January 1st presents the perfect opportunity to build new routines and new habits. Whether your New Year’s resolutions include health-related goals, lifestyle changes, or other commitments, there’s one area we all should focus on in 2018: cybersecurity and the protection of our online information.
Why? In 2017, 143 million Americans had their data compromised in the Equifax breach. Yahoo upped its estimate on email accounts hacked over the past four years to every single user — three billion in all. Ransomware wreaked havoc on national health systems, international governments, and global corporations alike. In the opinion of many security experts, 2018 has to be better, if for no other reason than 2017 was so bad.
What will be different in the New Year?
First and foremost, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation goes into effect in May, creating a powerful new global framework for data management, data breach response, and data security paired with digital privacy. But the attention surrounding cybersecurity in 2017 also drastically increased awareness of how critical it is for individuals and businesses to protect themselves in today’s new cyberthreat landscape. That is definitely a good thing.
To commemorate the New Year and get off on the right cybersecurity foot, CMIT Solutions compiled the following list of necessary precautions and proactive strategies to take. Consider it an essential resolution list if you want to protect your data, your online privacy, and your business.
1. Start with strong passwords.
If there’s one resolution you should put into action right away, consider it this one. In this digital day and age, passwords are paramount — for email accounts, social media profiles, smartphones, desktops, laptops, and more. All passwords should contain random strings of characters, not a word, phrase, name, or birthday, and most sites now require a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. NEVER use the word “password” in your password, never leave it written down under your keyboard, and don’t use the same password for multiple logins.
2. Sign up for two-factor authentication when you can.
This requires something you know (your password) with something you have (a unique code sent via text message, email, or phone call). Think of it like the DMV or other government office, where you have to present two forms of identification to prove who you are. Two-factor authentication (often abbreviated as 2FA) can help to prevent account hacks and other compromises, as well; if you receive a bunch of verification code alerts you didn’t request, you may need to change your password or enhance the security of you account with the help of a trusted IT provider.
3. Lock your computer when you walk away from it.
This action seems simple, but it’s often the most overlooked — and mostly because people don’t want to bother entering their password multiple times per day. But setting your computer to go to sleep after a certain amount of time or automatically log out when the screen turns off can add another level of security. In many regulated industries like finance and health care, this might be a requirement, too. Keyboard shortcuts to lock your computer are easy to remember: Windows + L key on PCs and Control + Shift + Power on Macs.
4. Verify EVERY link before you click on it.
Before you click ANY link in an email, on a website, or from another source, place your mouse over the link without clicking it to display the text of the web address where it will take you. Spammers, phishers, and other cybercriminals will often make the display text of a link appear innocuous when in fact one click will redirect you to a malicious website that could install malware on your computer or encrypt all your files via a ransomware attack. All it takes is that one wrong click to spell disaster for your computer, your data, and possibly even your co-workers and all the systems of your business.
5. Watch out for other telltale signs of scams, breaches, and cyberattacks.
These include domain names that at first glance appear legitimate but in fact are suspicious (email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org); misspellings, grammatical mistakes, or odd phrasings in the body of an email; unexpected attachments like ZIP files, PDFs, or MP3 files; or invitations to edit Google Docs or Sheets from users you don’t recognize. DO NOT click on ANY links or open ANY attachments from emails that look even the least bit suspicious. In addition, watch out for fake tech support calls, bogus shipping or IRS notices, and “scareware,” or pop-up ads that indicate your computer is infected and needs immediate attention.
6. Put proactive security solutions to work for you.
There’s no better time than the New Year to change course and go on the offense against cybercrime instead of constantly playing defense against increasingly sophisticated attacks. Managed IT solutions like those offered by CMIT Solutions rely on automatic software updates and security patches to protect systems, all while deploying multi-layered defenses that monitor cybersecurity trends, analyze Internet traffic, and stay a step ahead of scammers.
7. Back up your data!
Ransomware, data breaches, natural disasters, and cyberattacks can wreak havoc on your business. But if your data is backed up remotely, regularly, and redundantly, you can bounce back from the most devastating of catastrophes. At CMIT Solutions, we back up our clients’ data with multiple copies of files in multiple locations: on-site, off-site, on hard drives, in the cloud… More backups made more often might seem redundant, but when disaster strikes, it’s good to know your data can be recovered, lifting your business back on its feet to survive and thrive.
No matter what’s on your New Year’s resolution list, cybersecurity is critical in 2018. Not sure what steps to take first? Confused about which IT strategy is most imperative? Contact CMIT Solutions today. We worry about technology, 24 x 7 x 365, so you don’t have to, giving your business the competitive edge it deserves.