Data analytics generalist. I publish notes, lessons, and tools for data analytics and investing.
In a world where everything is connected to the internet, and yes I mean everything (NSFW), the threat of being hacked is always present. The most recent notable security leak was with Robinhood.
Bloomberg reported that “Almost 2,000 Robinhood Market accounts were compromised in a recent hacking spree that siphoned off customer funds, a sign that the attacks were more widespread than was previously known” (Source). There seems to be a newsworthy cyber hack or data leak almost every week.
Fortunately, there are a number of easy safeguards that you can implement to provide more protection. Here are a few that I would recommend, listed from easiest to implement to hardest.
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1. Block your Camera
Every time you finish a video chat with a friend or a Zoom call at work, you need to block the camera lens on your computer. According to the FBI, “There’s a thriving market for illicitly obtained stills and video”. The former FBI director, James Comey, recommended that we all should cover our webcams for security reasons (Source). This could easily be accomplished by tape, a post-it note, or one of these plastic camera blockers.
2. Mute your Laptop Mic
Hackers don’t always need video to find something useful. There are also opportunities to capture audio. Because of this threat, you should always have your computer’s mic muted when you are not on a video call.
3. Limit your Public Data
You would be surprised how many people have zero privacy restrictions on their Facebook profile and publish their entire employee and education history on LinkedIn. This information is a gold mine for hackers. You could be providing them answers to your password recovery questions.
Not all hackers will impact you directly. Reading your public information can help them impersonate you or ask your relatives for money. Other risks include providing answers to the password security questions publicly. You can go into the security settings for all of these accounts and limit who can see your information. The safer option is always to delete the information.
4. Use a More Private Search Engine
As amazing as Google’s search engine is, there is one HUGE drawback of using it. It knows everything about you. Google knows the products you buy, your income, medical history, relationship problems, and what websites you may go on afterhours.
5. Enable 2-Factor Authentication
2-Factor authentication (2FA) means that any user who signs into your account must enter a password and confirm their identity via email, phone call, text message, or a random code-generator app.
Because of SIM swaps, 2FA by text message is not as secure as it used to be. I would highly recommend using a random code-generator app whenever that is an option. I know that many financial institutions, like Fidelity and Wealthfront, offer users the option to authenticate via a random code-generator app.
6. Move Crypto Assets to a Secure Location
Some crypto platforms, such as Coinbase, allow you to move your crypto holdings into a more secure location. At Coinbase, these are called vaults. With crypto stored in a vault, as opposed to a digital wallet, it makes it harder for hackers to quickly withdraw any of your funds.
7. Block Quick Money Transfers
Financial institutions often allow you to lockdown certain accounts. This prevents a potential unauthorized user from electronically transferring money, shares, and assets to their own account. However, it could make it more inconvenient for you as well. I would at least take a look at the security settings options for your bank accounts.
8. Use a VPN
VPN means virtual private network. They provide privacy and anonymity when you are online by masking your internet protocol (IP) address so your actions online actions are virtually untraceable. VPNs hide your browsing history, IP address, location, and the presence of your devices. Hiding this information helps protect data you send and receive from your devices and protects your privacy when it comes to web activity like googling advice on a medical condition (Source). When I say devices, this includes anything that can connect online, including your phone, tablet, or any “smart” object.
Personally, I use Express VPN which allows you to stream 5 devices simultaneously for $8.32/month. It allows your network to be hosted in dozens of cities and countries, such as Netherlands, Germany, and Hong Kong. I have also heard good things about Proton VPN. The entire setup only takes about five minutes. All you need to do is download the VPN software from the provider, open it up, and select which city you want to be rerouted from. If you want more options on providers, this page provides a good starting point.
9. Use a Password Manager
Password managers are software that allows you to organize, encrypt, store, and retrieve your passwords for all of your accounts. You only need to remember the one master password. With a password manager, it makes it easier to use more complex passwords and change them on a consistent basis. Many of them can even generate random passwords for you. You can find a good overview of their benefits here. I started using one about a year ago and find it a reasonable value. A familiar option is Dropbox who recently launched their own password manager service.
10. Enable Firewall Protection at Home
Firewalls are software programs or hardware devices that filter and examine the information coming through your internet connection per McAfee. If installed in your home, they can help prevent unauthorized users from accessing your WIFI network. While a basic wireless router provides a firewall, it only provides protection against rudimentary cyber attacks. If you want stronger protection and additional security features, then I would recommend purchasing a better firewall. Over the past few months, I have been looking into a provider that was recommended by one of my colleagues in IT.
I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I do not follow ALL of these safeguards. However, I have adopted an increasing number of them over the past few years. Most of these items are extremely affordable or provide very little disruption to your day-to-day life. If there is anything we learned this year, it’s that some of the most dangerous risks are not visible to the naked eye.
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