and documents asking to turn off security features, especially when it comes to email. Messages trapped in Spam are often read out of curiosity, for example, potentially triggering malicious code inside. Even the act of opening a spam email can be a problem, as this can alert criminals to the fact that your email address is an active one they can sell to other parties at a higher price.

4.  Disconnect from Wi-Fi or unplug from the network immediately if you are compromised

“If you accidentally run a file that you suspect may be ransomware,” says Chib, “disconnect from your network at once. Once active, ransomware may scramble files accessible across the network, as well as on your own hard disk.”The recent WannaCry ransomware attack quickly spread through networks, and crippled large businesses and even hospitals, as it was not contained.

5.  Mobile security  is a must

Many people share the misconception that their mobile devices are not as vulnerable as regular computers, but there are ways for criminals to get malware on your handset. Regular scans with anti-virus software are recommended.

“Originally, it was expected that mobile devices would gain capabilities similar to any desktop,” says Van Vlaanderen. “It is clear today that our smartphones and tablets have evolved beyond this, creating new means of technological interaction not previously imagined.”

Fast fact

Want to know if your personal data has been leaked onto the internet? Go to haveibeenpwned.com to see if your account has been hit.

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