As much as we hear about the major cyberattacks against large corporations and even governments, the majority of cyberattacks are carried out against individuals. Here are five tips to help protect your home against hacking.
Use strong passwords. While substituting a dollar sign for an S, a ! for I or a # for H, these have become very common tricks. For example, "p@$$w0rd" is better than using "password" for your password, but that doesn't make it strong. Try using a mixture of letters, numbers and other characters and try to make it at least eight characters long.
One good idea is to use an actual sentence with punctuation. For example: "Mywife'sbirthdayis1December4,1983!" You get capital and lowercase letters, numbers and non-alphanumeric characters and it scores 100% on Password Meter. As an added bonus, it helps you remember your wife's birthday, if you're prone to forgetting things like that.
Having a good, strong password isn't enough though. You should make sure you have different passwords for different services. If you use the same password for everything, if it's compromised in one place it'll be compromised everywhere. Hackers know people tend to use the same password everywhere, so if your username or email address and password are stolen from one source, you can bet they'll try it in other places as well. That means if your Twitter account gets hacked, for example, your bank account might be compromised.
Many websites and services now offer two-factor authentication. A popular method for utilizing this is to send a text message with a passcode on it that you have to enter before being able to access an account. I've seen it on Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn and in my online banking. Yes, it can be a pain to have to wait for a text to come in if I'm setting up a new recipient for my online bill pay, but it only takes a few seconds and it keeps thieves from sending checks to themselves.
The great advantage to this is that it's somewhere between very difficult and impossible (for now anyway) for a criminal to intercept text messages going to your phone. Taking a minute to enable maximum security options now can save you a ton of time and money.
Most software companies issue updates regularly. While some updates add features or options to the software, they usually include security updates. Many people don't realize this, but software companies employ teams of people to try to find vulnerabilities in their product that could be exploited by hackers so they can close them up before they can be utilized. In fact, patches often fix problems that are already being used by hackers. So keep your software up to date!
And before you update it, back it up. Back your files up regularly. One of the most insidious type of malware available now is called ransomware. A hacker gains access to your computer and locks up your files, demanding that you pay a certain amount of money before they'll release the files back to you. If you have a recent backup, you can just restore it. If you don't, you're either losing your files or paying a few hundred bucks to a criminal.
Really though, backups are the best way to undo any damage done by other kinds of malware and viruses. As an added bonus, they also help in case non-security things happen to your computer.
Be careful with your email
The number one rule is this: Do not download and/or open attachments from strangers. If you see any email talking to you like they know you, but you have no idea who it is, send it to the junk folder.
In that same vein, if you receive an email from a company you recognize, such as Amazon or PayPal, they are very likely not going to send you attachments, so don't open them. Don't click their links either. If you think the email might be legit, check the "from" address. Not the name, but the actual address. If it doesn't end in that company's domain name, send it to the junk folder.
Emails like the ones described above are designed to get you to open attachments or take you to websites to infect your computer with some sort of virus or malware. Sending fraudulent email is one of the most popular and effective methods hackers employ to access your computer. Just make sure you're very aware of what you're doing with your email.
The tips above are good for helping keep you safe form a cyberattack. There is more you can do, and of course hackers are getting ever more wily, but you can do your best to not make it easy for hackers to victimize you.