As news of major data breaches seems to come on what feels like a daily basis, from Heathrow airport and the NHS to social media services, it is understandable that cybersecurity is a growing concern, not just for businesses of all sizes but for everyday internet users too. According to the Gemalto Breach Level Index, the first six months of 2018 saw 4.5 billion records compromised.
In an environment where even major international organisations are failing to prevent breaches, it is understandable to feel that it’s impossible to keep your data safe. Thankfully, most data breaches can be prevented with simple software that is affordable and readily available.
Online Security Tools – How to Keep Your Data Safe Online
If you want to keep yourself secure online, using these three essential online security tools will make sure that your data and online activity are protected, and the threat of becoming the victim of an attack is significantly reduced.
Probably the most common form of defence against data breaches and hacks is antivirus software. While human error is responsible for four out of five data breaches, antivirus software can help to identify or remove malicious software and spyware before it causes irreparable damage.
Email attachments, for example, can help to spread viruses through various phishing techniques. To minimise your risk of opening a potentially malicious attachment, be sure to choose an antivirus that includes an email scanner. An integrated scanner will monitor your emails in real time, flagging potential viruses, spyware and Trojans, and preventing you from opening dangerous files.
For many mobile users, it has become a routine to actively avoid installing updates for fear of reducing their device’s performance. This is a dangerous habit, as updates and patches across all of your devices are essential for ensuring that you are protected against new and emerging threats. Updates cost nothing, take moments to implement and can often be automated – so there’s really no excuse for not keeping your antivirus software up to date.
An increasingly popular online security tool for improving the state of your online security is a VPN service. Standing for Virtual Private Network, the tool’s main ability is to provide anonymity to your browsing sessions. This is done by allowing users to connect to the internet via secure servers located across the world.
By ‘tunnelling’ user data through their servers, VPN services are able to conceal a user’s IP address and browsing activity. This not only prevents prying eyes, but also prevents tracking by advertisers, reducing your chances of seeing targeted ads.
For extra security, VPN services also offer end-to-end encryption to ensure that even if your data was accessed, all that would be visible would be a string of unintelligible letters and numbers – keeping your bank details or passwords secure.
An important feature to make sure your VPN service includes is a kill switch. As with any online connection, there is a risk that a connection to a VPN’s servers could go down unexpectedly. If this happens, there is a possibility that your IP address and other information could be exposed, revealing your activity and putting your data at risk.
A kill switch will notice the dropped VPN connection and disconnect your internet at the same time, ensuring your data remains safe. Some services will implement this automatically, while some will have the option in the settings, but users should ensure a kill switch is in place before connecting to their service.
Despite it being common knowledge that simple passwords like ‘abc123’, ‘passw0rd’ or ‘letmein’ are easy to guess, people still use them because they are easy to remember. A 2017 survey by Splash Data shockingly revealed that the most popular password is still ‘123456’, followed by ‘password’. This demonstrates that despite the risks, many people still choose to prioritise convenience over security.
With the average business employee needing to track 191 passwords for accessing their various accounts across banking, shopping, work and personal accounts, it is understandable that using memorable passwords is more preferable than complex strings of complex letters and numbers.
The safest way to use complex, secure passwords without struggling to remember them all is a password manager. This tool will remember all of your complex passwords, and will mean you will only need to remember one – the password manager’s own password. While there are many options, both paid and free, be sure to choose an online security tool that reminds you to regularly update your passwords and will suggest new complex passwords to keep your accounts as secure as possible.
No matter your knowledge of cybersecurity or your budget, these three online security tools are essential steps towards ensuring that your online security is strong enough to keep your online activity, passwords and data protected. However, it is also important that common sense is also applied alongside software.
While these online security tools can help to protect you, careless activity, such as opening suspicious attachments, is something that security software cannot protect against. So, personal responsibility also needs to be a factor in building a multifactor security setup.