The ever-growing need for more online security could not be more apparent than right now, as we step firmly into the 2020s. In a world where internet usage and market penetration are growing globally by the day, internet users and organizations are left to their own whims when it comes to securing their devices and/or organizations’ cybersecurity. Well, what exactly do we mean when we say cybersecurity? The term itself has begun to garner a lot of attention on Google search trends, especially due to recent high-profile ‘hack’ attacks aimed at the United States and several global internet surveillance scandals that we are now aware of. There is currently a two to threefold (in some cases fivefold) increase in Google searches for ‘cybersecurity blogs’, ‘cybersecurity boot camp, and ‘cybersecurity courses’. This is indicative that we as a society are suddenly awakening to the reality of the dangers of cybercrime and issues with online privacy.
Let’s consider the top three fundamentals, a.k.a the key aspects of cybersecurity that should be common practice for every internet user and organization (but more geared towards the individual in this specific case);
- The need for specialized password protection, and how to apply proper passwords with cybersecurity in mind
- The use of cybersecurity tools such as a VPN or Virtual Private Network, privacy-oriented browser, anti malware and antivirus on every connected device
- General awareness about keeping devices updated, and common sense concerning not oversharing data, visiting only HTTPS secured websites and being aware of phishing emails
What is Password Protection?
Knowledge about passwords should go without saying, but alas most people, unfortunately, are victims of cybercrimes simply because of a lack of care surrounding their password security. When we talk about password protection, this means being knowledgeable about protecting the passwords you use with your devices. Passwords are probably the most important aspect of your cybersecurity (internet safety). They are the front gates that protect your most sensitive information, preventing data theft and disruption. Curiously, the vast majority of people are nowhere near cautious enough when it comes to their device and account passwords.
This means that, if the password is simple and the same password is used across multiple accounts the job of the cybercriminal is very easy. You might use passwords for anything from securing folders, zip files, cloud storage, social media accounts, finance, and all the rest on your device. The repeated use of passwords is very dangerous but most people take this path because it involves the least effort. What they are not aware of is that, without a long, complex password for each specific usage that is protected with a password manager, they are leaving themselves vulnerable to a wide range of attacks and potential problems.
What Are The Dangers Involved With Inadequate Password Security?
There are a multitude of things that can happen to your sensitive information, social media, or even life’s work if you leave data unprotected on the internet. These problems involve ‘password hacking’, ‘leaked passwords via data breaches’ and perhaps even someone you know personally or at work will try to steal or misuse your sensitive information. Let’s look at some of the risks involved with vulnerable accounts (where weak passwords or reuse of passwords is concerned);
- Phishing attacks, where hackers use social engineering tactics (tricks and gaining trust) to gain access to your confidential information. The most common method is e-mail scams that seem to come from a legitimate source and lead you to a fake login page (that can look exactly like your LinkedIn, Facebook, or Bank webpage for example)
- Another security danger is what is called a brute force attack. It is when a cybercriminal uses additional software that tries to guess the username and password combination hundreds or even thousands of times. This method will eventually work as there are password lists containing millions of combinations available, but the more complex and original the password is the more difficult it is to crack
- You may become victim to a far-reaching global hacking campaign, where your username and password were also easily cracked and then hoovered up, to be shared or sold on the hidden corners of the web later on
- Finally, the biggest mistake of them all is sharing passwords with other people. A study confirmed that almost 70% of people shared passwords with others. The second thing that is wrong with this is that password sharing should never happen over a digital medium
How To Keep Your Passwords Secure
So, we have seen that having weak password security is a terrible thing and can lead to the total loss of anything from one’s life savings to sensitive information being leaked. If it is a business or organization that is in question, for example, hackers can then cause even more damage to ‘privileged accounts’ or even crack the entire network and bring down a company for this simple mistake. Research has shown that a billion emails, over 20 million passwords and one billion combinations of the two have been recently found online.
So, what do we need to take into account to keep good cybersecurity hygiene when it comes to the all important, but easily overlooked, topic of passwords? Well, here are some tips;
- Avoid typical and simple passwords that go something like password321, or contain your birth date. Also, make sure that passwords are as random and long as comfortably as possible. Never store your passwords online or on your computer. Store them in the offline world, on a piece of paper that you carry with you for maximum security
- Use a password manager. A password manager is software that is specifically designed to secure and encrypt your passwords. A password manager will also come up with random passwords for you so that you don’t have to. A good peer-revied, premium password manager will automate your password needs as well
- Always use a different, complex, random, and long password for every account, channel, vault, zip file – whatever it is that you have
Here are some additional tips for your cybersecurity hygiene that should come automatically for you from now on. Form these habits and you should not have any internet security headaches;
- Always use a premium Virtual Private Network, or VPN when connecting to the internet
- Never open emails from unknown senders
- Do not communicate your sensitive information on social media
- Make sure that any website you visit has HTTPS and the little lock in the address bar
- Try to use a privacy-focused browser at all times that reduce your online trace
Write down your passwords, and never share them with anyone
Brian is the news author at Research Snipers which mainly covers Technology News, Microsoft News, Google News, Facebook, Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi, and other tech news.