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Top Ways to Protect your Device

Top Ways to Protect your Devices

Technology is one of the best things that has happened to us. It has changed how we live our lives
and how we run our businesses. Nonetheless, despite its enormous benefits, the advancement in
technology has also revealed one of the world’s biggest evils; cyberthreats.
2020 has seen a drastic increase in the number of cyber threats, with more attacks targeting mobile
devices. This means that today, having a good antivirus and firewall on your laptop isn’t enough. You
need to start worrying about your mobile device as well.
Surprisingly, most people don’t understand the risks their devices are exposed to each time they use
them without a protection setup. And this goes for small businesses and startups as well.
With cyber attackers developing smarter ways to compromise and steal your data – this is a risk
anybody should avoid. Here’s a look at some of the top threats to watch out for in 2020.

Malware and Ransomware Attacks

Whether you’re new to computer devices or you’re an expert, malware is one of the biggest threats
you face every day. It’s the one threat you can be sure won’t miss in any cybersecurity news. Only recently, Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, UK, claims he was hacked, and the hacker sent out malicious emails to his contacts. That’s how powerful Malware is.

How it works

Malware simply means ‘malicious software.’ It’s one of the oldest tricks in a hacker’s book that has
rapidly evolved, making it quite hard to detect and delete. It occurs in many types, including a virus,
worm, adware, spyware, or a trojan horse.
The malware can be loaded onto your device by clicking on a link to a malicious site, opening a
suspicious link on an email, or downloading content from malicious sites. Once it’s in your device, it
can delete critical files in your system, install other harmful software, or steal most of your sensitive
data.
It can also completely lock you out of your system and ask you to pay a ransom to regain access. This
is called ransomware. Over the past quarter of the year, ransomware attacks have been more
common with large organizations and government departments. However, this doesn’t mean that
your devices and those of your small business are safe either.
A recent example is the case of the University of Maastricht, who had to pay a bitcoin ransom worth
$220,000 after their system was hacked.
Although these attacks have reportedly declined over the past year, hackers and cyber attackers
have been modifying their attacks. They are now taking advantage of the blockchain and
cryptocurrency technology to request big ransom payouts after an attack.
In fact, it’s estimated that nearly $75 billion is lost each year owing to these attacks.

Phishing attacks

Phishing is the oldest cybersecurity threat employed by most hackers. It’s also the easiest attack to
spot and avoid. But with hackers scheming new phishing methods by the day, you need to be aware
that it’s still a huge threat.
In 2020, phishing attacks now rely on social engineering to trick users into giving up their personal
details. A successful phishing attack can also steal your login credentials and credit card details.

How it works.

The most popular phishing attack method has been through malicious emails. The attacker sends
you an email with a malicious attachment. Once you open the attachment, spyware or trojan horses
are downloaded to your device and start collecting your data.

Another popular method is by sending you a link to a malicious site via email. The unsecured website
then asks for your sensitive information. For businesses, the attackers can also disguise themselves
as colleagues and request for company details from unsuspecting employees.
More recently, attackers have been working on smishing, which refers to phishing via text messages.
This way, they send malicious links to users via their text messages. The magnitude of phishing
attacks in 2020 is surprisingly high, with a new study showing 18 million COVID-themed malware
created every day.
You, therefore, need to be well-prepared to stay secure.

AI-Enhanced threats and Machine Learning poisoning


The incorporation of Artificial Intelligence in the cybersecurity industry has proven to be a
gamechanger. It’s capabilities to transform nearly every sector makes it an invaluable tool for users
and businesses.
Nonetheless, AI is also a powerful tool in the hands of a cybercriminal. Due to its potent nature,
hackers are now using AI to develop intricate malware and ransomware, which might well be the
future of cyberattacks. With just a few lines of code, AI attacks can take out multiple systems and
devices.
The development of Machine Learning (ML) also possesses the same risk if a hacker gets access to it.
They can use ML to create backdoors into your systems and introduce malware like trojans to
manipulate and compromise your devices.

Internet of Things attacks (IoT)

As with AI and ML, the power of interconnectedness of devices is both a blessing and a curse. The
internet of Things promises more convenience and reliability for smart devices. However, it creates a
massive opportunity for hackers to exploit the vulnerabilities of this developing technology.
With research from Statista estimating that 75 billion devices will be connected to IoT by 2025, IoT
attacks can only be predicted to rise higher.

