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April Fools Day, but cybercrime is no joke

by JohanBe inspired31/03/2017

April Fools Day, but cybercrime is no joke
Criminals are turning to the Internet more and more. Small businesses and self-employed workers are increasingly falling victim, too.

Unfortunately, phishing is not an April Fool’s Day prank…These basic tips will help you protect yourself and your company. Don’t forget to pass them on your staff as well – that’s a first tip. 

  1. Keep your IT up to date

    Make sure that you always have the latest version of all the software you use. Not just on your computer, but on your smartphone, too. Always install the updates provided by the manufacturer. 

    Not only does this ensure that you have the most recent functionalities, but the updates often close holes that cybercriminals could use to break into your system digitally. Your virus scanner also needs to download the latest virus definitions regularly so as to detect new dangers.  

  2. Only download software from official download stores

    Resist the temptation to download software from vague websites or unusual and unknown download stores at all costs. These are often cracked versions of games or apps or programs to download films illegally, for instance. 

    Sometimes it may be corporate software that is for sale at a ridiculously low price or being given away free. Don’t do it, either on your computer or on your smartphone. The risk of letting in viruses or other digital rubbish is high. 

  3. Always make a backup

    Configure your computer so that it makes automatic backups of your most important data. You can send these backups to an external hard drive, a drive in your network (a so-called NAS) or the cloud (for example, Microsoft OneDrive). This last option is definitely the most advisable. After all, a drive that is always connected to your computer can be infected with harmful software. 

    You can set your smartphone, too, so that photographs or certain folders are automatically copied to the cloud. If your phone is infected or you lose it, you can retrieve your important data. 

  4. Use strong passwords

    Always use a different, strong password for all your logins. Don’t use your birthday, the name of your dog and definitely not 123456. Choose a combination of figures, punctuation marks and letters that has no meaning, such as “47{Uzo@18JJb!”. 

    Of course, this sort of password is impossible to remember, especially if you have a lot of them. Give that job to a good password manager, software that remembers these passwords for you and automatically enters them in the right websites. Well-known versions include 1Password, Keepass, Dashlane and Keeper

  5. Use encryption software

    Both Windows and OS X now have built-in software that you can use to encrypt data on your computer. With OS X this can be done via File Vault, with Windows it is called Bitlocker. Encrypting your data makes them illegible if they do unfortunately fall into the hands of cybercriminals. 

    Beware: the data are decrypted using a password that you have to choose. Make sure this password is strong enough so that it is impossible to guess. The longer the password the better. 

  6. Protect your network

    Use a firewall as protection between your own network and the Internet. A firewall monitors all incoming and outgoing data on your computer and only allows authorized traffic to pass. Windows and OS X have built-in firewalls, but commercial alternatives are also available. 

    Do your staff sometimes work at home and log into your network? If so, set up a VPN or Virtual Private Network. This is a sort of ‘tunnel’ between your computer and the Internet which is encrypted and which makes it far more difficult for hackers to get to your data. For that matter, you can use a VPN like this yourself if you log into the Internet in hotels, coffee shops or airports

  7. Never click on unknown links in e-mails

    By clicking on links that you do not recognize, you can let viruses in, or fall victim to phishing or ransomware (where data on your computer are encrypted and rendered unusable until you pay a certain sum of money). 

    So always check carefully who sent the e-mail. If you don’t recognize the address, if the e-mail has a lot of spelling mistakes, if the style is odd or if it urges you to respond quickly, it is best not to click on any links. N.B.: This is no longer a golden rule. Cybercriminals are catching on. 

    But here is a good maxim: if there is the slightest doubt, then don’t click. Remember too that your bank, for instance, will never request a PIN code by e-mail, telephone or text. 

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