Five security tips to make a cybercriminal’s job harder

Cisco’s New Year’s resolutions offer simple steps towards consumer safety, privacy, and protection.
Five security tips to make a cybercriminal’s job harder

In the never-ending arms race between hackers and defenders, technology and innovation rule. But another critical element is often overlooked: behavior.  

Cybercriminals love nothing more than an uninformed consumer or employee. Because even the simplest security missteps save them the trouble of investing in expensive new technology to support their ill-gotten gains.  

But how can you avoid becoming low-hanging fruit to a cybercriminal?  

Cisco has some answers. Our security team is on the cutting edge of cybersecurity – battling cybercrime, uncovering the latest scams, and seeking out the weaknesses that leave people and businesses vulnerable. And to welcome the new year, they released their first-ever list of cybersecurity resolutions. These are in response to the top hacks that Cisco expects will target consumers in 2023.  

The good news is that — unlike exercising more or laying off sugary deserts — these resolutions are simple and easy to follow. And they’re all-but guaranteed to increase awareness while protecting our data, our privacy, and our families.  

I resolve to protect my accounts. Account takeovers remain the No. 1 risk. And a top cybercrime strategy continues to be email phishing schemes, SMS text scams, and fake robocalls to get you to divulge information. So, don’t make it easy for them. Even the best of us can slip up in distracted moments. But the more aware we are, the less likely that will happen. That means never blindly trusting unverified messages — that is, the kind that claim you owe Netflix or that your car payment didn’t go through, often without mentioning you by name. Today, such schemes go beyond the phishing emails that we’ve all seen and extend to social media, texts, robocalls, and more. At the same time, be sure that any site related to your accounts employs multifactor identification. “Use different passwords for different sites,” said J. Wolfgang Goerlich, Cisco’s advisory chief information security officer. “That is difficult, as we all know. So, you can use a password manager to simplify it. And the No. 1 attack continues to be account takeover, so be sure they use multifactor. Because any way that we can stop those attacks will be good for us all.” 

I resolve to protect my privacy. If we’re not careful, our data can be spread across a dizzying array of networks, apps, and organizations, many of which will fail to treat it respectfully and securely. So, get in the habit of asking yourself if you really need to grant an app access to your contacts and other info. And do the research! Before you share, always double-check that the organization has an upfront, transparent data privacy policy — and learn just what the terms and conditions are. 

I resolve to protect my toys and technology. The No. 2 risk we face today is malware spreading through unpatched or forgotten devices. That’s because everything from refrigerators and vacuums to garage doors and even kids’ toys can be connected — and vulnerable. Any can provide a window of opportunity to a hacker, if the devices are not properly updated and patched. “Before I hand off new toys to my kids, I’m going to update them and keep them updated,” said Goerlich. “That also goes for my phone, my tablet, my computer, and those things we oftentimes don’t think about, like that little internet-enabled robot that goes around sweeping and cleaning.” 

I resolve to protect my family. Adults as well as kids should be extra mindful of the sites they enter. TikTok is one example of a site that has been compromised, to the point at which some governments are placing restrictions on its access. But there are many other sites with questionable ethics, privacy policies, or security. “A lot of being safe in the real world starts with parents setting a good example,” Goerlich added. “So, explain to the kids what could happen. Helping kids make good choices about the applications they use will help build a foundation of security for the future.” 

I resolve to spread security awareness in 2023. As Goerlich says, “It’s by working together that we can have a more secure 2023.” Remember, security is a shared responsibility. So, be sure to share knowledge with family and friends. Ensure that others know which apps offer multifactor authentication, especially if finances are involved. Beyond that, urge them to let go of those convenient but all-too-familiar passwords. You know, the one that people use on site after site?  And double-check that they know about things like privacy policies and multifactor authentication on the sites they use.  

Resolutions always involve a bit of discipline and ongoing reminders. But these simple steps can lead the way to a safe, secure year for you and your family. And help make it a bad year for hackers everywhere.