If there’s one thing we have learned about internet security, it’s this: It’s tough out there! Unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse. From popular sites like LinkedIn and diet-and-exercise tracker MyFitnessPal to game developer Zynga and dozens more, reported data breaches are making headlines more than ever before.
In 2018, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) tracked a 126% jump in consumer records exposed from data breaches, and as of July 2019, the organization had cataloged over 10,000 U.S.-based breaches since 2005. Scary stuff, right?
There are many reasons why you may want additional security protections, especially if you’re a freelancer who works outside of the home. But first, let’s take a look at the most common types of threats.
First of all, what is a breach?
A “breach” is an incident in which data is inadvertently exposed in a vulnerable system, usually due to software security weaknesses.
Malware, worms and spam
According to security giant McAfee, malware, short for “malicious software,” comes in many forms, including different types of computer viruses, worms, “Trojans” and dishonest spyware. Worms are software programs that duplicate themselves from one computer to another. Without human interaction, these copies can create themselves and spread rapidly in high volumes.
Spam refers to unwanted messages in your email inbox. We’ve all seen it: Junk mail advertising goods or services that we aren’t interested in, which, though annoying, are typically considered harmless. Some, however, when clicked on, can include links that install malicious software on your computer. Rude.
Cybercriminals are sneaky. Through a process called phishing, they attempt to solicit private or sensitive information by posing as a familiar entity, like your bank or web service. If they sufficiently convince you, you may be tempted to click on links to verify details like account information or passwords.
Infected with malicious software, a botnet is a network of private computers that are usually controlled by a single user and are often prompted to engage in criminal activities like spam or denial-of-service attacks.
Oof. See? It’s rough out there.
So, how can you keep yourself safe?
First, be smart about secure browsers
Each web browser has its own security measures in place, but some have flaws that allow hackers to invade. To check if the site you’re on is secure, look at the URL. If it begins with “https,” you’re in good shape, because the site is secured, using an SSL Certificate.
Check 1, 2: Is it really you?
In order to prove you are you, multi-factor authentication works to control access by requiring several types of evidence. Send a text to your mobile device, ask for security questions, you’ve seen it before: Websites and email accounts can be made more secure by requiring at least two factors of authentication.
Protect your email accounts
Ah, email. We can’t live without it these days, but email unfortunately creates a ton of chances for viruses, worms and other malicious programs to enter our systems. Email messages can be protected using cryptography, which creates codes that keep your information secret.
Still, freaked out?
Many internet service providers offer their own additional levels of web protection. Check first to find out what your offers, then you may want to opt into additional layers of security.
AT&T ConnecTech Support Plus, for one, identifies and removes viruses and malware and offers up chat options with agents to get to the bottom of other security-related issues.
Verizon Internet Security Suite offers a robust array of services, from McAfee Active Protection (against malicious threats), real-time protection against virus attacks, secure firewall protection and even parental controls — for all devices using Verizon’s service.
At no additional cost, Spectrum offers a downloadable Security Suite for Business Internet users. The suite software offers protection against malicious software, including viruses, spyware, worms, Trojans and more. Through the firewall feature, allow only safe internet connections and block unwanted access to your computer.