Cybersecurity Guidance & Tips to Boost Your Digital Defenses (+ Infographic)

Cybersecurity Guidance & Tips to Boost Your Digital Defenses (+ Infographic)

Digital business operations are increasing, and with them the risk (and severity) of cybersecurity breaches. Sometimes these attacks are obvious (typo-riddled emails asking for bank information), while others are more covert (seemingly-legitimate text messages with dangerous hyperlinks). Protecting yourself – and your personal data – from these cyberattacks requires attention and proactivity.

To spread awareness about cybersecurity risks and honor Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which is recognized each October, here we provide an overview of cybersecurity concerns, discuss how to identify potential cyberattacks, and present guidance for protecting your devices and accounts from breaches. We also offer a free infographic, Tips for Preventing Cyberattacks.

Understanding Cyber Risk & Cybersecurity

As Internet usage continues to surge and companies undergo digital transformation, the risk and impact of cybersecurity breaches becomes increasingly acute. In 2021, the average cost of a data breach rose to $4.24 million, according to IBM, and Accenture reports that 68% of business leaders believe that their cybersecurity risks are increasing. To prevent attack-related data breaches and disruption, it’s important that individuals and organizers remain aware of potential attacks and follow cybersecurity best practices.

Cybersecurity, also known as information technology (IT) security, is the practice of protecting digital devices and networks from unauthorized access and attacks. Common cybersecurity measures include network security, user authentication, and data encryption. These measures help organizations and individuals protect sensitive data, intellectual property, personally identifiable information (PII), and more.

There are many types of cybersecurity attacks, but two of the most common and effective threats are phishing and malware. Phishing is a cyberattack technique in which a hacker tries to acquire sensitive data, such as passwords or bank information. This is typically done through fraudulent emails that prompt users to click on dangerous links or download malicious attachments. These emails can be very convincing, so it’s helpful to look out for red flags such as typos, a sense of urgency, and requests for personal information.

Malware is an umbrella term for malicious software that is designed to cause harm. This software is commonly included in phishing email attachments and can download without a user knowing. Cybersecurity defenses such as firewalls, antivirus software, and individual threat awareness are important components of malware prevention.

In recognition of the danger of cyberattacks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance launched Cybersecurity Awareness Month in 2004. Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which is recognized each October, is an annual effort to improve cybersecurity awareness and to help Americans practice digital safety.

Tips for Protecting Your Devices & Personal Information

Although cyberattacks may feel inevitable, in reality, there are many ways that you can protect yourself – and your personal data – from breaches. In addition to avoiding suspicious websites and clicking pop-up ads, here are some lesser-known strategies that you can use to boost your digital defenses and practice cyber safety.

Here are some tips for blocking mobile attacks:
  • Keep your smartphone’s software up to date (many updates include patches for security bugs and vulnerabilities) and ensure that your phone has a secure password.
  • Turn off WiFi when you aren’t using it and don’t join unfamiliar networks. If you’re using a public network (ex: at a coffee shop or airport), avoid sharing personal information (ex: sending emails with tax information).
  • Think before you click! If you receive a text or social media message from an unknown sender, don’t click any links without verifying that they’re safe. For example, if a message says that your bank account has suspicious activity and prompts you to visit a link to check on it, log into your account from a different source to confirm that it’s legitimate.
  • Regularly review your device’s privacy settings to ensure that you aren’t sharing data such as location tracking with mobile apps you don’t trust.
  • When in doubt, verify: mobile formatting can make it more difficult to identify untrustworthy websites (the smaller screen shows less of the page, and URLs are truncated or hidden). If you’re ever unsure, confirm the URL or visit the webpage from another device.
  • Practice mobile app safety: only download apps from your device’s official app store and avoid apps with limited or overwhelmingly negative reviews. Keep apps updated to ensure they have the latest security and only grant data permissions to apps that you trust.
Here are some tips for protecting your personal data across all devices:
  • Change your passwords at least every 180 days and do not reuse passwords between websites (especially for critical logins, such as your bank account).
  • Whenever possible, use multifactor authentication. This only allows you to log in once you’ve authenticated your account in multiple ways, such as by signing in from your computer and then verifying your login from your smartphone.
  • Steer clear of phishing emails, or emails that ask for your personal information, and don’t click on links or download attachments from unverified senders without confirming that they’re safe.
  • Review the privacy settings on your social media platforms and take caution to avoid publicly sharing any information that hackers could use against you.
  • Think before you click & when in doubt, verify.

By following these tips and exercising caution when sharing personal information online, you can reduce your risk of falling victim to cybersecurity breaches.

Maintaining Cybersecurity Safety

Cybersecurity is not a one-time deal – it’s an ongoing commitment. To avoid data breaches and operational disruption, organizations and individuals need to remain aware of potential threats and practice digital safety whenever they are online. 

In addition to following the tips listed above, many organizations promote ongoing cybersecurity by investing in online IT and cybersecurity training for both their IT professionals and their employees. Online cybersecurity courses can help improve a company’s IT infrastructure, improve cybersecurity awareness amongst employees, and mitigate the risk of data breaches.

It is also important to regularly remind employees about digital best practices and to ensure that they have easy access to your company’s cybersecurity policies and procedures. One way to do this is by deploying a mobile safety communication platform that enables employees to access resources, receive alerts, and submit questions and concerns.

Cyberattacks pose a risk to every individual and organization – it's important to know how to fight back.

Awareness is an important component of cyberattack prevention. To help, we have created a free Tips for Preventing Cyberattacks Infographic that can be shared with your community.

ALEXANDRA BRUNJES

Alexandra Brunjes has a B.S. in Neurobiology from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with minors in Creative Writing and French. She is a published journalist and experienced health and science writer. Her expertise includes risk intelligence, healthcare and neuroscience, and technology.

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