How to Protect Yourself from Cyber Attacks in 2024

How to Protect Yourself from Cyber Attacks in 2024

As our world becomes increasingly connected through technology, we unfortunately also become more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Just take a look at the news -- major hacks against companies, governments, and even average internet users seem to happen nearly every week.

As concerning as this trend may be, the good news is there are steps all of us can take to better protect our systems, devices, and online presence from being compromised.

As someone who has researched and written extensively on cybersecurity issues for over a decade, I want to have an honest discussion about realistic ways we can enhance our safety without becoming paranoid.

Start with the Basics: Strong Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication

I know, I know - password tips seem obvious. But based on the number of breaches caused by weak or reused passwords, it clearly remains one of the biggest vulnerabilities for most people.

  • Use long, complex passwords of at least 12 characters (the more random the better)

  • Never repeat the same password across multiple sites

  • Use a password manager app to track them securely

  • Change passwords a few times per year

Enabling two-factor or multi-factor authentication provides an important additional layer of protection beyond your password. It means you need to provide another piece of identifying information from a separate device (like your phone or an authentication code) when logging into an account.

Yes, it can be a bit inconvenient at times. But it massively boosts your protection against many common hacking techniques, so I highly recommend taking the extra minute to set it up on email, banking, social media, and any other sensitive accounts.

Keep Your Devices and Software Up-to-Date

The next area to focus on is keeping the technology you use regularly updated to the latest versions. Software developers constantly release patches to fix vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers.

  • On your smartphone, tablet, computer, etc. enable automatic updating wherever possible, or periodically check for the latest versions of operating systems, apps, browsers and other software programs.

  • Don’t ignore those update reminders! I know they can be annoying, but putting them off leaves you at risk.

  • Remove software you no longer use, as older programs are more likely to have unpatched security flaws.

One of the most common ways attackers try to compromise a system is by tricking users into clicking links or downloading files that install malware or give up sensitive data.

  • Carefully inspect the full web address of any link before clicking, and only provide information to sites you fully trust.

  • Be extra cautious about links/attachments in emails - verify the sender if anything seems off.

  • Don’t immediately open attachments from people you don’t know well. You can usually communicate to get more info first or have them safely upload documents to a server instead.

Use Caution on Public WiFi Networks

Free public WiFi networks at coffee shops or airports may be convenient, but they also carry higher cyber attack risks because it’s easier for bad actors to intercept data on them. If you need to access any sensitive accounts or info while on public WiFi:

  • Stick to checking email or basic web surfing

  • Avoid online shopping, banking, entering passwords, or sharing private details on unsecured networks

  • Use a VPN app to encrypt your connection if you need to access more sensitive services

Being smart about not oversharing private data when on public networks greatly cuts down the info criminals can intercept.

Back-Up Your Data Regularly

No matter how diligent you are, there still is a chance a virus, software bug, or device malfunction affects your ability to access important data. To prepare for that low likelihood but high impact scenario:

  • Schedule regular backups of files/photos/videos to an external hard drive and/or a reputable cloud backup service

  • Store backups disconnected from your home network so they can’t be accessed online

  • Occasionally test restoring from a backup to confirm the process works

Having isolated redundant copies of anything you don’t want to lose forever makes it much less stressful if you ever do need to recover from an attack.

What's Next?

I don’t say all of this to scare you about the scary threats lurking out on the web. But I do believe having an accurate understanding of cyber risks, taking reasonable precautions, and making backup plans just in case puts you in a much savvier and less stressed position in our modern world.

Technology will only become more integrated into all facets of society, so we all need to become smarter about how to balance its conveniences with appropriate security measures. I’m hopeful though that by encouraging realistic best practices instead of extreme reactions, more people can feel informed and empowered to protect themselves as we continue expanding how we interact online.

Stay safe out there, but also keep in mind almost all legitimate cybersecurity experts focus on pragmatic precautions - not fearmongering. Yes, threats exist in the digital world, but with smart implementation of protections, they remain unlikely to disrupt our lives.

And taking a few minutes to set yourself up for success now saves endless headaches down the road.