Written by Izzy Holt
Do you have a techie friend that drones on about strong passwords? Maybe you’ve received emails pushing the importance of cybersecurity? What is cybersecurity, and why should you care?
Cybersecurity is like the front door lock that protects your cyber activities. It’s the measures taken to defend your devices and data from those who want to steal and abuse them.
Most people don’t give a flying hootenanny about cybersecurity. Who has time to change all their passwords? It’s so much easier to reuse the same one. I’m not going to try to convince you to lock your phone down like Fort Knox. Instead, here are some tips and tricks that take under a minute to make your life more cyber secure and protected than it is right now.
- Make your accounts private and post photos of your food.
‘I don’t need to worry about this stuff! I’m a student, and I have no money for hackers to steal!’
I hear you. It’s still no fun when someone steals your identity and takes out a $20k loan in your name. It’s really no fun when someone steals your nudes and threatens to send them to your grandparents. Don’t share personally identifiable information online when you can avoid it.
Take a moment to set any social media accounts that don’t need to be public to private. Take down the post that shares the answers to all your security questions like the first name of your favourite teacher. This is likely the only time you’ll hear this but post more photos of your food instead of your private data.
- Cover your computer’s webcam when it is not in use.
‘Come on, but it has a light that tells me when the camera is being used!’
Not always. Depending on your device, it may be possible for hackers to use your webcam without the indicator light. Even if they can’t it is so easy to leave your laptop in the corner and not notice the light come on when you’re busy doing other things. Take five seconds to stick tape over your camera and save yourself from paranoia.
- Don’t use the same password for your bank account as your Netflix account.
I promised I wouldn’t lecture you on changing passwords (I know you’ll keep using variations of the same one), but for important things like your government, email and bank accounts make sure your passwords are strong and unique. Especially, don’t reuse your Netflix password‑—you probably share it with five other people. It’s annoying enough if hackers stop you from streaming the newest season of Rick and Morty, but don’t give them easy access to your life savings too!
- Lock your phone and laptop.
I don’t know who needs to hear this in 2020, but please put a lock on your phone. Not only is it a good cybersecurity practice, but your mates are probably posting ‘I just pooped my pants’ as your Facebook status every time you leave your phone unattended.
Locking your laptop is just as easy. Getting up to go to the bathroom? Before you leave hit the Windows key + L to instant lock your machine, or Control + Shift + Power on Mac.
- Don’t click dodgy links.
Let’s get real: every one of us has gone to a dodgy website at one point or another. If you say you haven’t, I do not believe you. Sometimes we click dodgy links and it’s not our fault; someone has tricked us into doing so using manipulation. That’s called ‘social engineering’. Other times though, curiosity gets the better of us and we click something that we know we shouldn’t.
Resist. DO NOT CLICK THOSE LINKS. It’s a good idea to read up on how to identify scams or messages that could be dangerous. You may be surprised by how convincing scams can be.
- Check if your email address has been compromised with Have I Been Pwned?
Have I Been Pwned? is a free website created by Troy Hunt that collects breaches of incidents where private data has been leaked. It checks those incidents for you to see if your email address has been included in one of them. If it has you should probably change your password and consider using 2-Factor authentication for your email account (see tip 7). This article has more information on what you need to do.
- Opt-in to 2-Factor authentication when you log in.
When an account asks for your phone number to send you a text which gives you a verification code, that action is called 2-Factor authentication. The first authentication is entering your password. The second authentication is proving that your phone is physically in your possession. I highly recommend using this, especially for important accounts. It may stop a hacker who has stolen your password from logging in as you.
There’s so much more to cybersecurity, and this list is not a definitive way to keep your devices safe. However, these tactics are a great place for everyone to start. If this piqued your interest in cybersecurity and you want to know more feel free to leave a reply with questions or check out Deakin’s cybersecurity blog.
Izzy Holt is a Bachelor of Cybersecurity student at Deakin University. She loves reading and writing and is known amongst her friends for making video games about sarcastic slugs. Her work has been published in Exhuming Alexandria: Modern Myths to Tell in the Dark.