Whether you have been personally affected by a data breach, hack, exploit or scam, or you haven’t, data is under attack everywhere. And it’s no wonder, the industry of cybercrime is netting the criminals upwards of $600 billion according to McAfee’s February 2018 report on the Economic Impact of Cybercrime.  This number is only getting higher, and unfortunately a lot of businesses are almost giving their information away to the attackers.  It’s time to stop making it easy for the bad guys, and start doing some simple things to better protect your business.  Below are just a few things that can easily be rolled out to better protect you and your data.

1.) Use different, complex passwords for everything

The most common method for most hackers to break into a network is simply stolen or lost credentials.  Unfortunately, with the number of applications we use throughout our daily lives, it becomes extremely difficult use different passwords, and almost impossible to use complex ones containing symbols, numbers and letters. Luckily there are a number of password management tools build to help solve this challenge.  With a password management app you can generate strong passwords for all of your accounts, and only remember the password used on password manager itself. The rest of your passwords are securely locked in the app, and readily available anytime you need to login to your other apps and tools.  Here is a recent blog post on password managers to get you started.

2.) Stop using free public Wi-Fi

Another easy ways for hackers to get information is via Free Wi-Fi. It’s so easy in-fact that if you constantly use free Wi-Fi, and have not been compromised, it’s simply because no one has bothered to do so yet. Most of these are either hackers exploiting vulnerabilities in a free Wi-Fi router to sniff your data, or by using their own Internet access point (Honeypots) with a very similar SSID as the one you are trying to connect with. They will then collect your data and potentially even push malware to it to further compromise your device or corporate network later. Luckily there are some simple things you can do to avoid the issue.  Firstly, if possible, use your phone as a mobile hotspot or tether to connect to the internet. This reduces the risk greatly as most attacks are on public unsecured Wi-Fi, not privately-owned connections like those through your phone provider.  Secondly, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt the data you are sending from your device.  This will make it much more difficult for anyone to interpreted what you are sending.  And lastly, if you need to use that public Wi-Fi, refrain from sending anything personal.

3.) Encrypt your mobile devices

Hacking isn’t the only way people are stealing data.  Sometimes it is just a lost or stolen device. Luckily most laptops (Windows, Apple) can be encrypted for free by using built-in tools like Bit Locker and FireVault. Additionally, most Apple and Android devices come encrypted by default (check under security in the settings menu).  Here’s an easy guide to get you started from Gizmodo.  Encrypting your laptop or device can go a long way in preventing the attacker (or thief in this case) from gaining access to your data.

Taking a few easy precautions goes a long way in protecting you and your company from data loss via hacking and theft. But they are not the only things you can do. This should be a good starting point, but take some time to determine how much valuable data you have, and what additional things can be done to protect yourself against potential loss.