There are so many news stories about this security breach, or that. About someone who thought it would be a good idea to leak documents they believe the public should know about. Ransomeware attacks. Internet of things devices not being secure. Millions of users’ information stolen. Movies being held for ransom before their release. We could make a really long list here, but we won’t.
What does all this mean for you? Is anyone truly safe? Let’s be honest, with the way everything is connected these days, if someone wants your info, they will likely get it. Unfortunately not all companies take this stuff seriously, or they just don’t know, or they think they’re safe but there’s a tiny foothold in software supplied by a major vendor they trusted, or they just didn’t budget enough to be proactive. Whatever the reason, where there is a will, there is a way. And there’s always a price to be paid.
So how can anyone even have a chance?!
First, you start with the easy, free stuff – updates. (unless your like 70% of Microsoft users in some countries we won’t mention that run pirated software – then updates don’t work!) Check for updates on a regular basis, every couple of months should work, more if there’s a ton of stuff about security and the like in the news. Ideally it would be at least once a month… Microsoft, Android, Apple, etc… Like we need anything else to do, right?! Trust me, we are all busy, but the updates take WAY less time than the potential mess.
Second, use additional software where applicable: If you use Microsoft Windows, after you do your updates, make sure you have security software. Windows Defender is better than nothing, but not by much. There are free versions of software – AVG, Panda, MalwareBytes – to name just a couple. Using a free version is a good alternative to nothing, but they take more time. For a small amount of money – like under $50 per YEAR, you can have yourself a few utilities that will actively monitor your system for changes, infections, attacks. If you use and Android smart phone, do your best to keep it up to date. Google is toying with the idea of not using manufacturer “flavors” of the OS in an effort to keep things more current. According to Google, more than half of Android devices are behind in updates. More than 700 MILLION devices have not received an update in over a year. That’s staggering. Some of that has to do with the fact that updates aren’t pushed as often, some of it is that handset manufacturers that customized the OS for their handset can’t or don’t update it. Some of it is that the newest versions of the Android OS support a very small number of the android based devices still in use. Most of the third party software companies that you would use on your Windows PC for security make an Android compatible counterpart. Apple devices, well, all you need to do is keep them up to date. Do your best with any device to keep it up to date and protected. Another thing I shouldn’t have to say, but I have far too much experience to not say…PASSWORD PROTECT YOUR DEVICES! Not having a password on your device, ESPECIALLY mobile device, is like leaving the keys in your car with a big sign on it…
Third, if you’re really concerned about all your network connected hardware, and have no idea where to start, there are local companies that will help you get your stuff as secure as it can be without ripping you off or you going crazy trying to do it yourself. Yes, this is what I do, IT Consulting for small businesses. But that’s not why I took the time to write this. I know several local companies, like mine, who are reputable companies that take care of their customers beyond just getting paid for their services. Ask your friends who they use, word of mouth is the best way to find someone who’s good at what they do, charges a fair price, and takes great care of their customers.
Last but certainly not least, don’t click on email links OR attachments! Some phishing attacks are so convincing it’s scary. The bottom line is this, most companies will not ask you to click on a link to go to their website, where you presumably have an account, to login. If the email is from your bank, open a browser and go to their website and login. Or use their official app. If someone you know sends you a link to a page or an attachment, I still wouldn’t trust it. There were legitimate emails, coming from legitimate addresses, with links to legitimate sites, that were totally hacked. Then the person who entered their credentials had their accounts compromised and the breach spread REALLY fast. It’s not worth it. Text the person and work out a way to get the file some other way. If it’s for business, look at file sharing services – there are many. If it’s on Apple devices, look at iCloud for sharing photos or files – it even works if the recipient doesn’t use an Apple device. Even for personal stuff DropBox is a better alternative to emailing files, and you can get a free account up to 2GB.
My final words… don’t be afraid or discouraged, or overwhelmed. There are answers and there are things you can do to make yourself more “invisible” to this junk. Ask your friends. Send me a message. Read a few good articles. We’re Americans! We will get through this!