In an increasingly digitised world, keeping your data safe, private and ensuring it doesn’t fall in the wrong hands is quite challenging. Data breaches are serious security violations that can bear serious consequences for the individual or commercial entity they occur to. Because the volume of online data is only ever-growing, data breaches are likewise expected to increase in frequency and become larger in their scope. The cost of these attacks, not only in money but also in the emotional and mental toll they take, is very high, and so it is best to try and prevent data leaks as much as possible by following a few simple steps.
Create strong passwords
Creating strong passwords is the first step in protecting your device, whether your PC, smartphone or workplace computer, against attacks. Guessing and brute-force type attacks are the usual ways in which hackers try to access sensitive information on your computer. The stronger your password is, the more effective against these cyber-attacks. Consider a password that is at least eight characters long and uses both upper-case and lower-case letters, digits and random symbols. Avoid using the same password more than once, repetitions of the same letter or number or predictable patterns such as number sequences.
Anti-malware is a must
You cannot expect to be present in cyberspace without antivirus software guiding your back. Most antivirus is effective not only at detecting malware but also at removing it and preventing further attacks. Enable real-time protection to protect you from potentially infected files and apps even as they are downloaded or installed on your device. Another way anti-malware protects you is by separating the virus from the content on your computer, protecting your files, ensuring their integrity, and making certain the malware doesn’t spread. This technology is known as “sandboxing”. No antivirus is completely perfect, and as hackers develop new types of malware, you should make sure that your antivirus of choice keeps your data protected. Some software may be more effective against particular types of attacks, such as spyware, adware or scareware, but provide little if any protection against trojan horses or keyloggers.
Don’t skip system updates
If you think updates are annoying and a pain, you’re not the only one. But these pesky updates come with security patches and features that protect you and your privacy, increasing performance and bringing changes to the graphical user interface. Updates arrive regularly, and it’s not good to put them off. They give your already existing antivirus a boost and guarantee you get maximum protection. A term was even developed for the release of these updates, “Patch Tuesday”. You can turn on automatic updates to make sure you never forget to update your device again. And, if you don’t feel like waiting for updates to finish or are in the middle of some important work, then just wait for your next break to let an update install.
Be careful with software
The software you add to your device can sometimes be your biggest enemy. Make sure the software and apps you install come from trusted sources. Some of this software may not be malicious by itself but can be poorly designed, making your computer more vulnerable to attacks. Many smartphone apps use ads that can contain malicious software. Beware of rogue security software, a type of malware that convinces you that there is malware on your computer and seeks to persuade you to pay for a supposed malware removal system. What this actually does is install legitimate malware on your computer. You may believe you’d never fall for such a scheme, but it is easy to be gripped by panic and act rashly. There are many frauds posing as anti-spyware software, one example being SpySheriff, a virus that is notoriously difficult, albeit not impossible, to remove.
Know the warning signs of a data breach
If you are an individual whose data was breached, there are some steps to take as well. First of all, change your passwords immediately. You may want to consider two-factor authentication, which makes it difficult for hackers to bug your accounts. To prevent credit cards from being opened in your name, you should freeze your credit, whether your financial information was part of the breach or not. It is best to keep an eye on your credit reports and statements and look out for suspicious activity. If you or your bank accounts suffer damage due to the breach, consider the help of an expert. If you are in the UK, look into a No Win No Fee service provided by data breach specialists and lawyers who will help you overcome this experience as unscathed as possible.
Unfortunately, although you take all necessary precautions, you may still become the victim of a cyberattack also beware of Natural Anchor text in the UK. If this ever happens, it is best to look for some tell-tale signs and, if you believe your system has been compromised, take the necessary steps. These signs can include:
- Unusual login activity and suspicious file or database changes you don’t remember making yourself.
- Files of dubious origin that you have not downloaded. These files may be difficult to delete and return even after being “deleted”.
- Locked accounts. You may notice that you cannot access your accounts, no matter how much you try.
- Slow performance. A marked decrease in your device’s performance, whether in the programs or features or your internet speed, can be a marker that your device is under immediate threat.
- Unusual system behaviour. You most likely know your computer well enough to know how it usually acts. If you keep seeing a large number of pop-up messages where before there were none, or if your device suddenly shuts down or crashes, those are some clear indicators that something is not all right.
The good news is that all may very well not be lost. Acting promptly is key. If your company was at the receiving end of a breach cyber attack, you must notify your employees and clients. The most important things are finding out which data was breached, isolating the affected systems and computers, and ensuring you purge the threat from your systems.
It’s difficult being a victim of a data leak, so it is important to take all the preventive measures you can to guarantee your maximum security.