Don’t want to get hacked? Learn Cybersecurity Basics

60 Second Cybersecurity – Basics

  • Basic #1: Things change; keep yourself updated
  • Basic #2: Keep your passwords updated
  • Basic #3: Never re-use passwords
  • Basic #4: Accept that you will get hacked
  • Basic #5: Back Things Up, and Test the Backup
  • Basic #6: Scan
  • Basic #7: Practice Safe Computing
  • Basic #8: Don’t worry, be happy

On March 17, 2017, WikiLeaks revealed a series of leaks. Code-named “Vault 7“, it represented thousands of pages of previously unknown, highly sophisticated methods to hack phones, computers and even TVs for surveillance.

Don’t want to get hacked? Learn the basics, accept that electronic communications won’t be 100% secure and to be as secure as reasonably possible, be prepared.

Basic #1: Things change. Update. Update. Update.

This is the most important cybersecurity basic. From Apple to Zendesk and everything in between, hardware and software manufacturers make an effort to keep things secure. Sadly, new things pop up because of human error in coding and unforeseen complications and complexity. To keep secure, update your devices. Read tech news. If a hack is announced before it shows up automatically, you can manually update your device.

Always apply the latest updates as soon as you get them. Make the updating process automatic.

This applies to operating systems, as well as individual programs. Many programs have auto update features that you can enable.

Basic #2: Keep passwords updated

Passwords are at the core of hacking. Hackers either try to hack your password or exploit some other vulnerability to gain access to passwords. The easier it is to remember, the easier a password is to hack. This is why completely random, pain in the ass passwords are the most secure, like:

as^%451asa!@6hn#@

As opposed to “mydaughtersbirthday2017″

Keep passwords from being hacked:

  • Make sure all your passwords are completely random and not convenient at all.
  • Never email them to yourself or anyone else.
  • Write them down on a 3 x 5 card or in a norebook that never leaves the room. Paper is 100% unhackable since it’s not connected to the Internet.
  • Keep your passwords updated.

No matter what you do, some system or computer or service you use is likely to get hacked, at some point. No one is secure.

Basic #3: Never reuse passwords

Never use the same password twice, either in more than one account, or again in the same account. When a hacker gets your password, they immediately try it for every other service people use. Place security over convenience. Think of it as making things inconvenient for the hacker.

Basic #4: Accept that you will get hacked

Thinking you will never get hacked, you are fooling yourself. You might be hacked already and the hacker has not acted on the information yet, or is using your device or computer as part of a botnet. A botnet is a bunch of hacked computers or devices that are used by hackers like a zombie army to attack other computers.

Many hackers gain access to a system and don’t even take anything off of it – they use it as a zombie. They rent, sell and trade your compromised accounts. There are armies of zombies out there.

Basic #5: Back Things Up. Test the Backup

Back things up. If you have a Mac, get a Time Machine. If you have a Windows PC, get MyCloud wireless back up or an online backup like CrashPlan or both. Warning: online backups can drain bandwidth and make your connection slower. Cheaper alternatives exist like click free backups – but they rely on you to manually back things up. If you are reading this, you know that is patently stupid…get an automated backup system.

Most mobile companies offer free backup or a very small cost for devices. This is cheap insurance especially if you have hundreds of contacts in your phone.

If you back things up and never test the backup, what good is it? Make sure you know how to do it so that you don’t freak out when it happens (it will happen). And sometimes you may think things are backed up, but you got some kind of setting wrong, etc. etc. – so test…regularly…make a reminder on Google calendar. Make it a party.

Basic #6: Scan

Make sure to have anti-virus software on your computer, as well as anti-adware/malware. Use it. Cheap insurance.

Basic #7: Practice Safe Computing

Don’t download anything you are invited to download from an email or text message unless you trust the source. Download things when you are pro-actively seeking them and from reputable sources. How many times have you been promised $1,000,000,000 from someone from Russia or found out that your long lost cousin was stranded in India. Hackers are always coming up with tricks to get you to downloa, run or enable something. Most of the time, you can look at the URL on the email they sent you. It looks downright funky. Your bank never sends you emails, so watch out for those. How about that fake FEDEX or fax that just doesn’t look right? A favorite is to make a message warning you that you’ve been hacked, tricking you into running a “scan” that then installs malware on your computer.

Basic #8: Don’t worry, be happy

When you get hacked, not if, it’s not the end of the world. It’s the price we pay for the massively powerful convenience of our interconnected devices. Try to minimize the disruption, make use of available safeguards, and don’t worry. Be happy.