- Sending an email.
- Making an online banking transaction.
- Posting a photo on Instagram or location on Facebook/Twitter.
Throughout the day, we use a lot of connected devices.
From our phones to our computers, these digital tools are pretty much central to our lives.
Unfortunately, along with the increasing use of connected devices comes a greater threat of a cybersecurity breach.
Every day, people get their identities, credit card info, etc. stolen from online hackers.
In fact, there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds, affecting one in three Americans each year.
You may shrug it off, rationalizing that it’s easy to cancel charges on a credit card and order a new card.
But, if an average Joe with some computer skills can access your banking info, imagine what other hackers—who desire to cause major cybersecurity attacks that strike the masses all at once—are capable of.
Read on to learn three tips on how to keep your own information safe from cybersecurity threats…
#1: Don’t give out personal info online.
In an era where we share so much of ourselves online—our vacation memories, baby photos, life plans, you name it—we’re increasingly vulnerable to identity theft.
If you’re going to share, be a selective sharer. Don’t give out too much identity information, particularly info that can be used to impersonate you or guess your passwords or logins.
Also, it’s good to avoid sharing with people where you are located in real time. Chrissy Metz, one of the stars of This Is Us, learned that this week. She posted on social media that she was out of town and going to be on the Tonight Show. Her home was burglarized while she made her appearance. Similar thefts occurred to singer Rihanna and baseball player Yasiel Puig as it was well known they were traveling.
These thefts make the news headlines.
Thefts, under similar circumstances, to thousands of Americans each year never make the news.
#2: Don’t talk to people you don’t know online.
As the proverbial childhood saying goes, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Now, the saying may be a bit extreme when it comes to daily life—but in the virtual world, connecting and sharing information with people that you don’t know and trust in person is always going to be a risk.
Adapt your privacy settings on your social media accounts so that only friends can see what you share, and verify the identities of anyone else that you send private information to.
#3: Keep important documents on an external hard drive.
From tax documents to digital copies of birth certificates and passports, there are certain documents that are too risky to store on your computer. Rather than keeping them in a file on your desktop, be sure to place them on an external hard drive that you lock in a safe at home. You can pick one up at your local store or online for a reasonable price.
#4: Keep your devices updated.
Aside from taking better photos on your phone or accessing web pages at a fraction of a second faster than before—there’s value in keeping your software devices up-to-date. Updated devices are more resistant to bugs and hackers because software engineers and developers often add additional security stopgaps into device and system improvements. The likelihood of your device being compromised decreases if you keep it up-to-date.
The Larger Cybersecurity Threat
Now, protecting your identity from cyberattacks is one thing. But there are bigger threats out there—threats to our national cybersecurity.
Because the United States is increasingly dependent on the electronic flow of information, it’s more vulnerable to cyberwarfare. At the moment, only 38% of global organizations claim they are prepared to handle a sophisticated cyberattack.
And according to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, our country’s public and private sectors are increasingly at risk, and we should expect cyberattacks from both nation-state and nonstate actors. When it comes to nation-states, Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are at the top of the list and have already attempted to deploy attacks. That said, we’ve seen the impact of cyberattacks on other countries and can learn from these examples.
For instance, in 2015, Ukraine experienced a cyberattack that affected one of the country’s energy grids. The attack knocked out power for 225,000 Ukrainian citizens. A year later, the country experienced an even more sophisticated attack, resulting in a blackout—and call centers were so jammed that citizens couldn’t even find out what had happened to their power supply. Both attacks are said to have been linked to Russian security services. As smart power stations and infrastructure become more connected, they also become more of a target for hackers.
This is concerning because these systems affect a lot of our infrastructure, including our bank accounts, 401(k)s and cash management accounts, drinking water, electrical plants, gasoline pipelines, and dams. According to cybersecurity expert Robert M. Lee, our enemies are “learning a lot about our industrial systems, not just from a computer technology standpoint but from an industrial engineering standpoint, thinking about how to disrupt or maybe even destroy equipment.”
“If we don’t design these systems with security, then we are heading for a major, major problem,” says Kevin Jones, a cybersecurity architect at Airbus.
It goes without saying that you’ll want to stay safe in the event a large-scale hacking attack occurs. Therefore, keep the following three tips in mind in preparation for an instance of a national cybersecurity breach...
#1: Keep cash in safes at home in case you can’t access banks.
In the case that bank infrastructure is compromised and ATM networks fail, you’ll want to have a backup supply of cash or precious metals stored in a safe at home—as well as paper documents to prove what you legally own.
For example, keep...
- Up-to-date printouts of your checking, savings, and credit card account transaction information.
- Hard copies of your most recent credit report.
- Scans or equivalent documents on a password-protected, encrypted thumb drive.
This may sound like more work than you expected, but these tips are simply smart preparation guidelines.
#2: Install a generator or solar power source in case power gets shut off.
The fact is, more and more of our country’s infrastructure is becoming digitally operated. Although the electric grid and most infrastructure is built for reliability and safety, it’s always good to take extra precautions. As we’ve seen with the power outages resulting from cyberattacks in Ukraine, these things can and will happen.
Installing a backup generator or solar power source at home will come in handy, especially considering that it's never certain how long it will take to restore power to homes after an attack. You can either install a permanent generator or opt to purchase a cheaper portable generator to power appliances such as refrigerators, furnaces, hot water heaters, lamps, TVs, and computers.
#3: Create a food and water supply at home so you and your family can eat and drink.
Whether a hacker attack inhibits your ability to access your money or leads to a power outage, it’s important to have enough food and fresh water stored at home.
In case of emergency situations, FEMA recommends keeping enough food to last your family two weeks. Keep in mind, FEMA isn’t always the most reliable source of aid. For that reason, we recommend you have at least three months worth of food and water filtration standing by so you’re extraprepared.
These are worst-case scenarios...but real potential occurrences in the digital age. Becoming educated, staying alert, and taking precautionary measures will be key in protecting yourself from small- and large-scale cybersecurity breaches.
Have a great weekend. Be sure to vote! And stay alert, friends!
Grant Miller, My Patriot Supply