Cyber security isn’t necessarily hard, it’s just that it is a direct contradiction of convenience. Everything online, whether it be social media, email, banking, etc., is designed for exactly that: convenience. Playing the CAPTCHA game of “I’m not a robot”, multi-factor authentication, and email verification all take time, as does any other step in today’s effort to be more secure. Where security becomes hard is when that convenience is preferred over being secure. Ultimately, this is why companies invest hundreds of millions of dollars per year in an effort to accomplish just that.
So, until the cyber experts figure out how best to pull that off effectively, we’re left in an awkward position. Speaking back to cyber security being an exercise in risk management, it really comes down to how you personally balance your security and convenience.
That being said, here are four effective ways to tip the scales more in favor of being secure without being too inconvenienced:
1. Are you where you should be?
This is the single most important piece, with two tricks to keep in mind. First, did the link purporting to be from Facebook actually take you to Facebook, or something that just looks like Facebook? Everyone should get in the habit of checking two things here; the URL (www.facebook.com) and the encryption certificate (the green padlock to the left of the URL). Nothing in life is 100%, especially security, so this is not a sure bet on whether you are where you should be, but it will protect you against the vast majority of phishing campaigns.
2. Be careful about what you share
Think twice before you enter information online. Whether this be your credit card number, your social, or when you’ll be away from your home on vacation. It’s important to remember that it isn’t just people reviewing your tweets, Instagram, or any other update that you publish online; all of this data is collected by automated programs to learn everything that they can and build profiles on you. When it comes to your personal information online, less is always better.
3. Update your computer
It’s annoying getting those “restart your computer for important updates” messages every other day, I get it, but they’re necessary. In fact, how often these notices pop-up is a good indication of the problems that we are facing across the cyber realm; if you get updates every other day, that means vulnerabilities are getting fixed at least that often.
4. Question everything
It can be a simple as “click here for a chance to win a new Tesla!” or as complex as “there is suspicious activity on your credit card, click here to review recent transactions”… the bad guys can be pretty smart. Again, while not convenient, it is a best practice to question everything. Does a Nigerian prince REALLY want to give me 100 million dollars? Was I expecting a package today? Is this Paypal email really from Paypal?
These are the questions that will help you take that extra few seconds to think about the validity of what you are looking at. Don’t trust that just because an email has the Paypal logo that it is actually from Paypal; check the email address of who sent it, hover over the link to see where it goes before you click it (long press on phones, it will show you the link), and think before you click.
Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.