The internet makes it possible for businesses and individuals to stay connected around the clock. While the ability to work, be entertained, and make money from anywhere is convenient, online connectivity also gives cybercriminals ample opportunities. Every device, communication platform, and application can be a gateway for cyberattacks.
Leaders of large organizations tend to consider their companies prime targets for cybercriminal activities. However, increases in smart devices and work-from-home arrangements make individuals and small businesses just as vulnerable. That means every connected household and company must implement protections against intrusions, data theft, and unauthorized activity. Here are some ways to defend yourself against cyberattacks.
1. Use Intelligent Network Security Measures
With the rise in cybersecurity concerns, software and internet service providers are offering more sophisticated tools. Homeowners can add additional layers of protection and monitoring through their router’s software. For example, prompts can alert you when a web browser on any connected device tries to access an unsecured site. You can also see which devices are using your network and deny access to those you don’t recognize.
Since these measures work at the network level, you won’t have to always configure different security tools on each gadget. Households with several smart devices can set up AI-enabled smart home security network tools that monitor everything. Communication service providers monitor home networks and smart devices through these tools for you. The software’s artificial intelligence can shut down intrusion attempts and alert you to their occurrence.
Network security software and tools work like antimalware programs, isolating problematic and infected devices. Individuals see reports about suspicious activities, whether they occur in real time or while they’re away from home. Owners of smart homes have more awareness of and control over potential threats to their network. They can then respond to those incidents within the security software and confirm whether network activities were unauthorized or legitimate.
2. Keep Device Software and Firmware Updated
Network security software and tools offer higher-level protection against cyberattacks. However, each device has separate software and firmware that need to be kept up to date. You’ve probably seen occasional prompts on your smartphone or computer to download and install the latest updates. These modifications sometimes fix minor bugs and improve how the software looks and functions. But more importantly, such software updates include security patches.
Because cybercriminals are always looking for ways to exploit software, developers continue to release updates that correct known vulnerabilities. Delaying the installation of these updates and security patches is like leaving the door open to your home. Many operating systems and applications have automatic download and installation settings for software updates. Set your apps, programs, and devices to enable automatic updates whenever possible.
Another thing to check on your devices is the firmware version. Manufacturers will often release firmware updates that improve security. These enhancements make it harder for cybercriminals to access and control devices such as wireless gateways and video doorbells. While you might receive prompts for firmware updates through software management tools, you may need to manually check for others. You can usually go to the manufacturer’s website for this.
3. Turn On Two-Factor Authentication
Sometimes cybercriminals don’t need to take advantage of software vulnerabilities to carry out an attack. Password theft is a common method criminals use in data breaches and network intrusions. Simple passwords involving consecutive numbers, birthdates, and names are easy for hackers to guess. Large data breaches of major retailers and online platforms can also result in the exposure of people’s passwords.
Reports show that 49 million U.S. consumers were victims of identity theft in 2020, producing total losses of $56 billion. Of that amount, $13 billion resulted from the theft of personal information revealed through data breaches. Far more of the fraud loss — $43 billion — was attributed to sensitive data criminals got from phishing emails and robocalls. As these methods become increasingly sophisticated, more people are falling for them.
If you enable two-factor authentication on your accounts, your username and password won’t be enough for a hacker to gain access. Even if a cybercriminal gets your login through a phishing email or data breach, they can’t get in. With multifactor authentication, gaining access to your account requires another verification method. You can set this up as your fingerprint or a random code that’s sent to your smartphone. Many hackers will move on when they see multifactor authentication prompts.
4. Connect Through a VPN Service
Whether you’re working on personal or company business at home, a virtual private network service can help keep your data safe. A VPN encrypts or masks the information you send and receive while you’re connected. Encryption reduces the chance that a cybercriminal will find and decode personal or proprietary data.
The encryption process makes information unreadable to the naked eye since it becomes code. Some encryption methods also require a keychain or password to access the data. Surprisingly, 30% of remote employees do not use a VPN service when they connect to company networks. Without this level of encryption, a business’s proprietary resources become more vulnerable to theft. It’s also easier for cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to the network.
While remote employees can use company-provided VPN services, individuals can also use a VPN app for personal use. For instance, you might want to use a VPN for online banking activities from your laptop or smartphone. Or you may want that extra encryption for anything you do online, including email and e-commerce shopping. VPN apps can also come in handy when you have to use public Wi-Fi. With a VPN, you can securely check account balances and share documents wherever you are.
Putting Your Guard Up
Experiences with online connectivity can be so seamless that you forget every device, transaction, and message is a potential threat. Cybercriminals are in the background, waiting for the right opportunity to use your personal information for their gain. Protecting yourself against home network intrusions and data theft requires a combination of vigilance and tech tools.
Network-level security software that leverages artificial intelligence provides the first line of defense. Software and firmware updates extend that protection to the device level, while multifactor authentication prevents account-level attacks. VPN apps and services help stop hackers in their tracks by locking down your data. The more of these measures you use, the less likely you’ll become the victim of a cyberattack.