How to strengthen Internet security as 2022 begins

Maintaining security on the Internet is not an easy task in the midst of threats of all kinds of malware; software vulnerabilities; service breaches and data leakage; phishing and disinformation campaigns; rampant loss of privacy rights and all kinds of attacks with Ransomware and Phishing as exponents, as you could see in the selection of worst incidents of 2021.

And is that the number of devices connected to the global network has grown exponentially, with everything that has come from mobility, home automation, smart cars or Internet of Things devices. Add the pandemic and the movement of millions of employees and students from professional networks to home networks (generally more insecure) and you have a scenario that poses a challenge to stay safe from cyber threats.

Strengthening Internet Security

All of the above requires the user to proactive behavior and a lot of common senseunderstanding that virtual life has to be protected today as much as physical life and that domestic tasks have become dangerously mixed with professional ones. Certainly, no matter what we do, guaranteeing 100% security and privacy is not possible in a global network, but we can try to do it with a series of measures that we are going to remind you and that include the strengthening of online accounts, applications, equipment where we use them and the due precautions in the use of the Internet and its services.

internet security

1.- Protect your browsers

All web browsers include advanced security features whose activation we should review and configure because they are the applications we use to access the Internet and its services. In addition to reviewing the end-to-end encryption in the synchronization or process isolation (sandbox), we should pay attention to warnings about unsafe sites displayed by browsers.

Also check the extensions installed because some of them are a frequent source of malware introduction. Another interesting possibility is to use a session in  “Guest Mode” which is completely detached from the userÂ’s original profile, including settings or history. Finally, it is worth mentioning the use of “Private Mode” (or incognito mode) to improve privacy, as it avoids tracking through cookies, open user sessions and other systems used for this purpose.

2.- Update the operating system and applications

Windows Update provides the latest updates to the Windows operating system, with security patches for known threats that are required to be installed. With automatic updates, there’s no need to check for updates online or worry about missing critical fixes or device drivers for Windows on your PC.

Just as important—if not more so—than the above is updating installed applications to the latest versions as these often include security patches. When the versions are older, they are at greater risk of being attacked by cybercriminals who find vulnerabilities in the program, with special incidence in some of wide diffusion as Java, Adobe Flash or Reader.

3.- Use security solutions

Microsoft offers Windows Defender in its operating systems as a native security solution and its use is mandatory in Windows as basic protection for a consumer, although different specialized providers offer a good number of security solutions, many of them free, that we can use. An advanced or professional user should consider using a comprehensive commercial security suite that includes other security tools such as a firewall and specialized tools against Ransomware, Phishing, adware or spyware attacks.

internet security

4.- Manage your passwords well

Another golden rule 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 series of rules for their creation and value the use of password managers that are able to do the work for us, reducing human errors in their management 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 identification” 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 application or SMS, enforcing the use of passwords, username and password at login.

6.- Evaluates the use of encryption

BitLocker drive encryption is a data protection feature of the operating system, available in the Professional and Enterprise editions of Windows 10 and 11, among others. BitLocker allows you to encrypt or ‘encrypt’ the data on your computer to keep it protected against threats such as data theft or exposure in the event of loss, theft or improper removal of equipment, and ultimately improve 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.

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7.- Use a hardware security key for vital accounts

For vital accounts, especially in professional and business environments, it pays to go the extra mile to protect them using a hardware security mechanism. This is typically a flash drive that plugs into a USB port and contains a highly secure encryption engine. The entire process is done within the hardware, greatly increasing the overall security over software solutions.

8.- Avoid free wireless networks

Free hotspots have spread to multiple areas in towns, restaurants, airports, train and subway stations, hotels and all types of businesses. Darkhotel, the Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) discovered by Kaspersky Lab, confirmed the intrinsic insecurity of public wireless networks. It has been active since 2007 and has been dedicated to obtaining privileged information from executives and high-level employees staying in high-end hotels. Security researchers have shown that they are easily hackable so we should only use them for occasional browsing.

9.- Use backups

We already said that 100% security in a connected world simply does not exist and not only because of a virus because a hardware error can cause 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, as well as being a maintenance task that contributes to the health of the hardware. Backups should be stored on an external storage device to our team and / or a cloud storage service.

internet security

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 that arrive from social networks or messaging applications or in the use of operating systems and applications without updating, which contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals for malware campaigns.

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