Crypto-jacking

We also can’t overlook the risk of crypto-jacking. Despite cryptocurrencies being anonymous
currencies, attackers have found ways to improve their mining powers by hijacking user computers.
This is because mining cryptocurrencies like Bitcoins require heavy CPU processing power.

Therefore, an attacker can tap into your computer and use its resources to mine crypto. And while
this may seem harmless, it drains out your computer resources and slows down your operations.
You may also incur massive costs trying to resolve the issue.

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More Cyber-threats

The above threats are just but a few of the many risks you should be aware of in 2020. Other serious
risks you should always be on the watch for include: Cloud vulnerabilities, insider cyber threats, Data
leakage, Deep fakes, Remote worker end-point security, SQL injections, and Zero-day exploits.
Additionally, keep in mind that these threats keep changing by the day, as the attackers get smarter.
It’s, therefore, time for you to start taking your mobile and computer security seriously.

The best security tools to protect your devices from these cyber risks

Image from Pixabay.com

Now that you’ve decided to work on your device security, there are a couple of things you need to
know. One, investing in security tools is a great way to protect your devices and your sensitive data,
but it’s of no use if you don’t know the basic security and privacy measures. Therefore, before
running to get a security tool, take some time to learn the basic security steps for your devices.

That said, here are the best security tools in the market to protect your devices.

  1. An antivirus
    If there’s one tool you shouldn’t miss on your devices, it’s an antivirus. Regardless of what any
    ‘expert’ tells you, your antivirus has never been more important. With the rising numbers of
    malware and ransomware, an antivirus will detect these malicious codes and get rid of them.
    However, this isn’t to say that antivirus is all you need to stay safe online. Many attackers have
    adopted a few tricks that disguise their malware from being detected by most antivirus scanners.
    Therefore, while it’s still a crucial security tool in 2020, you need more tools to protect yourself.
    Additionally, some antivirus software is more efficient than others – meaning that you can’t opt for
    just any antivirus.
    Read online reviews for different antivirus software and ask for antivirus recommendations from
    friends and family. The information you have before purchasing the software, the better.
  2. OS and apps updates
    Updating your operating system’s software should always be at the top of your list – even if you
    don’t run a business. Those annoying update notifications from the developers are, more often than
    not, the silver bullets you need against hackers.
    This is because most of these updates contain security patches to the security vulnerabilities
    exposed by the system. If not fixed quickly, these vulnerabilities easily become a hacker’s gateway to
    your devices.
    The longer you use an outdated OS, the easier a target you become. This applies to all the apps you
    download as well. You need to ensure that every software on your device is up-to-date.
    If you run a business, then you’ll also have to educate your employees on the importance of
    updating their devices. If not, their vulnerabilities could be used as the leeway into your business’
    system.
  3. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
    Nobody can resist the urge to save your data plan and use free wi-fi instead. It’s cheaper and more
    convenient. However, unsecured public wi-fi is not always the roses they set out to be. In most
    cases, they provide hackers with easy targets to carry out their phishing scams.
    Public wi-fi on airports, restaurants, and malls are generally not the safest. You should, therefore, be
    more cautious when using such networks. If you desperately need to use public wi-fi, then limit your
    browsing to light website searches.

Another good alternative is to use a VPN. A virtual private network tunnels all your data traffic
through an encrypted channel, making it hard for third-parties to intercept your data. It also hides
your IP address, giving you the privacy you need when browsing the internet.
But you need to be very careful when choosing one because they’re not all the same. Some have
invested in speeds but compromise on your security, while others leak your data.
If you are new to the VPN world, first read a guide to what VPNs do before making the decision.
Furthermore, avoid free VPNs. While they may promise you good privacy, most of them don’t
deliver. Instead, opt for free trials and use them to determine the quality of a VPN.
As a rule, don’t enter any passwords or credit card details over an unsecured wi-fi. The network
could be easily spoofed, and your private keys stolen. If you must, use a reliable VPN.

