10 Basic personal cybersecurity tips for everyone

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Whether you realize it or not, cybersecurity risks and threats are always lurking in your everyday life. 

For example, if you’ve ever opened a new browser and found a different search engine or homepage, you may be the victim of browser hijacking. With browser hijacking, malicious software changes your browser’s settings, behavior, or appearance without permission. This can be done for ad revenue but also for more malicious reasons like keystroke logging or to collect data. 

That’s just one of so many possible threats. With that in mind, below are ten basic cybersecurity tips everyone should follow.

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Table of Contents

1. Don’t Reuse Passwords

Password reuse is a major problem. In a survey from TechRepublic, 53% of people said they’d use the same password across multiple accounts. When you reuse passwords, you’re probably doing so for convenience and to make things easier on yourself. 

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Unfortunately, if an account is compromised and you use the same passwords, cybercriminals can have unfettered access to everything else that uses the same password. They could commit identity theft, steal money, or access sensitive information from your work. 

Cybercriminals know password reuse is common, so if they crack one for a single account, they’ll try to use it on dozens or even hundreds of sites. 

If you can’t remember a lot of unique passwords, a password manager is a secure strategy that can help. 

2. Always View Yourself as a Target

One mistake that happens to so many people is the assumption that you won’t be the victim of a cyberattack. We tend to see ourselves as too insignificant for criminals to care about, but in reality, anyone can be a target, and many people are. 

3. Be Careful About Links

Links in emails are one of the simplest and also most effective ways for hackers to gain access to secure information. If you click a malicious link, you might be taken to a spoofed site that’s going to look almost exactly like the real version. 

You’ll be asked to input private information or log in, and if you do so, then a hacker has access to the information you submit. They can then use it to break into your actual account. 

Be very careful about any links you receive by email. It’s better to go directly to the site by typing it into the browser. Also, check the sending address of the email. It may not match the real company. 

4. Use a Password Manager

We talked about using a password manager above, and it’s helpful on its own, not just for keeping you from reusing passwords. Password managers can also automatically create complex passwords for you that are hard for hackers to crack. 

Many password managers have free versions too. 

5. Set Up MFA When You Can

MFA stands for multi-factor authentication. With MFA, you go beyond just logging in with a username and password. You have another factor for authentication as well. 

An example that you may already use on some of your apps and accounts is the need to use an additional one-time password or passcode every time you log in. The password or code might be sent to your phone or email. 

MFA makes it that much harder for a hacker. Even if they can get your username and password, they’re not likely to also have access to whatever the other factor is, so they can’t gain access. 

6. Don’t Save Your Payment Information

It’s so easy to save your payment information for your credit card so that when you want to buy something in the future, it’s faster and easier. While it’s highly convenient, it’s a bad idea in terms of your personal cybersecurity. 

Breaches can happen, and your credit card information can easily be stolen if the site it’s stored on is breached. 

7. Avoid Downloads That Are Unnecessary

Downloads are one of the ways hackers attempt to gain access to networks. Protect your computer and data by limiting your downloads. If it’s a browser extension or type of software that you don’t absolutely have to have, avoid it. For employees in an organization, authorization should be required before they’re allowed to download anything. 

If you have to download something, choose the custom install option and carefully watch it to make sure there aren’t any extensions or add-ons that pop up. If so, decline them. 

8. Be Careful with Your Mobile Devices

We rely on our mobile devices as lifelines in our daily lives, and that means they’re also highly vulnerable to potential attacks. 

There are quite a few things to keep in mind to use your device safely for your personal cybersecurity. 

First, lock your device with a password or PIN—otherwise, if you lose it or someone steals it, they can easily access everything on it. Only install apps from sources you trust, like Google Play and the App Store, and keep your operating system up to date. 

Don’t click on links or attachments from emails or texts when you weren’t expecting them, and you might consider using data encryption. Most devices have features built-in that will let you set up encryption. 

9. Keep Your Software Up-to-Date

It’s annoying when you’re trying to work on a device or look something up, and you get a notification that there’s an available software update, but it’s important that you install it as soon as you can. Ransomware attacks are one of the key vectors for businesses and individuals. 

One of the most important things you can do to reduce the risks of ransomware is patching any outdated software, including your operating system and applications. This will remove the vulnerabilities hackers often use to gain access to devices. 

You can turn on automatic system updates for your device, and you should ensure your desktop web browser uses automatic updates. You need to keep plugins such as Java and Flash updated too. 

10. Use Firewall and Anti-Virus Protection

Finally, anti-virus protection is one of the most fundamental ways to protect against cyber threats. Anti-virus software blocks malware and viruses from entering your device’s cybersecurity. A firewall can defend your data against attacks as well. Firewalls screen out hackers, viruses, and malicious activity.

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