Throughout human history, we’ve always had to find ways to protect ourselves and our belongings from ill-intentioned people. For example, Romans used many techniques to keep out and ward off bad actors, including building walled cities, having large police and military forces, and burying or hiding valuables to prevent anyone from finding them.
Today, we face the same types of problems that our Roman ancestors did, but the technology involved in attacking and defending has changed.
In fact, many of the physical threats of theft are gone, with cybercrime being a much bigger problem in the 21st century. This has been brought on by a combination of improved security of our homes and cars and the proliferation of IT leading to more of our lives moving online.
In the UK, there were 226,000 cases of identity theft reported to the police last year, an 11% increase on 2020.
Of course, this isn’t the only threat. Brits also face the risk of ransomware attacks, cyber-blackmail, digital confidence tricks, and their devices being connected to botnets to take part in larger attacks.
This can sound pretty scary, but there are some easy steps you can take to protect yourself in the digital realm.
Consider Using a Different Operating System
Windows is, by far, the most used computer operating system on the planet. If you’re reading this on a desktop or laptop, then there’s a 75% chance it’s running Microsoft’s OS. With the vast majority of people using it, cyber criminals put most of their efforts into building malware and finding exploits in Windows since they’ll get a better return on their investment.
Therefore, a simple solution to reduce (but not remove) your risk of being the victim of a computer virus is to use an alternative system like macOS or Linux.
The latter is probably a better option if you have a Windows computer already as it’s much easier to get a Linux distro installed on a PC.
Linux has come a long way in recent years with many versions now so user-friendly that they’re practical for many less tech-savvy users. There are still some limitations, such as fewer compatible applications, but it works great for basic tasks like web browsing, writing documents, and creating spreadsheets.
Even gaming can be done on Linux. It’s not perfect as there can be some issues with compatibility, but in some instances, it is now a viable platform for playing games and is likely to become even better in the future.
Separate Your IoT Devices
The Internet of Things (IoT) was a popular buzzword throughout the 2010s and into the 2020s, though it has slowly become a reality for many people in more recent years.
The IoT refers to the internet-connected devices that you may have in your home (or elsewhere) like a video doorbell, smartphone-controllable lights, or a smart speaker. They are great for improving our home’s security and making life more convenient, but they can be a security threat as they can be compromised and used to launch attacks on your computers and smartphones.
You should always keep your IoT devices up to date, but another way to protect yourself is to isolate them from your home’s network.
Most modern routers offer the option of having two or three separate SSIDs, including a “guest network” that prevents access to the devices on your main network.
Adding your IoT devices to the guest network can stop any compromised equipment from acting as a stepping stone for an attack on your more sensitive machines.
Follow Password Best Practice
We need passwords to ensure only authorised people can get access to a network or system, but having dozens of accounts can make remembering passwords next to impossible.
This leads some people to use the same password for everything or write them down in an insecure location.
Both leave you vulnerable to attack, so it’s a better idea to use a secure password and a reputable password manager.
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre recommends that users make passwords from three random words and they use different passwords for each account.
Then services like LastPass can securely store the passwords so you never need to remember them.