20 Cybersecurity Tips: Protect Yourself in 2022
With cybercrime on the rise, and the threat of it increasing as a form of warfare, it’s critical we do what we can to protect our personal data and bank accounts.
At press time, Russia has invaded Ukraine, and they have already launched cyberattacks on Ukrainian banks and government websites.
According to U.S. intelligence reports, the United States is a potential target for Russian cyberattacks as retaliation for sanctions imposed.¹
Every American needs to recognize how real this threat is.
In a Yahoo report, Dan Howley explains, “The fear, though, and according to experts that I spoke to specifically here in the U.S., is that Russia could already have backdoors built into systems that we rely on, whether that’s infrastructure power plants to government websites to things like banking institutions. They’ve proven that they can intrude into those systems before. And so the fear, then, is that if they were to launch an attack, would they be able to do something like hit the power grid, hit things like dams or power plants, and just take them offline.”²
It’s such a serious threat that Harvard Business Review claims, “Conflict in Ukraine presents perhaps the most acute cyber risk U.S. and western corporations have ever faced.”³
It doesn’t start and end with Russia. North Korea and China have proven they know how to battle via cyberwarfare.
For example, North Korea refers to its cyber operations as its “all-purpose sword.”⁴
In recent months, we’ve seen cybercriminals attacking banks, health services, government websites, and cryptocurrency exchanges.
They have employed a variety of tactics to steal money, data, and personal information.
They utilize social media to perform acts of espionage and promote disinformation campaigns.
While most cybersecurity threats will be aimed at large-scale U.S. infrastructures (businesses, banks, government websites), consumers and small businesses are still at risk.
Even without the ongoing crisis in Europe, cybercrime has been growing at tremendous rates, putting everyone in danger of having their personal information stolen or worse.
That’s why it is important to put these 20 cybersecurity tips to use.
#1 Use Strong Passwords
This is one of the cybersecurity tips we can’t stress enough: use strong passwords! Don’t use 12345 or your name and birthday. Instead, use a password that combines letters, numbers, and symbols.
#2 Use Multi-Factor Authentication
According to CISA Director Jen Easterly, multi-factor authentication makes you 99% less likely to get hacked.⁵
This is because multi-factor authentication requires additional proof of I.D. rather than just a password.
It makes passwords useless to hackers because it requires the user to use two different types of authentication to gain access, such as a password and a one-time verification code (sent via text message) for secure websites.
This means your device or account cannot be accessed without both the user’s password and cell phone.
#3 Perform Regular Updates
While you may get tired of receiving notifications that your device needs another update, these updates include the newest protection against cybersecurity risks.
#4 Only Use Secure Websites
Have you ever gone down the internet rabbit hole? You know, you click on one website, and another headline or sale promotion captures your attention. You click and click, and, before you know it, you’re on a site you’ve never heard of before.
While this is fun, it isn’t always safe.
Stick to the sites you know and can trust, such as those with a URL that includes “s” (https) for security.
You should also look for the padlock icon to appear to the left of the website address, which shows you this is a secure online retailer.
#5 Be Careful What You Click
Another important cybersecurity tip is to watch what you click. We’ve all been told this over and over again, and cybercriminals still use links and downloads because we still fall for them.
Phishing scams happen when criminals impersonate a legitimate organization and send links or ask you to verify personal info. Be careful clicking on a link sent to you through text message, email, or direct social media messages.
#6 Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Many of us are on the internet when we are in public. This makes you a target because, more often than not, you’re using unsecured public networks.
Instead, use a VPN when you need Wi-Fi in public.
A VPN encrypts all of a device’s internet traffic, and routes it through an intermediary server in a location of your choosing.
According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, “Anyone who happens to intercept internet traffic between the smartphone or laptop and the VPN server won’t be able to decipher its contents, including Wi-Fi hackers.”⁶
#7 Stick to Privacy-Focused Apps
Take privacy a step further and take advantage of the many privacy-focused apps and browsers available. These apps, such as ProtonMail and DuckDuckGo, protect your personal information from being captured.
