New Year’s Resolutions can be a varied bunch. Popular picks are to eat better, exercise more, learn a new language or spend more time with family. Some are easy to stick to, and others have been long forgotten by the time summer arrives. Some are exciting and enthralling, while others are nothing but an amendment to the ordinary.
Cybersecurity doesn’t come up much on lists of “things I will do better in the new year”, but there are a few resolutions you can make that are so easy, it’s almost cheating. Not as fascinating as resolving to travel to at least six more countries, admittedly, but in an age where we spend huge portions of each day connected to the internet, paying attention to cybersecurity is a worthwhile move indeed.
Particularly post-Christmas, when new smartphones and tablets are gracing pockets and bags all around the world, there couldn’t be a better time to step up the attention you pay to protect yourself online. Rather than letting new devices fall foul of viruses, or worse, entering the new year in such complacency that you become the victim of online banking fraud, try these new year’s data security resolutions on for size.
1 – I will actually use complex passwords
It’s not very rock and roll, but then, nor is realising that your email account has been sending all of your friends and family dubious spam mail. Remembering complex passwords is hard, and when you’re supposed to have a different one for every account you use, it feels just about impossible.
This year, commit to using passwords that can’t be easily guessed or hacked by taking advantage of a free password manager. The only password you’ll need to remember is the one you use to log in to the manager itself, and it can automatically remember every single one of your online passwords for you. A good password manager will even suggest new complex passwords you can set, and remind you to update them regularly.
Rather than risk someone else getting into an account that contains payment card details or other personal information, make it a promise to yourself that this is the year you stop using the same easy password for dozens of accounts. 2019 is the year you become unhackable.
2 – I will install software updates when they’re available, instead of ignoring them
When a pop-up appears on your device to say a software update is available, how often does it get ignored for a while before being installed? Some of us actively snooze software updates because of the fear that they’ll slow down a device – something Apple and Samsung were both recently fined for admitting.
The good news is that plenty of device manufacturers don’t deliberately slow you down with software, and installing updates is a really easy way to help keep hackers out of your device. Updates often contain security patches, making them a free and easy defense tool. This also means that once updates are released, hackers are looking to see what’s changed so that they can adjust their tactics to target weak points in the outdated version.
Keeping your software up to date costs nothing and takes minimal time, but is a really important part of ensuring that your data and details stay secure.
3 – I will use a VPN if I’m accessing public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi connections can be a lifesaver when you’re out of data or just can’t get a good signal, but they should be approached with extreme caution. Often, free public networks provide little or no encryption – which means that any data you send and receive over them is vulnerable.
Think about times when you’re at a coffee shop or a train station and you’re buying something online to kill time, or checking your bank balance over mobile web. Over an unsecured connection, you’re about as exposed as if you stood on your chair and shouted the payment details over to the cashier.
Though not every unsecured connection is full of hackers waiting to pounce, they are out there. Cybercrime is on the rise, and the 978 million cybercrime victims around the world in 2017 includes plenty of people who were targeted on dodgy Wi-Fi.
If you need to transfer sensitive data over free Wi-Fi, make it a resolution to connect via a Virtual Private Network rather than relying on the main connection for security. A VPN can add an end-to-end layer of encryption to your connection, so that if somebody does try and hack in, they won’t be able to see things like your bank account number or credit card specifics. Instead, they’ll just see a load of scrambled encryption keys – seemingly nonsensical letters and numbers that aren’t of any value.
Any cybersecurity is better than no security at all, but the more you do, the safer you’ll be. Whether you’ve got a new device you want to protect, or you just want to avoid losing money and details from your existing repertoire, with the simple addition of complex passwords, up-to-date software and a VPN when needed, you can head into 2019 knowing you’ve picked useful New Year’s Resolutions you can really stick to.