It's that time of year again! October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a collaborative initiative between government and private industry in the United States and the European Union designed to educate individuals around the globe about the importance of cybersecurity. MacPaw, the maker of Setapp, is the official champion of this initiative. That's why we also join a growing global effort to raise awareness about online safety and privacy.
The theme of this year's program is "Cyber Safety Starts With YOU." The responsibility for cybersecurity extends beyond the realm of IT professionals; it encompasses each individual's ability to improve the safety of the digital landscape by cultivating small but powerful habits.
So, are you practicing safe cybersecurity habits?
To show you just how easy it is to start, we prepared simple tips and hacks from us and the developers of Setapp apps. For those with a penchant for failure stories, this article is sure to pique your interest.
9 cybersecurity tips for a safer online experience
While the internet offers endless opportunities, it also poses risks to your personal information. With computer hacking on the rise, it's important to take steps to protect your privacy. Here are some simple internet safety tips to help you stay protected while you enjoy the digital world.
Tip 1: Update your operating system and software regularly
It may be tempting to ignore these update notifications, but they often contain important patches for security vulnerabilities. So try to update your macOS and iOS devices when you see a new OS version is available.
Also, don't forget to update your apps. CleanMyMac X has the Updater module that will help you update all software on your Mac in one shot.
Here's how to use it:
- Install and open CleanMyMac X.
- In the left sidebar, click Updater.
- Then Click Select All.
- Finally, click Update.
Tip 2: Enable two-factor verification (2FA)
2FA is like a double lock system for your digital life. Even if someone gets your password, they need a second verification, often a code sent to your mobile phone, to access your account.
You probably have too many accounts and don't want to bother securing them all with 2FA. We recommend that you protect at least your bank, email, and social media accounts. Consider turning it on for online stores, too, to make sure the banking information you enter can't be accessed by anyone else.
Tip 3: Use strong passwords and a password manager
By maintaining unique, strong passwords that you change frequently, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of a security breach.
Avoid using easily guessable passwords such as "password123" or your mom's birthdate. Try a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. It's also equally important not to reuse passwords. And the easiest way to do that is with a Password Manager like Secrets 4. It generates strong passwords, stores your sensitive information (passwords, credit card details, files, etc.), and syncs between devices.
The app can even help you check if your current passwords are strong enough.
While fixing the issue, I ended up running some tests against my production data by mistake, which ended up deleting my data and syncing all the deletions to iCloud. My heart raced as I realized what I had just done. Just because I kept all my passwords and verification codes in the Secrets 4 app, I was able to regain access to my accounts pretty quickly."
Tip 4: Don't share personal information hastily
Always be cautious about unexpected calls or messages. It's important to trust your instincts and remain vigilant. If someone asks for sensitive information or requests access to your banking app or accounts, take a moment to verify their identity. Contact your bank directly or use trusted contact information to double-check before sharing anything.
I once fell victim to a phishing scam involving a fake call from my bank. Despite being aware of such scams, I made the unfortunate mistake of clicking Allow on my banking app when prompted. Fortunately, I realized my mistake quickly and froze my accounts. I recommend minimizing the amount of personal information you share online. Your digital footprint can be a double-edged sword; it can be used for both good and bad purposes. So it's best to be cautious.
Tip 5: Use a VPN when on public Wi-Fi
Public wireless networks and hotspots are not secure. This means that anyone can potentially see what you are doing on your laptop or smartphone while you are connected to them. If you need a more secure connection, use a virtual private network (VPN), which dramatically increases your protection against man-in-the-middle and sniffing attacks.
ClearVPN offers industry-standard encryption AES-256 that is favored by banks and financial organizations around the globe.
Also, this intuitive VPN is very easy to set up. All you have to do to connect securely is to open the ClearVPN app, click Smart connection > Connect me.
Tip 6: Recognize and report phishing
In phishing attacks, hackers pose as someone else to trick you into giving them your login credentials, clicking on a malicious link, or opening files or attachments that can infect your system with viruses or other malware. This may result in a ransom attack. Below are a few tips you can use to prevent this and avoid falling for a phishing scam.
Do not open emails from unfamiliar people or sources.
Hover over links before clicking to find out where they are going, and if the link looks unsafe, do not click on it.
Learn to recognize urgent or emotionally appealing language. Especially messages that threaten dire consequences if you don't respond immediately.
