Would you like to know how to protect yourself from the ever-present threat of cybercrime perpetrated by black hat hackers?
Yes, there are bad and good hackers.
Their main aim is to exploit your “mistakes and vulnerabilities” to blackmail you into sending them money or they’ll leak your private data.
If your data and online privacy are important to you, and it should be whether you use the internet for social media, shopping, making money online, or learning, read this article with keen interest and apply the various “hacker-resistant” strategies discussed herein.
As the title suggests, this post will teach you the various, beginner-to-advanced cybersecurity tips, hacks, and strategies that when applied, will minimize that no black hat hacker can turn you into a victim of cybercrimes such as data leaks, blackmail, bank account hacks, and the various forms of cybercrimes that have become so rampant today.
Before we outline the safety hacks, let us briefly discuss why you need to protect yourself from hackers.
How Safe Is Your Data: Why You Need To Protect Yourself From Hackers
As the internet, computers, and connected devices (smart homes, smart appliances, etc.) become a central part of our lives, so does cybercrime and cyber insecurity.
Did you know that one in every three American is the victim of cybercrime annually or that hacker attacks happen as frequently as every 39 seconds or that most of these attacks—92.4% of them to be precise—often happen via email attachments and online downloads?
Awareness is always our first defense against any threat. Now that you are aware of these worrying statistics, you can truly open yourself to the possibility that, unknowingly, you may have opened yourself to hacker attacks. After all, which of us in not guilty of downloading a bootleg book, song, movies, or TV show? Unknowingly, you may be one of the three people victimized by hackers annually.
As computers and smart devices creep into every crevice of our life, the need to protect yourself from hackers has never been greater. In fact, as technology becomes more evolutionary—think artificial intelligence and homes that can clean themselves on autopilot—your security—data or otherwise—is at risk if you do not take steps to protect yourself right now.
Now that you understand the importance of protecting yourself against hackers, let us get into the meat of this article.
Strategies, Tips, Tricks, And Hacks You Can Use To Protect Yourself Against Hackers
To make this post as actionable as possible, we are going to discuss what you can do to protect the various areas of your life and business from cyberattacks. We shall start with the most basic: personal security against cybercrimes.
NOTE: You may have noticed the use of the term black hat hackers. Black hat hackers are the bad kind. Their intent is to find technological exploits that allow them to access private and confidential data and information so that they can then use this information for personal gains—blackmailing you for money is an apt example of personal gain.
White hat hackers are the opposite of black hat hackers. White hat hackers find gainful employment in organizations and businesses that pay them to find vulnerabilities in their system and then come up with fixes so that private data remains safe. Keep that distinction in mind.
Beginner-level Cybersecurity: Hacks For Personal Protection Against Hackers
When we talk about personal protection against cybercrimes, what we actually aim to discuss is how to keep your personal data, the data on your personal computer, safe from hackers.
The kind of private information on your personal desktop computer, laptop, or smartphone/device will depend on how you use these devices. With that said, most us use our personal computers for social interactions, online purchases and banking, learning, storing private photos and documents.
Since our personal devices are buzzing with private information we would rather not share with unscrupulous people who would not hesitate to use it against us. We should do all that is in our power to keep ourselves safe from becoming hacker victims.
To keep your personal devices safe from hackers, implement the following hacks:
Powerful Antivirus Software
The most obvious thing is to use potent antivirus software. Antiviruses, especially the modern ones, are so intuitive that some of them will even recognize, in real-time, Trojans present on websites you use.
These Trojans have the ability to steal your web browser history and inputs even as they use your computing power to mine cryptocurrencies—this type of Trojans are very recent and run covertly in the background; the only thing you will note is your computer lagging.
A powerful antivirus that you update regularly is your first defense against millions of recognized Trojans and malware. A powerful and capable antivirus can guard you against intrusions. Fortunately, antivirus options are in plenty with many of them updating their Trojan and malware databases frequently.
Avoid File Downloads
As tempting as it is to download bootlegged software, books, music, movies or whatever from the pirate sites and untrusted sources on the internet, doing so makes your computer vulnerable to hacks especially when the downloaded software asks you to install or run a patch of some sort—this is especially common with bootlegged software.
Avoid downloading files from sites whose authenticity you cannot verify. Since most intrusions and vulnerabilities—personal and business related—often come from files downloads, this also means you should avoid downloading and opening email attachments sent from unknown sources.
If someone sends you an unsolicited attachment—especially the ones claiming they want your help to access funds left by X or Y heir or won in a lottery—flag that message as spam or a phishing attempt. Wikipedia defines phishing as an “attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and money), often for malicious reasons, by disguising as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.”
Other things you can do to protect yourself–on a personal level—from hackers include:
Avoid using public hotspots
Quite often, public hotspots are training grounds for black hat hackers.
When you have to use a public hotspot, make sure you use a VPN service (Virtual Private Network) so that the data sent over the network is encrypted.
Set up a master password for your browser
Because you may unknowingly download and open malware and Trojans, it helps to set up a master password for your browser.
What does a master password do? Well, it ensures that the only way to access private information stored on your computer/phone browser, information such as autocomplete information and stored passwords, is through the entry of the master password. Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Opera all have the master password option. If you are using a different browser, use Google to find tutorials on how to set up your browser’s master password.
Don’t use the same password across all your applications
Another no-brainer cybersecurity is not to use the same passwords across the board.
While this strategy seems simple, the number of people who still do it will astound you. Rather than using the same password on multiple accounts—yes, one password is easier to remember but it compromises the security of your data—use a password generator to generate a strong password.
