Whether you run a business or work in IT you will have undoubtedly heard of hackers. Hackers are people that will use their skills and with a big help from modern computing get access to files that they shouldn’t have access to. This causes a lot of problems which will be discussed below in detail. This post aims to teach and explain the best ways to protect yourself online and protect the business as a whole. Most of the information will also be helpful when protecting your accounts at home which can help protect valuable personal information such as emails, bank accounts and private info.
To begin I will explain exactly what a hacker is. Now contrary to the name hacker, they don’t do much conventional hacking instead they use mostly computer viruses and the computer equivalent of sleight of hand to infiltrate computer systems to get access to important accounts. Very rarely will the hacker get access unless there is a big problem with the security of your network. This can be in the form of a weak password, missing MFA or a direct attack on an unknowing employee.
To go into more detail about how you can help protect yourself and the business I will be explaining the best way to set up a password, using MFA to its full potential and explain how a VPN can be of use to remote or hybrid workers.
To start with passwords. Emails and passwords are the cornerstones of protecting any account that is made on the internet. Now most people don’t think anything of it they just simply type in their email and create a password such as the date of birth of a family member, their pet’s name or their favourite fictional character. This is how people lose access to their accounts and how people can lose important files, personal information and even money. Now it isn’t a problem with the email just the password. A weak and short password can be susceptible to something called a brute-force attack. This means that the person that is trying to access the account uses a robot on their computer that goes through a list of passwords until it reaches the correct one and gains access. They can also take a lucky guess or try and get more information out of you before getting into the account such as asking you for your favourite fictional character or finding the date of a family member’s birthday on social media.
Now you might be wondering how you can make a stronger password well it’s quite simple as there are a couple of requirements that need to be met for your password to be unbeatable. First of all, is to avoid the top 100 most common passwords of all time. The list can be accessed on the internet. If you have one of the most common passwords you will need it changed immediately as it’s likely someone is targeting your device right now. The second requirement to making an impossible password is the length of the password. For example, a password such as “pass” is only four letters long and in a brute force attack it will be tried very quickly leading to an imitated entry into your account however a password such as “refurbishcomputersystems” is a lot longer and can make it way more difficult for an attacker to gain access. By using the website https://www.passwordmonster.com/ we can see that the password “pass” takes 0 seconds to crack however “refurbishcomputersystems” takes 63 centuries which is a huge improvement and it can be better. To make the password impossible to crack you simply need to add a special character. Special character is symbols such as !, @, ; and :. You want something other than a letter. You can also add numbers and capital letters into the mix as well which increases the strength of the overall password as well. Now if we use a password such as “refurbishcomputersystems!4466@” we can create a password that takes 18 billion years to crack making it 100% impossible for anyone to get into the account.
I will address however that it’s unlikely you will remember such a long password unless you use it a lot in which case it might be annoying to type such a long password every time you need access to the account. The best way around this is to strike a balance of a short but powerful password using numbers, letters and special characters. A great way as well is to download a trusted password manager such as Nord password manager. This will allow you to store passwords and auto-generate strong passwords.
Next, I will talk about MFA. MFA stands for Multi-factor Authentication and it’s a great way to give your accounts that extra level of security making it even more impossible for anyone to gain access to the accounts. To set up MFA you will need the Microsoft MFA app. Once installed you will need to add the account and scan the QR code. Once it’s on the app from then on if someone tries to access the account a notification will pop up on the phone asking you to accept or deny. If the request wasn’t sent by you then you will simply ignore it or deny the request. It also keeps your account secure even if the password is breached meaning that if you get a request that you didn’t because you can rest your password imminently as it’s likely someone now has access to the password. You can also input a phone number which will then act as your MFA because they will then send you a phone message with a code that you have to input to gain access to the account.
Lastly, to have full protection on all of your accounts you need to be aware of the tricks these people try to get information out of you. For example, a big trick that they try is impersonating someone within your company or even a family member to try and request an email or password that will help them gain access to important accounts. It’s always best to make doubly sure that when you are responding to these emails you make sure that the person you are sending them to is the right person. To check this, make sure to double-check their email address and don’t assume they are telling the truth as some will say they lost access to their actual email, or they are emailing from a backup account. A rule of thumb is to never send important information such as passwords over text or email always do it in person if it’s necessary.
Another trick that people will try is called a man-in-the-middle attack which is when in a public space while you are accessing data someone will try and grab that data while it’s being sent. This means that they can grab passwords and email addresses while you use them in the café or an airport. As long as you are connected to the same WI-FI there is a possibility that someone could attack you. The best way around this is to invest in a VPN which gives you protection from man-in-the-middle attacks. A great VPN is Nord VPN making it perfect to pair up with the Nord password manager mentioned earlier.
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