Information is power. It’s also the easiest, most risk-free way of committing a crime. The more information a criminal has on you, the bigger the payoff. Now, imagine the amount of power an average criminal can establish with a single data leak. It’s a scary thought.
Unfortunately, massive data leaks are very real. They happen more often than we think, too, making millions of unsuspected internet users exposed to blackmail, identity theft, fraud, forgery, and extortion. Just take this troubling report from Kaspersky Lab for instance:
A gigantic database of exposed emails and passwords called Collection #1 contains “more than 700 million unique email addresses and more than 1.1 billion unique login-password pairs from 2000 different leaks, some dating as far back as 2008 to most recent ones.”
Is there anything you can do to avoid being added to one?
Here’s what experts recommend protection-wise.
1. Use Unique Passwords (& Change Them Often)
By now, most internet users have grown accustomed to creating strong passwords with more than 10 mixed-type characters, including letters, numbers, and symbols. But with the increasing number of accounts held by an average user, we expose ourselves to a different peril:
Reusing passwords for multiple accounts.
Not only should you have a unique password for every single login, but you must also make it a habit to change them on a regular basis – every two or three months. This is especially important for sensitive accounts such as social networks, online payments, and banking.
2. Outsource Password Management to an App
To make things easier on yourself, you can start using a password manager app. Though simple, these cybersecurity solutions are quite effective. The best ones will generate strong passwords and change them on a regular basis in addition to locking your online login credentials.
Those running on iOS 11 or later have a password manager by default. Android users can feel safe settling for a free solution, as there are a lot of good ones out there. Try one out and upgrade to a paid version to unlock premium features. It’s such a small price to pay anyway.
3. Enable 2FA
Two-factor authentication (2FA) creates an additional layer of protection around your password, thus making it much harder for criminals to break in and access your data. Kaspersky Lab encourages the use of 2FA whenever possible, especially since it is so easy to set up.
4. Use a VPN for Sensitive Data Exchanges
A basic cybersecurity kit should include an antivirus to protect you from malware and a collection of strong passwords to protect you from data leaks and breaches. In addition to this, however, you need something to keep you anonymous while browsing the internet on-the-go:
To mask your IP address and encrypt your data traffic, use a VPN.
Even though all your online accounts are password-protected, hacking your internet browser is still fairly easy. Without a good VPN to make you anonymous, you’re exposing your entire digital footprint – from your cookies and bookmarks to your history and passwords.
5. Check if Your Email Has Been Exposed
Since a healthy dose of paranoia is recommended in this day and age, you should set a reminder for yourself to check whether or not your email has been exposed. Every once in a while, navigate to https://haveibeenpwned.com/ and type in your email address to see where you stand.
In case it shows that one of your accounts has been compromised, change your passwords immediately. If you’re using e-banking services, get in touch with your bank. Getting a credit card with brand new credentials won’t be a bad idea even if nobody’s tried to access it yet.
6. Stay in the Loop With Recent Data Breaches
As mentioned earlier, information is power. To a modern-day criminal, it is the most valuable asset. To you, as an average internet user, information is the first line of defense against data leaks and breaches. Build your own cybersecurity kit, but always stay informed.
The easiest way to do so – update your software regularly.
If you don’t like reading news from the cybercriminal underground, then you should at least trust your software providers to equip you with the latest system patches and security tips on how to use your devices, computer programs, and apps in the safest way possible.
The only alternative to practicing smart cybersecurity measures on a daily basis is not using the internet at all. Unfortunately, no website is safe from hacking and data leaks. It’s time to take matters into your own hands and start protecting your data the best you can.