With the number of cyber-attacks rising in recent years, staying safe online is more important than ever.
While there is no guarantee you can ever avoid being targeted by a cybercriminal, there are certain actions you can take to lessen their chances of successfully inflicting damage.
For example, by educating yourself on the dangers of common scams, you will stand a far higher chance of detecting one before it tricks you into taking action. These scams rely on the ignorance and innate trustworthiness of people to be successful, so simply developing a healthy level of scepticism can protect you a great deal.
Furthermore, improving your ability to create strong passwords (and change them regularly) will help prevent hacks to your accounts and the theft of private information.
You can also boost your chances of staying safe online by staying vigilant of the networks you are connected to, and the other (potentially infected) devices which may be connected to it.
Here are some cybersecurity best practices which can keep you safe online:
Be sceptical of unsolicited messages
One of the best ways to stay safe online is to be wary of receiving unsolicited messages – such as emails, direct messages on social media and text messages.
Many cyber scams – such as phishing scams – rely on these messages to contact you and lay the groundwork for their attack.
To use phishing scams as an example, the attacker would send you a message posing as a recognisable and trustworthy third party who has a justifiable reason to reach out to you. Usually, these fake third-party identities are people or organisations you would want to reply to urgently – such as friends, colleagues, banks, governments or companies you buy from.
They will then ask you to take action by inputting sensitive private details, which they can use to extract money, further private data or even hack into your accounts, posing as you to spread the scam to others in your network.
An approach that can help safeguard you in this situation is to question why the third party wants this information in the first place. Double-check with the company or person the scammer is pretending to be before handing over any information.
To find out more about phishing scams, click here.
Make your passwords difficult to crack
Another great way to stay safe online is to make your passwords difficult to crack. This is such a basic practice that it sounds like a cliche, but your account really is only as safe as the password you assign to it.
Avoid the temptation of using places, objects or people that can be easily guessed with a quick background check on your personal life. You should also make unique passwords for each account you create, to avoid a hacker being able to prise open multiple accounts at once.
Beware of the devices which share your network
Lastly, always be wary of the networks you join on your devices – especially in public. You have no control over the other devices that may also be connected to the network.
There is every chance that they contain malware or another cybersecurity threat, so be vigilant and remember to use a VPN to prevent a linear connection between your device and the network itself.