Top tips to feeling safer online
Software developer BBD advises how to maximise your security from home to the office, so that you can browse freely, without concern.
With more than half of the population connected to the Internet, we have become an interconnected world. While this has had many positives, the underlying threat of cybercrime is becoming ever more prevalent.
With the recent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on Internet Service Providers (ISPs), municipalities and leading corporates, it seems that scams, malware and hacking are everywhere. The Internet you have grown to love and constantly use can quickly become a perturbing nightmare. This, coupled with the smart device boom, from smartphones to smart fridges, makes it seem as if all your devices and even your appliances are at constant risk.
BBD has been at the forefront of custom software development for the past 35 years. From complex ecosystems to a single line of code, we have done it all. With this, we have honed our security skills to ensure that what we deliver is a stress-free transition.
“At BBD, we take security seriously. When working with complex software, it is imperative to ensure that your security is top-notch and always up to date,” says Nicholas van der Schyff, BBD’s systems administrator and security expert.
He says security breaches often start with malware from a suspicious site being embedded on your device and then being brought into the workspace.
Here are some top tips on how you can maximise your security from home to the office, so that you can browse freely, without concern:
1. Passphrases are the new password
Gone are the days of your trusty ‘one size fits all’ passwords. Hackers’ techniques are becoming more sophisticated as time goes on, and that trusty password filled with numbers and symbols isn’t as safe as it once was.
“Creating a passphrase exponentially strengthens your security. When hackers try to get into your account, their first line of assault will come in the form of a brute force attack. In simplistic terms, a brute force attack starts at the letter A and builds up. Each letter or number added makes it significantly harder and more time-consuming to crack,” Van der Schyff explains.
However, we are all human, and remembering multiple passphrases can be a mission in itself. Van der Schyff suggests getting a password manager to help store all your passwords and to generate a new one every time you require logging in. Just make sure that the passphrase protecting the app is state-of-the-art.
“An alternative to this is to check if your online accounts offer multi-factor authentication (MFA),” he says. “This will require multiple pieces of information, such as your password and perhaps a one-time pin sent to your phone.”
2. Invest in a reliable Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Now that your logins are protected, make sure that your connections are secure. “We all fall victim to the enticing public WiFi in shopping centres or at the airport. I mean, it’s free WiFi!” Van der Schyff jokes. But in all seriousness, often the WiFi is unprotected and can be used as an easy route to gain access to your device or information. A VPN creates a secure tunnel from you to the site you are trying to access, eliminating the possibility of outsiders peering in.
3. Use antivirus and firewall
This one should be a no-brainer, but is often overlooked or outdated. “Your antivirus should always be up to date. If not, get to it!” Van der Schyff warns. “This is because the update usually includes patches to holes that were found in the previous version. Hackers can use these known weaknesses to allow their malware to go undetected.”
Your network's firewall is used as an electronic barrier to block unauthorised access to your devices. “Many Internet of Things (IOT) devices, such as smart fridges or smart TVs, aren’t equipped with security measures, giving hackers a vulnerable point of entry to your entire network.”
Interestingly, Van der Schyff explains that your firewall will be the acting barrier between you and getting hacked. So, make sure it is on.
4. Buying smart? Click smart
We know, we know. We all want to be that 1 000 person on the site who has just won a million bucks! Unfortunately, the odds of this happening are less than desired.
“Careless clicking can lead to phishing or social engineering,” says Van der Schyff. This is when you are tricked into giving sensitive information for ulterior, illegal purposes. “Spam e-mails, suspicious 'free' offers, clickbait, money-paying questionnaires and more are all used as tactics to entice you to click on dangerous links that can lead down a dubious road. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”
5. Be wary about what you share online
From Facebook to your own personal blog, the Internet is filled with countless opportunities to share personal information. Usually, hackers do not bother with the average user and do not go past brute force attacks.
“Hackers often use social media as a means to target C-level personnel. If they are aware that you might have access to company funds, they will often direct attacks to you.”
Similarly, your information can be used to impersonate you or guess your passwords and logins. Be sure to tighten your social media accounts in the app itself, to limit the information outsiders can see.
7. Don’t forget about mobile safety
An overlooked security point of entry could be your very own mobile device. These devices face regular threats, such as risky apps and dangerous links sent via text message. “A simple method is to always double-check the sender, look for spelling mistakes in the URL and don’t respond to messages from strangers,” says Van der Schyff.
Rather download from your phone’s official app store, as opposed to downloading offline. “This is because your phone’s app store has built-in security to pick up suspicious apps, whereas online has no restrictions.”
On top of this, ensure that your device has updated security software installed to spot anything that might be out of place.
8. The ultimate security trick
The truth, says Van der Schyff, is that “no single layer of security will protect you. The trick is to start building your security layers, and over time, it will be able to negate those pesky hackers.” Simply start with securing your password and build from there.