18 Ways to Secure Your Devices From Hackers

The World Wide Web’s growth in the 1990s introduced new possibilities and spawned new industries. However, connectivity also brought new threats. Spam infiltrated email accounts, and computer viruses wreaked havoc on business networks. Hacking emerged, extending the definition of thievery to include infiltrating computers to steal personal information and tricking people into revealing private data. Business secrets, bank account credentials and even people’s identities were at risk.

Unfortunately, hacking threats are even more severe and complex today. The stakes become higher the more businesses rely on technology. Fortunately, organizations have multiple ways to help defend themselves — and protect crucial data — from hackers.

How can you secure your computer from hackers?

Despite the prevalence of hacking threats like ransomwarebusiness email compromise scams and data breaches, most businesses rely on the internet for a number of things. This includes: tracking finances, ordering and maintaining inventory, conducting marketing and PR campaigns, connecting with customers, using social media, and performing critical operations. Massive computer breaches affect big corporations with robust security measures. However, hackers also target small businesses that may underestimate cybercrime risks and lack the resources to employ expensive cybersecurity solutions.

Lax cybersecurity standards can derail a company. To give your business the best chance of preventing and mitigating cyberattacks, follow these tips to protect your devices and safeguard sensitive data.

Did You Know?

Cyberattacks are costly for small businesses. You may need to pay ransom costs, provide customers with free credit monitoring, hire customer service personnel to handle calls, pay fines and more.

1. Use a firewall to secure your computers from hackers.

Windows and macOS have built-in firewalls — software designed to create a barrier between your information and the outside world. Firewalls prevent unauthorized access to your business network and alert you to intrusion attempts.

Ensure the firewall is enabled before going online. You can also purchase a hardware firewall from companies like Cisco, Sophos or Fortinet, depending on your broadband router, which also has a built-in firewall that protects your network. If you have a larger business, you can purchase an additional business networking firewall.

2. Install antivirus software to thwart hackers.

Antivirus software is a small business cybersecurity necessity. Computer viruses and malware are everywhere. Antivirus programs like Bitdefender, Panda Free Antivirus, Malwarebytes, and Avast protect your computer against unauthorized code or software that may threaten your operating system. Viruses may have easy-to-spot effects — for example, they might slow your computer or delete critical files — or be less conspicuous.

Antivirus software plays a major role in protecting your system by detecting real-time threats to ensure your data is safe. Some advanced antivirus programs provide automatic updates, further protecting your machine from the new viruses that emerge daily.

After installing an antivirus program, don’t forget to use it. Run or schedule regular virus scans to keep your computer virus-free.

5. Keep your OS, apps and browser updated.

Always install operating system updates. Most updates include security fixes that prevent hackers from accessing and exploiting your data. The same goes for apps.

Today’s web browsers are increasingly sophisticated, especially regarding privacy and security. Review your browser security settings in addition to installing all new updates. For example, you can use your browser to prevent websites from tracking your movements, which increases your online privacy. You can also use a private browsing mode or install a browser specifically focused on security, like DuckDuckGo or Epic Privacy Browser.

6. Ignore spam to stop hackers from infiltrating your system.

Beware of email messages from unknown parties, and never click on links or open attachments that accompany them. Inbox spam filters have become good at catching the most conspicuous spam. But more sophisticated phishing emails that mimic your friends, associates and trusted businesses (like your bank) have become common, so keep your eyes open for anything that looks or sounds suspicious.

Did You Know?

Hackers’ favorite accounts to target include Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and Twitch. They’ll use leaked credentials or steal login details via phishing emails.

7. Back up your computer to rebuild if necessary.

If your business is not already backing up its hard drive, begin immediately. Backing up your information is critical if hackers successfully get through and trash your system.

Always ensure you can rebuild as quickly as possible after suffering any data breach or loss. Backup utilities built into macOS (Time Machine) and Windows (File History) are good places to start. An external backup hard drive can also provide enough space for these utilities to operate properly. Additionally, backing up to Google’s cloud backup system is seamless and straightforward.

Install a security app on your phone, just as you should install a firewall, antivirus software, and an antispyware package on your computer. Popular options include Avast and Bitdefender.

16. Use a better passcode to protect your phone.

Unlock codes like 0000 and 1234 are easy to remember, but they’re also easy to guess. Instead, opt for a randomly generated six-number passcode.

17. Switch off autocomplete on your mobile device.

Autocomplete is the feature that guesses what you’re typing and completes the word, phrase or other information for you. While convenient, this tool all but hands your email address, mailing address, phone number, and other important information to hackers. Switch it off.

18. Clear your browsing history on your mobile device.

Your mobile web browser has a browsing history just as your computer does. Clear it often — including cookies and cached files — to give hackers as little information as possible to work with if they do break into your phone.

Tip

Mobile cyberattacks are on the rise — and they can be just as devastating to SMBs as computer and network hacks. It’s crucial to include mobile devices in cybersecurity plans for comprehensive security coverage.

What are computer hackers?

Computer hackers break into internet-connected devices like computers, tablets and smartphones to steal, change, or delete information. Hackers usually find their way into devices for nefarious purposes. (However, one exception is so-called white hat hackers, whom companies hire to break into their devices to find security flaws that must be fixed.)

Hackers often install malware to steal, alter, or delete information in your devices; you might not even know it’s there. They may access your precious data before you know about a break-in.

Did You Know?

While popular media often depicts computer hackers as loners, the cybercrime ecosystem is highly complex and collaborative. In fact, the hacker economy is so large that the World Economic Forum predicts cybercrime could cost the global economy $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.

Why do hackers break into devices and networks?

Here are some reasons computer hackers break into devices:

  • Hackers commit financial crimes. We’ve all heard the classic story of somebody checking their credit card statement and finding transactions they didn’t make. These false transactions are often the result of computer hackers stealing credit card numbers, checking account info, or gaining access to other financial data.
  • Hackers commit vandalism. Hacking has a unique subculture, so some hackers may want to vandalize specific websites to make a point or show off to other hackers. Take this motivation seriously; it’s fairly common.
  • Hackers commit hacktivism. Hacktivism is similar to vandalism. Some hackers may want to alter or destroy specific websites for politically motivated reasons.
  • Hackers commit corporate espionage. Spying existed long before the internet era; hacking has only made espionage more accessible to the everyday person. With much of the world constantly connected to the internet, one company can hack into other companies’ devices to steal their information or intellectual property and use it to build an unfair competitive advantage.

Cultivate cyber awareness

As technology continues to change rapidly — particularly with the advent of generative AI systems — hackers and their attack methods will likely shift. While many of the above tips will help SMBs protect themselves, keep in mind that security methods must also adapt.

One of the best ways to stay ahead of possible attacks is to cultivate a company culture of cyber awareness, where effective employee training includes cybersecurity training. The more security-conscious every member of a business is, the harder it becomes for hackers to target them — no matter what tech advances arrive.

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