As more people store and access their confidential information online and in the cloud, the risk of cyber-attack is increasing. Ransomware attacks, wherein a person or organization has their data stolen by hackers who promptly demand financial compensation for its return, have increased globally by over 500% since the start of 2020. This is a trend that most analysts expect to only continue as we increasingly seek business and leisure through online platforms. Fortunately, there are a variety of simple measures that can be used to substantially improve the security of both home and work systems. We take a look below at the most broadly applicable and holistic cybersecurity measures available today that can be used by anyone.
Multi-factor authentication processes are becoming increasingly common across all major technology services and platforms. This is due to the fact that they are reliable, easy to set up and very difficult to override. By using multiple sources of information to verify the identity of a user, frequently including biometric information sourced from fingerprint scanners, or Apple’s infrared dot projection facial recognition technology, services can ensure a repeatable baseline of security for their users. Institutions that require robust anti-fraud protocols often use a physical piece of hardware that generates a random number pin for one time logins. One of the most popular devices of this nature is the RSA SecurID token, in use by organizations such as PokerStars, Penn State University and the American Bank Wells Fargo.
This type of multi-factor security is extremely difficult to falsify, and is considered the industry standard for secure logins. There are many ways you can implement this type of security protocol into your home system. Most of the services you regularly use will feature an option to enable multi-factor logins in their settings. This will most frequently take the form of the service sending you a unique 6 digit code to a registered email address or phone number that you must confirm receipt of, in order to gain entry. Logging in using two different sources prevents a person, or a piece of malicious software, from accessing your confidential information without the possession of both information factors. This makes it an extremely robust, yet simple, security measure.
Many people now know that the most effective defense against cyber-attack is a strong password. This is due to the fact that hackers use algorithms that rapidly run through a sequence of the most commonly used passwords, relying on the fact that most people prefer a password they can easily remember to one that is appropriately secure. Cyber security organization Nord published the results of their findings in collaboration with a data analytics firm in 2020 as to the identity of the most commonly used passwords on the internet. Topping out the list were, unsurprisingly, examples like “123456”, “qwerty” and “password1”. Nord stated that their sophisticated cracking software was able to breach each of these passwords in less than 1 second.
In order for a password to be considered strong it typically requires a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Furthermore, the longer the password is, the greater the number of potential combinations it consists of. A password made of 6 numbers has 720 possible combinations. While this may sound like a lot, a longer password with 12 numbers boasts a staggering 479,001,600 possible combinations. While it is clear that a strong password is a good idea, the question remains of how to memorize and store such complicated sequences. This is where password vaults like LastPass or Apple’s iCloud keychain come into play. These software tools collate all your passwords into one encrypted folder and dispense with the risk of your password information being recorded by keyloggers or malware on public networks. They also have the added bonus of generating strong passwords for you to use, so you can be sure that your password security is at an optimum.