  1. Password management apps
    Repeating your passwords is the biggest mistake you can make. Once the password is deciphered,
    you’ll lose most, if not all, of your data. Craft new passwords for all your different accounts and don’t
    jot them down on paper.
    Instead, make use of the numerous password manager apps on the market. A password manager
    not only stores your passwords but also helps you come up with strong passwords. Since most of
    these apps use robust encryption systems, you can be sure that your passwords will remain safe.
    You also need to change your passwords regularly.
  2. Mobile management tools
    You’ll never know when you’ll lose your phone or laptop. As such, you need to be prepared with the
    right tools for when that happens. There are numerous management tools that can help you locate
    the device or manipulate it in case it’s lost.
    For instance, Android’s Find my Device, and iPhone’s My iPhone can come in handy in such a
    circumstance. With such apps, you can ring your phone if temporarily lost, you can see its location
    on a map, and even erase all data while at it.
    This is an excellent tool to protect any sensitive data you may have on your phone.
    For small businesses, you can make use of several premium mobile management software that
    offers more than just remote wiping and location.
  3. Data Backup tools
    There are numerous ways you can lose sensitive data on your devices. You can lose it to ransomware
    or malware, when doing a software update, or even accidentally deleting them.

Whichever way this happens, having a data back-up can help you get back on your feet quickly.
Moreover, in a time when businesses are losing billions to cyber-attacks and ransomware, back-up
saves you a lot of cybersecurity money.
However, the back-up needs to be on a separate location from your business – preferably cloud
storage. This way, regardless of what happens to your devices, you can still retrieve the data. Do this
regularly to save up more files and data.

  1. Encryption software
    Although cyber attackers mainly attack you over the internet, they can also conduct physical attacks.
    This involves having your devices on hand to install malware or delete important information. This
    can also be an insider threat, where one of your employees accesses your devices and manipulates
    the data.
    To avoid this, invest in good encryption software for your devices. This tool encrypts your hard disks,
    ensuring that even when the hacker has physical access to your device, they still can’t access your
    data. The apps work perfectly both on the phone and computers.
    Furthermore, you should also consider reducing the idle screen timer to a few minutes to ensure
    that your screen is locked when you’re not using it. On phones, ensure that you use at least one
    security tool to lock your phone – this could be a Pin, Pattern, or password.
    Moreover, as when setting passwords, avoid setting screen locks like a ‘1234‘pin and ‘abcde’
    password. Use complex screen locks that can’t be guessed by malicious people.
  2. Use 2FA (Two-factor authentication)
    Two-factor authentication tools are not the most popular security tools among most people.
    However, they are one of the best security tools you can have. With these tools, you add an extra
    security layer to your devices.
    So, if you use a password to unlock the device, you’ll now require the password and a fingerprint,
    SMS code, or email pin. This second security layer means that even when a hacker decodes your
    password, they might not be able to unlock your devices.
    Most 2FA tools, however, use text messages and phone calls to verify identity. They’re faster and
    more convenient for everyone.
  3. App permission settings
    When installing any app, you need to be keen on the permissions it’s requesting. Ensure that an app
    has access to only the apps it requires to operate. This is the easiest way to keep a hacker’s effort at
    bay.

Part of this also means that you don’t install apps from untrusted sources. Most hackers hide their
malware in such apps, and by installing them, they find a gateway to stealing your data. If you really
need an app from an independent source, then do your due diligence and find out its source.
If it portrays any malicious signs, then get rid of it immediately!

  1. Use an Adblocker
    By now, you probably know that you can easily be a phishing victim by merely clicking on an ad.
    Some hackers use adware to lure you into malicious sites then use the information you provide to
    steal your identity.
    So, why not get rid of the advertisements altogether?
    Adblockers block most ads from your phone and pc, ensuring that you don’t have to deal with these
    malicious viruses. The best thing about them is that most of them are free and can be found as an
    extension to your browser.
    Moreover, some VPNs and antiviruses also offer free adblockers as part of their premium packages.
    So, check your antivirus to know if it offers this service.

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Final thoughts

The cybersecurity industry is drastically changing. Hackers and cybercriminals are continually
improving their techniques and developing more sophisticated malware to inject our devices.
You, therefore, need to stay on top of your security, if you want to preserve your data and sensitive
information. The faster you can implement these tips; the more secure your devices will be!

Emmanuel
the authorEmmanuel

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