Hospitals, accountants, law offices and other businesses have volumes of juicy, valuable personal and confidential information in their computer systems. Human beings who are imperfect work in those businesses Cyber thieves know that, so they work every day to break into computer systems to steal valuable financial and personal data. One popular method is to send “phishing” emails with links that infect the user’s computer and all the systems it touches.
Experts are predicting that phishing scams will increase in the 2020s, probably because they are so successful. The Seventh Annual Edition of Experian’s 2020 Data Breach Industry Forecast includes some scary predictions about phishing scams and their potential impact. Hackers are going to new heights to steal and exploit the vulnerabilities that exist in today’s technology.
You can read details of Experian’s Forecast here – https://www.experian.com/data-breach/data-breach-industry-forecast. But what can you do to protect your business?
Here are five tips to secure your computer environment and protect your data:
- Phishing emails – Never open an email from a suspicious source, click on a link in a suspicious email or open an attachment without scanning it first. Otherwise, you could be a victim of a phishing attack and your data could be compromised. Never click links within pop-up windows, download “free” software from a pop-up, or follow email links that offer anti-spyware software. The links and pop-ups could be installing the spyware that they claim to be eliminating.
- Two-Factor Authentication – Many email providers now offer two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of protection. Often, two-factor authentication means the returning user must enter username and password plus another step, such as entering a security code sent via text to a mobile phone. A thief might snag you username and password but it’s highly unlikely they also would have the mobile phone to receive the security code.
- Backup software/services – Critical files on computers should routinely be backed-up to external sources, such as a cloud storage service or an external hard drive. Periodically verify that the files are backed up and can be retrieved. Backups give you assurance in the event your business is victim to a phishing scam.
- Anti-Virus Software – Anti-virus software scans computer files or memory for certain patterns that may indicate the presence of malicious software or definitions of known malware from cyber criminals. Anti-virus vendors find new issues and update malware daily, so it is important that you have the latest updates installed on your computer by setting it to automatically receive the latest updates.
- Firewalls – Firewalls provide protection against outside attackers by shielding your computer or network and preventing malicious software from accessing your systems. Firewalls can be configured to block data from certain suspicious locations or applications while allowing relevant and necessary data through. But remember, firewalls do not prevent attacks; they protect against malicious traffic (unless the user accidentally installs malware – see “phishing”).
Huge volumes of valuable personal and confidential data mean that hackers will go to new heights to steal and exploit the vulnerabilities in our systems through phishing emails and other tools. Following the five security tips above will help to secure your computer environment and protect your data from cyber scams.