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7 Tips to protect yourself and your business from hackers in a time of cybercrime

(Image credit: Image Credit: Kim Britten / Shutterstock)

With the ever-increasing amounts of technology embedded into our lives, there is no question that cybercriminals are moving in on targets. Often, these individuals know more about technology than you - the user. Equifax is a recent and prime example of at-risk data being exploited by hackers from a corporate level. Cyberattacks cannot be irradiated altogether, but fortunately, there are precautions that can be taken. The following seven tips enable businesses and individuals alike to ward off potential cyberattacks: 

1. Develop a company culture around smart cyber-sense 

Don’t wait to address a breach until after it happens. Beat the culprit to the punch with a culture of cybersecurity awareness. Address topics of cybersecurity in meetings regularly. Avoid installing overly complex technologies. Make sure to educate your employees on the systems you have in place. Utilize a philosophy of good practice within your company culture.   

Hold meetings and workshops frequently to update and educate your workers on cybersecurity systems. Depending on your business, this content can range in complexity. Many criminals study the staff of the intended target. Establish yourself and your company as one of no tolerance for cybercrime to discourage criminals from striking. If you have a staff of prepared, observant and alert employees, a cyberattack can be extinguished at the first step.   

2. Carefully evaluate your security systems 

It sounds dramatic, but going through your systems with a fine-toothed comb is a necessary method when avoiding cyberattacks. Determine the usefulness of your security controls, and see if they are updated with the most current software. Leaving programs in archaic form presents loopholes in the software for cybercriminals to take advantage. Have a system that makes risk-based decisions and implements notifications properly in a timely basis to an attack.   

This process is similar to that of an audit. Whereas an audit is driven by a framework, the digital process is propelled by potential threats and operational order. Seek to patch conditions that lie vulnerable to exploitation. Any weaknesses in technical and administrative programs should be addressed immediately. If you do not have an internal security expert, it is worth investing in a security specialist on a consulting basis. You need a professional to address your security vulnerabilities on a regular schedule.   

3. Take necessary precautions 

Make yourself and your staff aware of the basics in fighting cybercrime. Holding regular seminars with guest speakers or panelists is one method of updating your employees on emerging cyber-threats. Study the laws for governing cybercrime and make sure your systems operate within the legal framework. Obey required operating procedures and update your security programs regularly. Set notifications for patches and updates to automatically install for the most up-to-date security protection. 

Inform employees about the risks of their own personal data held within their own hands and the company’s. If any blackmail or extortion is attempted, educate your staff on the proper channels of legal notification.   

4. Don’t set expectations too high 

It is hard to grasp, but by participating in a technological world, you are never totally protected. Everyone needs to be realistic about their risk for attack. Even if you have state of the art security systems, there are still potential gaps for criminals to utilize. Cyber-hackers specialize in understanding how to breach software, and honestly, many of them worked to develop such systems. Their one-step ahead attitude allows them to prepare techniques for even the most secure systems.   

Read up on new tactics and techniques of these cybercriminals. Understanding the mind of the potential culprit can help you nip their plans in the bud. If you learn of new attacks taking place, update your employees on this and move forward with modernizing your computer systems. You can never fully avoid attacks, but you can do your best to make it an overcomplicated job for the hackers.   

5. Be smart about passwords 

Never use the same password twice. As inconvenient as it is for you, consistently change your passwords every month or two. This method of constant change allows for your accounts to stay on the cutting edge. If a hacker happened to access your account once, they cannot come back at a later date with the same password knowledge.   

Never use passwords that incorporate your child’s name or a spouse’s name in any format. Also, never use birthdays or pet’s names. This information can easily be obtained from various searches and social media websites. Complicate your passwords with misspelled words, long phrases, numbers, special characters and both upper and lower-case letters.   

Do not keep a compilation of your passwords in a digital form. Hackers consider this a heyday, especially if you keep multiple passwords in one location. Write down your passwords on a piece of paper in your house or in a notebook you keep in a safe. If someone was to hack your app or the document where you store all the passwords, it would be very bad news for you and your information.

6. Lock your credit for safe keeping 

After all the cyberattacks occurring as of late, it is best to keep a consistent long-term lock on your credit. Sign up for fraud alerts and credit monitoring from a reputable agency. Contact your credit agency and request a lock be put on your credit. You will need to remove the lock for large purchases, such as a home, car or lavish vacation. Programs such as LifeLock provide credit monitoring that is cost effective and operates as identity theft protection as well. 

7. Awareness is everyone’s responsibility

All cybercrime has a human responsible for the act. Cyberattacks, although committed through computers, must be battled with another human on the other side. Discuss your company and personal relationship with cyber-hygiene. Computers and security systems require regular maintenance to run smoothly and ward off potential attacks. Develop a procedure for reporting suspicious activity. Even if it is nothing, it is better to be safe than sorry.   

Many individuals are so overwhelmed with technology today they cast away information as out of their league. No matter where you come from, you are utilizing technology in your daily life in some manner. When using these systems, one must exercise vigilance to the best of their ability. Taking basic steps towards awareness is the most realistic way to take responsibility for your information and avoid cybercrime.    

Dr. Richard White, Managing Director at Oxford Solutions (opens in new tab)

Image Credit: Kim Britten / Shutterstock

Dr. Richard White is an expert in the fields of cybersecurity infrastructure, cybersecurity remediation, and cybersecurity program development, and is author of Cybercrime: The madness behind the methods.