What does good data security look like in 2019?

In recent years, cybersecurity has increasingly been placed at the front of public thinking for a number of reasons. From the WannaCry attack that hit the NHS, to the Snooper’s Charter in the UK and the repeal of Net Neutrality in America, there  have been many incidents to remind everyone how important it is to protect both business and personal data online.

With cybercrime becoming increasingly sophisticated, it is clear that we are operating on a constantly shifting landscape. So, what can we do to protect ourselves and prepare for 2019?

 

Avoiding public Wi-Fi

It can be one of the most frustrating things for commuters, mobile workers and holidaymakers – poor signal or running out of data when you need it. While many cafes, airports and shops provide free public Wi-Fi, it is not something that you should be using without considering the potential consequences.

In many cases, free public Wi-Fi includes very little or no encryption, which means that any data you send or receive could be easily intercepted. If you’re just reading the news this might not be an issue, but if you are shopping, banking, or doing anything that requires a login or personal information, this data could be at risk. It might not result in a devastating data breach, but at the very least there is a good chance that your information could be collected and sold on for marketing purposes.

If you have no other option and have to use public Wi-Fi, make sure you connect using a Virtual Private Network. Not only will this tool mask your location and activity, it also provides end-to-end encryption to your connection, so that if somebody does try and hack in, they will see a scrambled string of letters and numbers rather than your card and bank account details.

Treat IoT with caution

It has been estimated that the global surge in Internet of Things (IoT) devices will see the market reach 18 billion devices within the next five years. While smart devices, home automation and voice assistants have numerous benefits, they can also be a security risk.

Any device on your local network could potentially be breached and become a backdoor into your devices. On mobile devices and laptops there are likely to be antivirus, scanners and firewalls to keep you safe, but what protection is there on a smart assistant? Even worse, due to the simple setup processes for smart devices, chances are many of them are running outdated software or using factory default passwords.

All it would require from a would-be hacker is a quick search for the default password and they would have access to your whole network. While this is a scary thought, by being aware and adding extra protection like complex passwords, you can ensure that your devices are secure.

Software updates

For many people, the notification that new updates are available is considered a nuisance. This often results in choosing ‘remind me later’ and then never getting around to installing them. For mobile users, they may actively avoid installing updates for fear that they will slow down their device’s performance.

Yes, it will mean your device is out of action for 15 minutes, but in the vast majority of cases updates and patches are designed to keep your equipment running at their best. Vulnerabilities in software are identified on a regular basis and without updates security patches, these weaknesses will still be present on your devices.

Installing updates can be a chore when you have multiple devices, but ensuring software is up to date is the best way to keep things secure, doesn’t take too long and, best of all, costs nothing.

Improved passwords

Secure passwords have been front and centre of security advice for many years, but very few people actually listen. Having an unmemorable combination of letters and numbers to remember is hard enough, but when you need a new set for every single device you own, and you have to change them on a regular basis, it can start to feel impossible.

Despite the repeated warnings, the most popular passwords of 2017 remained ‘123456’ and ‘Password’, which are definitely not secure at all.

The first step to ensuring your passwords are secure in 2019 is to take advantage of a password manager. These simple tools not only remember your complex passwords, but many can help to generate new ones on a regular basis. The best part is that you then only need to remember one password.

Another step is to ensure that two-factor authentication is in place. Many accounts that require a login do offer two-factor authentication, but it is not always on by default. This extra step will send a code to your designated mobile or email to verify your identity should your password change, putting another layer of security between your sensitive data and potential cybercrimes.

Good cybersecurity for the new year looks very similar to now. The key is awareness, both of potential risks to your network but also to emerging trends in cyber security. Just because you have software in place does not necessarily mean you are fully protected. As cybercriminals become more creative, so too will their methods, and this means that good security in 2019 requires us to be consistently proactive.

 

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