In 1989, American Robert Morris created what is regarded as the first-ever computer virus. This self-propagating worm was so aggressive that it managed to shut down most of the internet. Other attacks have gained far more notoriety since, but the Morris worm remains a landmark incident in what was the first widespread cybercrime. With the internet in its infancy at the time, the attack was far less devastating than it could’ve been. But it set the tone for the kinds of security issues that the internet has faced ever since.
According to the FBI, “Cybercrime is becoming ever more commonplace, more dangerous and more sophisticated.” It’s an industry with profits in the hundreds of millions of US dollars that employs thousands of hackers around the globe. Cyber security is struggling to keep up. But there are certain things that you can do to protect yourself as an individual or a business.
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While it’s understandable that you’d want your passwords to be easy to remember, it’s risking your computer and online data. One hacker reported that the way he most frequently entered secure websites was by exploiting weak passwords. To strengthen your password game, make sure that your password is at least eight characters long and includes a combination of numbers, letters and symbols. And try not to use words that relate to you. Try instead to use a memory device. For example, if Samantha was born in New York in 1994, her password might be SwbiNY1994$ (The symbol at the end to represent her American roots).
Alternatively, there are quite a few exceptional password generators and password storage programs available. LastPass is a great example of this. It’s also advisable that you have multiple passwords across your online presence, rather than a single password that offers access to everything.
You might be tempted to allow close friends or family to access your password protected sites without you. This is just a little foolish. Even the most trustworthy and well-meaning person can accidentally open you up to cybercrime if their computer is infected. So be vigilant and change your passwords frequently.
Many online platforms and ecommerce sites offer two-factor verification for your accounts. This offers an extra layer of security that requires not only a username and password, but also something that only the rightful owner holds or has access to. Banks do this very well. Think of the last time you made a bank transaction online. You would’ve had to access your account with a username and password and probably a one-time pin (OTP). This OTP was generated specifically for use at the time of your logging in and would’ve expired within an hour of generation. This is an example of two-step verification and means that even if someone did have your username or password, they’d also have needed to have access to your mobile phone in order to see what the OTP was. This makes it far more difficult for cyber criminals to access your data.
Related: Cybersecurity and how 2FA can assist
In real life, we know that walking in some areas or at certain times of day puts us at greater risk of falling victim to crime. The internet is similar in this regard. Frequenting hacker sites, viewing adult content or going to sites that have a reputation for being linked with scams, will put you at greater risk of falling victim to cybercrime. Make sure the sites you’re visiting are legitimate and reputable.
Anti-virus and anti-malware software has become a security non-negotiable. A recent survey reviewed some of the top security apps for Android phones and anti-virus software for PCs. Apple products are generally considered safer, but even they aren’t impervious to cybercrime. You will find several well-known and effective security apps in the iTunes app store. Be sure to keep this software updated and run security scans regularly. Delete, uninstall or quarantine whatever shouldn’t be on your device.
Cybercrime is so sophisticated these days that it’s almost impossible to prevent. While prevention should still be the main goal, you should also be prepared for what happens once an incident has occurred. This may help reduce the amount of damage that cyber criminals can do. Have a look at some of the biggest threats to online security today in our latest article. And be sure to take notes of other ways that you can protect yourself.