Tech Blog

15
Jan
2014

7 habits of good security

The power to be safe is in your hands and at your fingertips.

You might not think about it when you’re caught up browsing the web, shopping and interacting on social media, but you are the first line of defence to protect against cyber security risks. The power to be safe is in your hands and at your fingertips. Developing and maintaining good habits can make online activity much safer and more enjoyable for you and your colleagues.

The following seven good habits take only minutes to learn and are easy enough to incorporate into your daily computing.

1. Create strong passwords

Passwords are usually the first, and sometimes only, protection against unauthorised access. They are the keys to your online kingdom, so keep these guidelines in mind.

  • Make passwords long and complex to combat sophisticated criminal tools
  • Use a mix of upper and lower case alpha, numeric and special characters
  • Use a variety of passwords on different systems and sites
  • Change passwords regularly
  • Be cautious when allowing your computer or websites to ‘remember’ passwords

Since it can be difficult to remember a long, complex password, consider using a passphrase. For example, think of a phrase you can remember such as, “I love chocolate”. Replace some of the letters with numbers, special characters, and upper-case letters and you’ve got something like “!LoveChoc0l@te”. The more numbers and special characters you use, the harder it will be to crack your password.

2. Lock your computer screen

You never know who might use your computer when you’re not around – friends, family or colleagues – so it’s important to lock your screen to prevent unauthorised access. In the office, a co-worker, guest or a service provider such as a cleaning crew might view or use your unattended computer. This is an easy way for private information to become public.

It only takes a few seconds to lock your PC. Just press the Ctrl+Alt+Delete keys and then select the option “Lock this computer”. For your smartphones and tablets, use the passcode feature, as these devices are just as vulnerable as your PC.

3. Secure mobile devices from loss

While mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops are loved for their mobility, this convenience can become a security risk. It’s easy to lose or misplace these devices, so be sure to:

  • Make a list of phone numbers and email addresses to report stolen or lost devices
  • Use a hardware cable lock for laptops or store it in a locked drawer
  • Keep smartphones and tablets on you when in public
  • Keep devices with you and never put them in your checked baggage when travelling
  • Lock devices out of sight if you must leave them in your car

4. Protect data on mobile devices and removable media

Mobile devices and removable media, such as USB drives, enable us to easily share and transport information, but can lead to the loss or misuse of data. Although it’s important to protect the actual devices themselves from loss, it’s equally important to protect the information they contain.

  • Turn on and accept automatic updates
  • Create regular backups of important data
  • Disable features you do not use
  • Erase all data before you discard, donate or give it away
  • Encrypt the information, if possible
  • Use anti-virus software and keep it up to date

5. Identify URLs before clicking

Simply stated: think before you click. A malicious website that looks like a legitimate one is a common method used by criminals. However, verifying the real destination is easy – just place your cursor over the displayed URL and the true destination will reveal itself with a small pop-up. Don’t click if it looks suspicious.

For URL shorteners like tinyurl.com and bit.ly, simply add a plus sign (+) to the end of the URL to display its true source. For QR codes, choose a reader app that allows you to preview the destination before opening the link. And when it comes to mobile apps and software, download from a trusted source, like Google Play, Microsoft.com or Java.com.

6. Use public Wi-Fi safely

Public Wi-Fi is riskier than corporate or home Wi-Fi because you can’t determine its setup and security features. So, take extra precautions when using it.

  • Do not access sensitive personal accounts, such as financial accounts
  • Ensure websites use HTTPS and display a lock icon
  • Watch out for “shoulder surfing” from people and security cameras
  • Never use a public computer, such as one in a hotel lobby, to access personal information
  • Use only for general web browsing, e.g., weather forecasts and restaurant reviews

7. Think before you post to social media

Social media provides a convenient, fun way to stay in touch with friends and family. But be cautious about what you post. Understand both personal and business risks, and take the following precautions.

  • Always comply with the your company’s business conduct
  • Ask friends and family to keep your personal information private, including relationships
  • Be cautious about participating in games and surveys or clicking on links suggested by others
  • Review and update your social media privacy and security settings often

Use daily
Bad habits might die hard, but good habits can protect you from cyber threats. You are the first line of defence in protecting you, your colleagues and your devices against security risks. And as criminal methods and tactics are becoming more advanced, it’s more important than ever to establish and maintain good security habits.

Mark Coleman
About Mark Coleman
Director of Brainworx Computer Services and the sub brands of Mailworx and Dataworx

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