As more people every day move their lives online, how do we protect ourselves from online threats? Now that we are working remotely from home, doing online learning, streaming movies and gaming online, posting on social media, shopping, and paying bills, we are sharing more and more personal data than ever before.
As you can imagine, this information in the wrong hands can be disastrous and since the start of Covid, we’ve been seeing a high increase in hackers trying to steal personal information. These hackers are using various methods like phishing emails, ransomware, and phone calls as ways to get your secured information.
We will be exploring network security and what you can do to protect yourself from these and all online threats. To start, here’s a well-written article from a colleague of ours, discussing what you can do to protect yourself online.
On top of the topics Chris mentions in his article, here are some other potential security threats and how to minimize them.
IoT and Smart Devices: When researching or even purchasing a smart home or IoT (Internet of things) device, have you ever looked at the company’s security protocols? As hackers look for ways to gain information and access to home networks and corporate networks, they will look for soft targets among the rapidly growing number of smart home or the Internet of Things devices. Voice assistants, smart TVs, smartwatches, routers, baby monitors, and other IoT devices typically come without security tools and run on software that is rarely or never updated. Do your research on which devices have solid security protocols and won’t release your personal data onto the internet. A good rule of thumb, the cheaper the device, the fewer security protocols are in place.
Network Firmware and Settings: As mentioned in the previous point, network routers, wifi access points, and network switches may have firmware that is updated to combat online threats. Manufacturers release firmware updates as vulnerabilities are discovered and eliminate the possibility of a hacker gaining access through those devices. An added plus is the firmware may also contain added functionality and boost performance. That’s a win-win.
UPnP (Universal Plug and Plug): What UPnP does is, it allows network devices to open up network ports to let data through the firewall to a specific device. For example, a gaming station like an Xbox that uses UPnP will request the network router to open up certain network ports so users can play their favorite games online without any restrictions. The problem is that other devices can use this UPnP protocol to open up ports and then the problem becomes compounded as some network routers won’t inform owners that the ports are open nor which ports are open and the device that is asking. Hackers can use this to their advantage by using UPnP to exploit your network. It is recommended to turn off UPnP and manually set firewall rules to open up the network ports you need.
Internet Providers: If you think your internet provider will help protect you from online threats, they won’t. It’s not their job to manage the security of your home network and internet access. If using a network router that is provided to you by your internet provider, have you ever logged into the device and checked the firewall and other security settings? Most internet provider network routers are set up as basic as possible while security settings set to the lowest settings in order to maintain compatibility with the largest amount of network devices on the market. Why? Internet providers aren’t IT support companies and don’t have the resources to troubleshoot the handful of devices you own. If using an internet provider network router, it’s worth taking a look and finding out what the security settings are. Let’s start with this… do you even know how to log into the network router along with the username and password to log in? If not, give us a call and we can help.
Software Firewalls and Virus Software: While mentioned in Chris’s article, we feel like this should be repeated. Having a software firewall and virus software on your computer adds that extra layer of security. When a laptop is connected to a public network like in a coffee shop or shopping mall, this software can be the difference between keeping your data safe or freely handing it over to anyone connected to the same network. Some internet providers like Shaw Communications offer free McAfee security when subscribed to their services. It’s worth checking out.
BACK UPS!: The two most important words in all of computer and networking. BACK UPS! Sadly, online threats are only going to continue and your personal data and files are at risk, usually without you even knowing it. It’s important to have a 24/7 data backup plan in place in case of an emergency where you’ll need to get your files back quickly. This also helps in case of hardware failures like a laptop breaking or a hard drive failing. If you don’t have a good data backup plan in place, we would suggest you look into it ASAP. Repeat after us: Back up your data!
We could go on and on regarding online threats and internet security, but we’ll leave you with an article on good habits as we continue moving into 2021. If you have any questions regarding the safety of your network, please give us a call.