Check for any type of grammatical errors.
Make sure to report the phishing to protect yourself and others. You'll usually find reporting options near the person's email address or username. You can also use the Report Spam button on the toolbar or in your settings.
Tip: Whether or not you've ever clicked on a link in a phishing email, it's a good idea to regularly scan your Mac for malware. That way, you can make sure it's not infected, and if the worst happens and you download something nasty, you can get rid of it quickly. CleanMyMac X is a handy app to keep on your Mac for all sorts of reasons, and it has a built-in malware removal module that detects all types of Mac-related threats.
Tip 7: Regularly check Mac security settings
Configure your Mac's settings to reduce the chances of a virus, hacker, ransomware, or other type of cyberattack. Turn on the firewall, disable remote access, set up a password-protected screen saver, enable automatic updates, and more.
Security apps like Pareto Security scan your Mac device for all the settings that affect security. For example, if you accidentally leave File Sharing on, Pareto Security will perform a risk assessment and let you know.
Here's how to use Pareto Security to run security checks:
From the menu bar, open Pareto Security.
Click Run checks.
Review the results. Everything that has an orange cross next to it should be fixed. If you don't know how to resolve the issue, you can click on it and get step-by-step instructions from Pareto Security.
Easy? These small changes can have a massive impact on security.
Before you dive into advanced security solutions, make sure you've enabled all the security features built into your devices. It's easy to get caught up in the latest security trends, but the basics are your foundation. Without them, even the most advanced tools can't fully protect you. Make it a habit to regularly check System Settings and make sure all your security features are turned on.
Tip 8: Backup your data regularly
There are several reasons why data can be lost, including cyberattacks, hardware failure, or accidental deletion. If you want to reduce the impact of these events, it is important to back up your data regularly.
Apple's Time Machine is a good Mac backup option that covers all the basics. However, there are few configurations for those who want to specify precise backup behavior (for example, there is no way to back up just a few files). Users may also find that Time Machine backups tend to be slower than other premium options, such as Get Backup Pro. The last one can compress backups to save space.
Tip 9: Limit the oversharing of information
Review your content carefully before posting it on the web, as hackers may be monitoring your activity. For example, it might seem like a touching tribute to post a throwback to your elementary school. But if your school's name appears as a security question on any of your accounts, your information could be compromised.
Before you post photos online, make sure they don't contain sensitive information. Moving is an exciting time, and you may want to share it with your internet friends, but if you share a picture of you standing next to a street sign, it could give your address away to strangers and cybercriminals.
My biggest (and only) personal cybersecurity failure was early in my career, about 15 years ago, when I accidentally printed out the production database password that was publicly visible on a website for a brief moment. Fortunately, we were able to ensure that the database had not been accessed, and we immediately changed all credentials.
If you find yourself exchanging confidential information on a regular basis, it is essential that you start using a secure way of sharing files. Try Dropshare to share files securely and privately with others.
First, drag and drop the file you want to share onto the Dropshare icon in your menu bar. Dropshare will upload the file to your configured storage provider and initially generate a public link that you can share. However, if you're dealing with sensitive information, you'll want to take additional steps to secure the link. You can do this by creating a secure link and enabling password protection, and/or setting an expiration date on the link.
My advice to users for protecting themselves online would be to always remember what "data minimization" is about. Whenever they are entering or uploading their data anywhere on the internet, they should think twice about whether it is really necessary and who might be able to access the data. If possible, it's important to set up rules to automatically destroy data after a certain amount of time, to not leave behind any "data graveyard" unwillingly.
Find the best security helpers in one place
Cybersecurity should be everyone's priority in today's digital world. Following these cybersecurity tips can greatly reduce your risk of falling victim to cyberthreats, unauthorized access, and data breaches. Remember to keep your operating system and apps up to date, use a VPN when on public networks, regularly backup your data, and recognize and report phishing.
Creating strong passwords, implementing multi-factor authentication, and regularly checking your devices' security settings are equally important.
If you want to download the apps mentioned above (CleanMyMac X, Secrets 4, ClearVPN, Pareto Security, Get Backup Pro, and Dropshare), keep in mind that all of them are available for a free trial through Setapp, a platform for the best macOS, iOS, and web apps on the market. Your privacy should be your primary concern when using the internet, and Setapp has everything you need to ensure this is the case!