Cyber Security in the Age of Data Breaches

cyber security firoz patelIn the wake of such high profile data-breaches like those found at at Ashley Madison, Target, Bank of America or the most recent hack on Apple iPhone users, cybersecurity is top of mind for everyone. From powerful corporate heads to the average consumer, today’s climate when it comes to digital data privacy is tense. At times, it may seem like each new innovation, product or software update – while brilliant, useful or at the very least, improved also comes with a whole new host of vulnerabilities. And these vulnerabilities can ultimately lead to breaches in sensitive and confidential data. Although the current landscape seems particularly fraught with these kinds of attacks that betray deficiencies within the products we are using, there are certain ways to protect yourself.

 

Watch out for that  Wi-Fi

While we should all consider ourselves lucky now that free WiFi hotspots are so widely available today, it’s important to note the risks that can accompany this type of access. Being conscious of those free public networks is particularly important if you are one of the growing number of Canadians who banks on your mobile. Whether checking your portfolio through an app or paying a bill through your mobile device’s browser, this is highly sensitive data that may be particularly susceptible to someone looking to take advantage of the vulnerabilities of a free wifi network. These convenient hotspots, however, are very tempting. And if you feel you absolutely must use  an unprotected public network, make sure that your apps and phone software is up to date. (But run those updates on a protected network ). The best is to use a known and trusted WiFi network that uses both encryption and a VPN in order to boost the levels of safety.

 

Browser Basics

While many of us may not give a second thought to how we look at sensitive data when we’re on our computers at home or at work, there are a few tips that can enhance the level of security for such actions. For example, consider using a different browser from the one that you usually use. When you need to do online banking, open up that secondary browser that you rarely use. This may seem somewhat extreme, but if you decide to use this browser explicitly for banking and nothing else, then you know that it has been exposed to significantly fewer sites or potential bugs.

 

Don’t fall for a phishing scam

Phishing scams or fraudulent emails of old used to be fairly easy to detect. These spammy messages would come from an unknown user (with a name that usually involved a lot of letters in no particular order) and suspicious domain, the body of the message would then spin some clearly elaborate lie and would conclude with a request to download an attachment, to click here, or to send in your money somewhere. Those were pretty obviously a scam and easy to delete without being tempted to even open them. But today’s phishers and scammers are fairly sophisticated. Not only are the user addresses seemingly legitimate (except for an additional letter here or there that you easily miss), but they are becoming even more targeted. Fraudsters are doing their homework on their targets, finding the information that you post on social media and tailoring their emails directly to you so that you are much more likely to open and download an attachment that will compromise your device. That being said, if something looks suspicious – don’t open it. And if someone is asking you for personal information, remember that you don’t have to. Really scrutinize the source.
Reading emails with a discerning eye, practicing safe browsing and staying off of unprotected public Wi-Fi networks are just a few ways to keep yourself safe in the battle for online privacy.

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