5 Essential Tips for Staying Safe Online

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but staying safe online is a year-round activity. These five tips will help you protect yourself and your information.

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As the co-founder and CEO of a global cybersecurity company, I live and breathe cybersecurity every day and have dedicated myself to finding the most effective ways to protect information online. I’m also in constant contact with other entrepreneurs and startup founders through the NYC Technology Startups Meetup group, which I founded back in 2012 and has since grown to over 5,500 members.

During the last 18 months, many Meetup events, as well as conferences, classes, and interactions, have moved online. Many in my group have asked me how to keep their information protected. The answer is much simpler than you may think. 

Here are the top five ways Meetup members and organizers can keep their information secure online:

Tip 1: Think before you click 

Hackers love to exploit Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) and have exploited this during a global pandemic where those are common emotions. We are seeing more SMS, emails, and decoy websites created that purport to share the latest breaking information such as “PPP loan forgiveness” or a “Covid-19 tracking map,” among other things. These are designed to trick you into clicking and infecting your devices. Before you fall into the clickbait trap, take a minute and think: do you recognize the sender? Is the email address a little off? Is the subject line misspelled? Is there a phone number attached? Is this a reliable source? All of these are red flags that the message may contain a virus.

Tip 2:  Enable proper protections for your video conferencing

With video conferencing becoming the new fashionable way we communicate with each other, ensure that you’re enabling proper protections, ie: waiting rooms or passwords for your meetings. This ensures that only those invited can join and you can vet them before letting them enter the chat. There have been anecdotal instances of strangers joining Zoom calls to spread harmful information and images, meaning that utilizing even just the basics can matter more than esoteric actions like end-to-end encryption. Most attacks happen because basic configuration settings were forgotten. By adding a password, you make it that much harder for a bad actor to infiltrate your meeting.

Learn more Zoom best practices from Zoom’s Senior Technical Trainer.

Tip 3:  Enable two-factor authentication on all your applications

Two-factor identification is an extra security measure that is a simple way to instantly make your device more secure. This step can go on any email or website you use. Most apps like Gmail, Salesforce, Facebook, and many more have 2FA capabilities (coming soon to the Meetup app), so be sure to take advantage of it. Stolen credentials are widely circulated online these days. This means it is especially important to change your passcodes regularly. If you reuse credentials or slightly change them, hackers have a high chance of getting them. By adding two-factor authentication, you automatically increase your security by 80%.

Tip 4: Take advantage of security ratings

You cannot fly a plane or land it in the middle of a thunderstorm if your instruments are not working. You need to know your tools and if they are working properly: how much fuel you have, how high you are flying, and what your GPS coordinates are. The same goes for operating online. Don’t be blindsided by security gaps that hackers can take advantage of. If you are part of an organization, having access to your security rating as well as the organizations you do business with is an easy way to understand where your cybersecurity could be lacking. Hackers readily share open-source intelligence information to swap data about their attack targets. By getting your own security rating, you can save yourself time, money, and resources by being proactive and closing those gaps before the hackers notice.

I recommend the instant and complimentary SecurityScorecard.

Tip 5: Make sure you update to the latest patches (iPhone, laptop, etc.)

I know it’s easy to ignore the multitude of patches and software upgrades that pop up on your screens. Trust me, being up-to-date with the latest updates is crucial to protecting yourself and your information. Each update fixes both glaring and subtle holes in the software that can be accessed by hackers. By having the latest updates, you are saving yourself countless times in the long run by ensuring that all your systems are as protected as they can be. 

 

As a longtime Meetup organizer and a cybersecurity leader, I want to ensure that all Meetup members are taking every precaution to guard themselves and their information against bad actors—many of whom have only increased their attacks as people have moved more and more online over the past few months. By following these five tips, you will already be able to defend yourself against many of the hackers out there. 

You don’t have to be a cybersecurity professional to stay up-to-date on the field. To learn more about cybersecurity, register for an event on the topic today.

Last modified on October 19, 2021