With smart technology playing a role in just about everything people do in their homes, there’s been a major increase in cyber crimes. When you think about it, there’s an enormous vulnerability factor at work. Computers, tablets, phones, and other devices provide an open invitation to hackers and cyber criminals, so doing anything you can do to maintain your personal security is worth the time and effort it takes. Below are five ways you can safeguard your devices.
- Use strong, unique passwords for Wi-Fi networks and device accounts.
Avoid common words or passwords that are easy to guess, such as your address or words that someone might easily associate with you. Instead, create complex passwords made up of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and punctuation marks. Fortunately, says Vacouver-based entrepreneur Thierry LeVasseur, “Fingerprint access is becoming more common, along with such authentication tools as facial recognition.” He adds that as the public has become more aware of the need for stronger passwords, many people have begun using password managers and other applications to create more complex passwords, and also to change them regularly.
- Update your software as often as possible.
When your smartphone tells you that a software update is available, download and install it as soon as possible. Sometimes those updates contain enhancements to your existing ones. “You may avoid accepting those notifications for phone updates like the plague, but doing so can reduce the chances of your phone being hacked,” says Liz Hamilton, a director at Mobile Klinik. “Even though it can be an annoyance or a headache at times, it’s for your own good. The longer you go without updating your phone and software, the longer your data is at risk for any malware malfunction.”
- Keep your mobile devices secure.
Before you make a phone call or send an email, take a little time to learn about the wide variety of privacy and security settings your smartphone and tablet have, then set them to provide the utmost security. Many devices have default settings that are pre-set, and they might not be set for your security, explains LeVasseur. He adds that you can easily start by updating the location sharing information in your phone’s settings. The safest option is to completely disable the location function and set a secure password for your mobile device. If your phone becomes lost or stolen and doesn’t have an access password, anyone who picks it up will have unrestricted access.
Use two-step authentication on your devices.
Two-factor authentication can be a momentary hassle, but it can also be extremely helpful when it comes to keeping cybercriminals out. The good news is that it’s one of the best ways to maintain security. “Ensuring that there are two-factor authentication put into place is crucial for making it harder for malicious actors to access data,” says Bob Rudis, chief data scientist at security firm Rapid7. “The best method for two-factor authentication,” says Rudis, “is to have a password application tied to your account that prompts you to approve the access. The reality is that it keeps your accounts from being hacked.”
- Watch for requests for unusual app permissions.
You’ve likely downloaded an app or two to your computer or device that asks for access to data but doesn’t say why. Before you can install that app you have to agree to provide access to certain things not related to the app’s function. Many experts advise that this can be taken as a warning sign, and that you should double-check before allowing any permissions. According to Stephen Hart, CEO of Cardswitcher, “You’re downloading a simple app for a pocket calculator, for instance, and the app is requesting access to your contact list and location. Why would a calculator need to see your contact list and location? Requests like that should ring some alarm bells.”