I personally use LastPass as my preferred tool for generating random passwords and storing them.
Use “Incognito Mode”
Whenever you are using your browser to access sites that require entry of personal data such as passwords, credit card information, personal information, and the likes, get into the habit of accessing these sites in incognito mode or private browsing.
Incognito or private browsing on some browsers ensures that the browser does not store your passwords, history, cookies—cookies in the hands of black hat hackers are especially potent ways to track your online activities—and temporary internet files.
Be on the lookout for “https” encryption on the sites you visit. Try to avoid sites that lack this, now-standard encryption.
Be organized with your own data
Instead of storing sensitive documents such as bank account statements, private photographs, and other important, private, and sensitive information, documents, and data locally on your computer, invest in a secure cloud-based storage solution.
This option is especially ideal when you do not have tons of data or documents you want to store but the ones you do want to store are very important and private. Here, you simply pay for the service and have to use a password—of which you should generate a strong one—to access the information. Fortunately, we have no shortage of capable cloud storage solutions that adopt the most up to date cybersecurity technologies.
Implementing these simple yet effective hacks, tips and strategies will enhance your personal security as you use your devices and the Internet. Now that you have the basics out of the way, it is time to take your protection to the next level with advanced protection strategies.
Advanced Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Business against Cyberattacks
The strategies we shall discuss here are ones used by cybersecurity experts to ensure the safety of the systems and information they guard. Most of these strategies will revolve around very specific attacks, some of which (the attacks) are very advanced and therefore require very specific protection strategies.
How to Protect Yourself against Malware Attacks
At the most basic level, the best way to protect yourself against malware attacks is to install a potent antivirus software and keep it updated.
A malware itself is deceptive and malicious software—ransomware is a great example—meant to give a hacker access to your machine so that he or she can covertly log keystrokes and monitor your activities while at the same time using your internet connection to send this information to the hacker’s base station.
The great thing about malware attacks—great in terms of your protection—is that they are relatively easy to guard against as long as you keep one rule in mind: Do not download or install software from unknown, untrusted sources. Do not open unfamiliar attachments.
At an advanced level, you can protect yourself against malware attacks such as banking Trojans, Ransomware, and Point of Sale Trojans by installing a capable anti-spyware software, installing a firewall and using a data encryption program/software to protect your data.
Another thing you can do is ensure the safety of your hardware. Be especially mindful of data leaks from pen drives, work and personal laptops, and hard drives that may contain personal or sensitive company data or information.
How to Protect Yourself against Phishing Attacks
If you are tech savvy, you are unlikely to comply to unsolicited requests to open an email attachment or download a file from an unknown source. This is a win against hackers.
However, because hackers are also smart—black hat hackers are especially ingenious—they will come up with ingenious ways to trick you into taking some form of action that gives them access to your private data.
Phishing attacks are one of these ingenious strategies they use.
A phishing attack is an instance where a hacker will send you an email pretending to be someone else, perhaps an organization—you have probably seen email messages saying you bought an iPhone from an Apple store and that you need to click on the link attached to complete the transaction or offer shipping details.
The aim of phishing attacks is to trick you into divulging private and sensitive information such as your credit card pin.
At the most basic level, the best way to guard yourself (and your business) from phishing attacks is to become mindful of the actions you take when online. Especially avoid unsolicited actions or any actions that appear shady in any way.
At an advanced level, you can protect yourself by enhancing your online security using strategies such as two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is especially helpful because it allows you to connect your accounts to a phone number so that every time you need to access your account, you will need to input the one-time code sent to your phone. This allows you to add an extra level of security so that, if a hacker were to break through your first level of defense, the second would stop a hacker in his or her tracks.
Also be mindful of cold calls where a hacker will call impersonating a reputable firm—hackers are especially fond of saying they are from X bank (your bank) and asking you to help walk you through a security change protocol because your account has been the victim of a malicious attack.
How to Stay Safe against SQL Injection Attacks
This strategy generally touches on businesses (because it involves a server) but can also work for a personal computer that accesses a server. SQL or Structured Query Language is a computer programming language used for server communication with a database compatible with the language. SQL injection attacks target servers and databases by use of malicious code that tricks the server into leaking information it would normally protect.
When the server in question is one that stores private data and information, such a compromise can be costly to individuals as well as the business/company involved especially when the information stored on the server includes usernames and passwords or credit card numbers. I’ve encountered this type of problems mostly with recently installed systems that weren’t hardened as they were supposed to or there was no quality check performed on them.
Since SQL injection attacks normally aim to exploit SQL vulnerabilities thus allowing the server to run the malicious code, the best way to guard against such attacks is to have a qualified in-house team of trained cybersecurity professionals.
At an advanced level, you can protect against this type of attack by ensuring proper configuration of your server and code error reporting and handling protocol so that whenever the database returns an error message, the message does not appear on the accessing/client web browser.
You should also grant the least of privileges when creating accounts used to connect to the SQL database.
You can also use a Web Application Firewall (WAF) that can be appliance or software-based to filter out malicious strings of code and data. Great WAFs will give you the ability to add new rules to its already comprehensive list of default rules. WAFs—the good WAFs—can be a great security measure against new vulnerabilities you are yet to patch.
At the start of this article, I promised that you would learn how to keep yourself safe from hackers. I hope the blog lived up to this and that you went away with something. Obviously, there are many others ways to enhance your cybersecurity—so many that we cannot list them all here.
Do you have a specific strategy or hack you use to keep yourself and your business safe from hackers? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
by Edgar Vera, MS Cybersecurity