By Nhlanhla Leonard Nhlapo
As more and more people turn to the digital platforms (also known as CyberSpace) to conduct activities such as doing business, having meetings, money transfers, information storing, socialising. And the recent COVID-19 virus (Coronavirus) outbreaks pushing almost the entire world to adopt digital platforms to continue operating and perform key business tasks. This increase in digital platforms participation is potentially exposing people and organizations to cyber risks which were not much of a concern about a year or two back. Whether it is through careless handling of sensitive data, falling for phishing attacks, or poor password management, data breaches are causing a lot of financial and emotional damage to businesses and people.
Recently in South Africa, an online (Zoom) meeting between members of the South African parliament was interrupted by individuals who posted pornographic images and insulted members in that meeting. This could have possibly been avoided by following simple security measures to secure the meeting from this abuse.
In response, savvy people and organisations have adopted security awareness measures. However, without fostering feelings of responsibility and accountability for cybersecurity among people, these measures will not be enough to make an individual or an organization any safer or less vulnerable. Both people and organisations need to invest time and effort in cybersecurity awareness training to strengthen security.
Here are some of the tips to improve cyber security
To make sure you or your organisation do not easily fall victim to cyber-crimes and keep your data safe consider the following simple tips:
- Do not log in to your banking or sensitive application using public WiFi hotspots, a lot of hacking or phishing happens in public open WiFi hotspots.
- Use two-step verification for device log-in and all-important business software log-ins.
- Don’t open unexpected emails from strangers.
- Especially don’t open an email with an unexpected attachment. Even if the attachment is from a co-worker, confirm they sent it before downloading.
- Keep backups of all work. Store that backup in a different data storage unit than where the original is housed.
- Backup your data as often as possible.
- Update virus software.
- Stay off of potentially dangerous sites. Always heed warnings.
- Do not stream or download anything on your work computer unless you’re sure the source is legitimate and secure.
- Avoid unsecured websites whenever possible.
- Turn off work computers before leaving at the end of the day.
- Know where data is kept. Immediately report any misplaced or missing data.
- Do not share organisation hardware or software with outside people.
- Change your passwords at least once every 3-6 months.
Many of us use the same email address and password for different online accounts and profiles, for example, to log in to Facebook, our mobile money account/ cash app, and even our email accounts. The danger with this and more so why we must change our passwords regularly is that: if one of your accounts or profiles gets hacked and the hackers get access to your email address and passwords they can scroll the web for other places, websites where the same details are used – this makes all your profiles vulnerable.
There is plenty of freely available materials to help both individuals and organisations understand cyber threats better and strengthen their cybersecurity.
Here are some resources to help learn and improve cyber security:
- Handbook for Organisations: https://www.comtact.co.uk/cio-cyber-security-improvement-strategy-guide?hsCtaTracking=d4cf12ae-b237-429b-8bcb-7991a6686c71%7C48d93b13-90f8-4d2a-aa93-dc4dfb629746
- Free WiFi Trap: How Hackers Use It To Steal Your Info video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbmeNJfvMKU
- Cybersecurity for Beginners video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzDKM7eEweI
- Online cybersecurity courses of 2020: https://www.techradar.com/best/best-online-cyber-security-courses
Whether we like it or not we are all participating in a digital space, and Information in the digital space is shared further, faster and on record forever. This makes privacy in the digital world just as important as in the real world. The responsibility to keep your online identity and engagement safe lies with the individual. Like you would not carelessly leave your house with all the doors unlocked while you going out. You need to make a habit of securing all your online tools and engagement to mitigate the risks of falling victim to cyber-crimes.
About the Author: Nhlanhla Leonard Nhlapo is an entrepreneur, economist and digital transformation specialist. He is also a project manager at the University of the Western Cape CoLab for Digital Inclusion & Social Innovation. Specializes in creating and facilitating digital transformation courses and programmes that help capacitate community members, organizations, businesses, and entrepreneurs to make most of technology and improve socio-economic position using digital technology.