#8 Passcode Lock Your Phone
You absolutely need to use a passcode to lock your phone, whether this is a numeric passcode or pattern passcode.
Some phones allow facial recognition, but security experts don’t recommend using it to lock your phone.
Michael Goode, a cybersecurity expert, explains, “Somebody could literally take a picture of you and then put that by your phone and it will unlock.”⁷
#9 Use Antivirus Solutions
Install antivirus programs on your devices if you haven’t already. Antivirus programs protect your devices from viruses and malware. Plus, they configure software with new updates automatically.
#10 Never Give Out Personal Information
If you receive an email, text message, direct message, or a pop-up that asks for personal information, verify it first. If a business, company, or bank already has your information, they should not ask for it again – especially not through cyberspace.
#11 Don’t Store Usernames and Passwords
It is convenient to store your usernames and passwords at your favorite online sites and retailers. But this isn’t a safe practice.
If your device is lost or stolen, a criminal would be able to access all of your accounts.
#12 Only Download Software or Apps from Safe Sites
Another cybersecurity tip is to only download software from safe sites.
According to Identity Force, “Cybercriminals create ‘spoof’ apps to trick people into downloading malware or spyware onto their device. Only use official apps from Google Play or the App Store.”⁸
#13 Avoid Public Charging Stations
One of the more disappointing cybersecurity tips is to avoid public charging stations.
More and more public charging stations are popping up at airports, malls, and business centers. Unfortunately, they are targeted by cybercriminals.
Identity Force explains, “Hackers have been known to set up fake charging stations in scams known as ‘juice jacking.’ After you plug in, they can access your phone’s data or install malware on the device.”⁹
#14 Don’t Reuse the Same Password
It’s convenient to come up with a strong password and reuse it across multiple accounts.
But, it makes you vulnerable to hackers.
According to SpyCloud, “Across 1.5 billion credentials from 854 breaches, 106 million users had 2 or more passwords recovered during 2020. Of these, 60% reused at least one password across more than one account.”¹⁰
#15 Log Off
When you finish your online banking or shopping, log off. Don’t stay logged in to sites that hold personal information.
#16 Know the Signs When Your Social Media Has Been Compromised
According to the FTC, here are the signs your social media account has been hacked:
- Your social media account has posts you didn’t make.
- You can’t log in to your social media account.
- Your Sent folder has messages you didn’t send or has been emptied.
- Friends and family are getting emails or messages you didn’t send, sometimes with random links or fake pleas for help or money.¹¹
#17 Use Privacy Controls on Social Media
Make use of privacy controls on social media platforms. This makes it harder for cybercriminals who have created fake profiles to interact with you.
#18 Don’t Accept Random Friend Requests
One of the cybersecurity tips that needs repeating is not to accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
The National Security Agency explains, “Adversaries may create duplicate or copycat profiles of current friends, family, or coworkers to get critical information. Fake or impersonated accounts can expose you to fraud. Targeted spear-phishing, where adversaries query you for privileged information, can reveal personal information.”¹²
#19 Recognize Social Engineering Tactics
Cybercriminals continue to get smarter and have found easy ways to get the information they want.
According to the National Security Agency, “The weakest link in any cyber defense is always going to be the user, and the easiest way to get confidential information from someone is to ask for it. This is especially prevalent on social media. Be aware of surveys, shared posts, or quizzes that ask for personal information that could lead to an answer for a security question. For example, a seemingly innocuous post may state: ‘Everyone remembers their first concert! Share yours in the comments below!’ Since this is a common security question, an adversary can use posts like these to collect answers for future malicious attempts.”¹³
#20 Monitor Your Accounts
While monitoring your accounts won’t prevent online fraud or cybercrimes from happening, it will help you take steps to alleviate issues before they grow too big.
For example, you can alert your bank of online fraud issues or use social media Help Desks about a possible hacking.
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