Internet security is threatened by malware of all kinds; service breaches and data leakage; hoax and disinformation campaigns; loss of the right to privacy or unpatched software vulnerabilities that are exploited for all kinds of attacks with Ransomware and Phishing as exponents, as we saw in the selection of worst cybersecurity incidents of 2022.
In addition, the number of devices connected to the global network. has grown exponentially and personal computers have been massively joined by mobile devices, wearables, smart cars or everything that comes from home automation and the Internet of Things. And to aggravate the situation, the “hybrid work” that we are living, adds and combines professional and domestic tasks making difficult the ability to stay safe in this jungle called the Internet.
Internet security: how to strengthen it
Guaranteeing 100% security and privacy is very difficult in a global network, but we can strengthen it and anticipate the arrival of threats with a series of proactive measures that include the strengthening of online accounts, applications, equipment where we use them and due precautions in the use of the Internet and its services. Common sense is another great defense here, as well as being aware of the fact that virtual life must be protected today as much as the physical one..
1.- Protects web browsers
All browsers include advanced security features whose activation we must review and configure because they are the main applications we use to access the Internet and its services. In addition to checking the end-to-end encryption in synchronization or process isolation (sandbox), we should pay attention to warnings about unsafe sites displayed by browsers. Also check installed extensions because some of them are a frequent source of malware introduction.
Another interesting possibility to improve privacy is to use the “Private Mode” (also known as incognito mode), as it avoids tracking through cookies, open user sessions and other systems used for this purpose. Finally, it is worth mentioning the use of “Guest Mode”, which is totally detached from the user’s original profile, including settings or history, thus protecting your data.
2.- Update the operating system and applications.
Any type of software is susceptible to vulnerabilities that cybercriminals exploit for computer attacks. Hence the need to always use the latest versions of the software we use, especially operating systems. They all have mechanisms for this and in the case of Windows, the most used and exploited, it has Windows Update to provide automatic updates that facilitate patching and updating to the latest versions. If you are experienced and prefer to do it manually, Microsoft Update Catalog is an official web portal where you can find published security updates for Windows operating systems.
Just as important as keeping the operating systems updated is keeping the applications we have installed up to date and which also publish the corresponding security patches. It is important to understand that older versions of software are at greater risk of being attacked, with special emphasis on some widely used versions such as Java, Adobe Flash, Reader or Internet Explorer, which have been a constant source of security problems.
3.- Use security solutions
In an operating system like Windows, the most used and therefore the most attacked, it is likely that even the most prudent user in the use of your computer will have to deal with some kind of infection. And hence the need to use some kind of software to help us in the task. For Windows (also for iOS and Android) Microsoft offers Windows Defender as a native security solution. Although it was originally launched as a basic solution, over the years it has improved greatly in detection and resolution capabilities and today it is sufficient as basic protection for most consumers.
Of course, you can use solutions from specialized vendors that offer a number of security solutions, many of them free of charge. An advanced or professional user should consider using a comprehensive commercial security suite that includes additional tools such as a firewall and other specialized tools against Ransomware, Phishing, adware or spyware attacks.
4.- Manage passwords well.
Another of the golden rules to improve Internet security (in addition to using advanced biometric identification techniques if the device you use allows it) is to have a strong and different password for each website. Certainly, passwords are an unattractive method for the user, but they are still the preferred authentication method for accessing Internet services or logging into operating systems, applications, games and all kinds of machines.
Strong passwords prevent brute force attacks and using a different password for each account avoids having all of them compromised at once when a data breach occurs. You should follow a set of rules for their creation and value the use of password managers that are able to do the job for us, reducing human errors in their handling and automating the process of generation and administration.
5.- Use two-factor authentication.
2FA is an access control method known as “two-factor authentication”, “two-factor authentication” or “two-step verification”, which has become one of the most important security mechanisms in the technology industry for authenticating users and protecting identities. Two-factor (or two-step) authentication provides an additional level of account security because it is not enough to simply crack the username and password.
This feature is already available on most major Internet services and should be used whenever possible. Generally, it uses a verification code served via a mobile app or SMS, enforcing the use of passwords, username and password when logging in.
6.- Evaluates the use of encryption.
BitLocker drive encryption is a data protection feature available in the Professional and Enterprise editions of Windows 10 and 11. BitLocker allows you to encrypt or “scramble” the data on your computer to keep it protected by addressing threats such as data theft or exposure in the event of loss, theft or improper removal of equipment, and ultimately improving online security. BitLocker can be enabled on the operating system drive, on a fixed data drive or on a removable data drive. There are equally or better third-party solutions that are worth considering.
7.- Use a hardware security key for vital accounts.
For vital accounts, especially in professional and business environments, it is worth making an extra effort to protect them using a hardware security mechanism. This is usually a flash drive that plugs into a USB port and contains a highly secure encryption engine. The entire process is performed within the hardware, greatly increasing the overall security over software solutions.
8.- Avoid free wireless networks.
Free hotspots have spread across multiple areas in towns, catering areas, airports, train or subway stations, hotels and in all types of businesses. Darkhotel, the Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) discovered by Kaspersky Lab, confirmed the intrinsic insecurity of public wireless networks. It had been active since 2007 and was reportedly dedicated to obtaining privileged information from executives and high-level employees staying in high-end hotels. Security researchers have shown that such networks are easily hackable so we should only use them for occasional surfing and never reveal our personal data.
9.- Use backup copies
We have already said that 100% security in a connected world simply does not exist, and not only because of the abundance of malware, since a hardware error can also lead to the loss of precious personal and/or professional information. Making backups (what we know as Backup) is therefore highly recommended for a user or professional who intends to protect personal and corporate information on a computer, in addition to being a maintenance task that contributes to the health of the hardware. Backup copies should be stored on a storage device external to our computer and/or in a cloud storage service.
10.- Common Sense
As always when we talk about Internet security (and cybersecurity in general) prudence is a preferential barrier against malware and therefore, we must be especially careful in the section on downloading and installing applications from unsafe sites; in browsing certain Internet pages; in opening unsolicited emails or attachments; in those arriving from social networks or messaging applications or in the use of operating systems and applications without updating, which contain vulnerabilities exploitable by cybercriminals for malware campaigns.