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May 25, 2022

Expert Tips to Avoid Getting Hacked in the Year 2022

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By October 2021, more hacks had already occurred than had taken place in the entirety of the year before. As fast as software is developed to protect user data, software is developed to breach it. Hacks take place approximately every 39 seconds and an estimated one in three Americans will be affected by a major hack at least once in their lifetime. In addition to exploiting the data of individuals, hackers are increasingly targeting organizations, carrying out large scale attacks that have the ability to bring major infrastructure systems to a halt. Gas pipelines, medical systems, water suppliers, and more have all been victims of such attacks.

In some cases, security flaws were the cause of these breaches. However, more commonly, human error provides the access a hacker needs. One fake email can trick an unsuspecting user into surrendering their data and access – to their personal or work accounts – without even realizing it. Our expert tips to avoid getting hacked can prevent you from becoming the next number in a bleak statistic. Start by remembering the acronym UPDATE:

  • Update regularly
  • Passwords shouldn’t be reused
  • Download from trusted sources
  • Administrator shouldn’t be your default
  • Turn off internet-connected devices
  • Encrypt your data

U – Update Regularly

Every software you use will regularly require updates to ensure it continues to function appropriately. Updates also serve another vital function: they keep all the apps you use safe against potential hacks. Hackers are innovative and design new ways to attack systems every day, so companies need to constantly update their security to keep up. By delaying updates, you put your devices at risk. You can help avoid incidences of delayed updates by setting them to install automatically, making this expert tip to avoid hacking an easy one to accomplish.

P – Passwords Shouldn’t Be Reused

Passwords safeguard our online accounts. They’re used for social media, emails, online banking, and more. With dozens of account credentials to remember, many people opt to reuse the same password for every account. However, this leaves you vulnerable to attack: if hackers learn one password, they’ll use it on every possible account that can be linked to you.

Unfortunately, in an effort to avoid reusing passwords, many people instead use unique but easy to remember ones. This puts you at risk of a “stuffing” attack where hackers simply use bot combinations to guess easy passwords. To create a strong password, you should do the following:

  • Use a minimum of eight characters, but more is better. The more characters you use, the harder your password is to guess.
  • Combine letters, numbers, and symbols. By combining these elements, passwords become more complex to hack.
  • Don’t use dictionary words. Dictionary words are fairly easy to guess. The more random the characters, the better.
  • Try coming up with an acronym to remember your password. By using a meaningful phrase and turning it into an acronym, you can help randomize your password while still making it memorable.

If you have trouble remembering every password, use a password manager to keep track for you.

D – Download From Trusted Sources

One of the most effective ways for hackers to gain access to your systems and devices is through downloads you click. They create spoofing pages or unsafe links that trick you into thinking you’re downloading software that’s safe, when in reality it’s designed to attack your devices. To combat this, do some research before downloading anything online, to make sure you’re using a trusted source. If the download comes from an email, try to verify that it came from a source you expect. You can do this by:

  • Checking the email address of the sender. It’s easy for hackers to change the display name of their emails to one you recognize. However, the actual email address is harder to change or disguise. If the address looks wrong, don’t trust it.
  • Reach out to the person directly. Give them a call, or send them an email in a new thread to check that they sent you the original message.
  • Look for weird spelling or formatting. If the person you received the email from is normally a spelling perfectionist but the email is riddled with mistakes, it might be a sign not to trust it.

These tips can also help you identify spam messages sent through direct messaging on social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

A – Administrator Shouldn’t Be Your Default

Most computers allow you to log in as an administrator or as a personal user. Administrators have access to every system on your devices, whereas personal users have limitations to what they can do. In general, don’t use the admin account as your default account. If it becomes compromised, hackers have access to all systems in your device and can do more damage than if they had access to a restricted personal account.

T – Turn Off Internet-Connected Devices

Hackers must use the internet in order to, well, hack. Step 5 of our expert tips to avoid getting hacked is to turn off devices after you’re done using them (or disconnect them from the internet). By doing this, you stop a hacker from accessing your data before they can even try. This step includes logging out of accounts when you’re done with them, and even disconnecting your wifi when you’re not at home.

E – Encrypt Your Data

Any data you send or receive online should be encrypted. What does that mean? Well, essentially, even if someone was spying on your activity, they’d only see a garbled mess rather than interpretable data. It’s the digital equivalent of speaking or writing in code. Many websites have begun using encryption as the norm. You can check if a website is encrypted by looking at its URL. A website that has a lock symbol next to it, or begins with HTTPS, is encrypted. If the site has an unlocked lock icon next to the URL or only starts with HTTP, it’s not encrypted and you should be careful to avoid accessing sensitive data on these sites (especially if you have to sign in to use them – someone may be able to see your password).

If, like us, you don’t want to leave the job of encrypting your data to strangers who run the websites you visit, you can also browse the web with a no log VPN.

VPN services have two main purposes. First, they encrypt your data while you use it, so snoops and hackers can’t see your online activity. They also make you anonymous, which prevents your data from being tracked back to you, while giving you freedom to access worldwide content (even in places where it may be censored or geo-locked).

The risk of hacking is a part of having a digital life. By using these expert tips to avoid getting hacked, you can reduce that risk and feel safe online.

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