In the face of relentless hacks, scams and data breaches, the IT Security sector continues to encourage businesses to improve their cyber resilience to protect their bottom line and our private data. However, like many things in life, improving cyber hygiene starts at home. With the technology industry guilty of over-complicating advice with jargon and examples that aren’t relatable to the average person who is simply trying to get their job done, we break down three things you can do to improve your cyber security using analogies from everyday life:
Use stronger keys
Passwords are keys to the locks that protect our “online homes”, just like the key to your front door. In the past, keys to locks were simple with only two or three “teeth”. However, as thieves became more skilled, physical locks and the keys that open them have become increasingly complicated and harder to pick. This is analogous to the online world – cyber criminals are becoming better equipped at figuring out the “keys” to our online “locks”. Therefore, just as we have made the locks to our physical homes more complex and difficult to pick, we need to do the same for our online homes. Instead of using a single word password with a combination of letters, numbers and symbols (that you keep on forgetting), upgrade your password to be a long sentence or phrase that is meaningful to you and long enough to deter attackers. We should also change our keys when we become aware that someone has them – you wouldn’t leave your lock unchanged at home if you knew someone had the key, would you? You can check this by using websites such as haveibeenpwned.com that allow you to search for your username or password across the many credential breaches that have occurred.
Use additional locks
If the bank uses two keys to protect the money in its vault, why shouldn’t you? Have a think about the important areas of your “online home”, like your email and online banking, and consider protecting them with more than one key. Multi-Factor Authentication (or “MFA”) is a term used in the Technology world which can be likened to a secondary lock for online accounts. However, instead of a password, the key to open the second lock is actually something that you have, like a text message with a code that is sent to your mobile phone, or an app on your phone like Google or Microsoft Authenticator that generates a code for you to type in after you have supplied your username and password, to prove that it is really you logging in and not someone that has guessed or found out your password.
Lock up when you leave
While we can use better locks and install more of them, they serve no use if the door is left wide open. You wouldn’t walk out of your house and leave the front door wide open, so make sure whenever you leave your “online home” that you shut the door too. Make it a habit to log out of your online accounts when you are done, lock your computer whenever you are leave it unattended (it is as quick as pressing the Windows and the “L” keys at the same time) and locking your phone as you put it down or back in your pocket.
Your online home is much more vulnerable than your real one, and has the potential to cause you more grief if it gets broken into. Embedding these simple steps into your online life could not only save you thousands of dollars, it could protect priceless memories and information too.