Most of us are probably aware that cyber security is a big issue in this age of the Internet. The Internet is also cluttered with information on the topic; however, most people are unaware that the majority of security breaches occur due to our simple mistakes. While reminders about cyber-attacks and countless breaches are frequent, we usually don’t like to be reminded until someone can hack into our computers, deleting vital online and offline information.

Due to the severity and potential cost of these attacks, it’s a no-brainer why cybercriminals are on top of the FBI’s most-wanted list along with suspected global terrorists. Security officials firmly believe that financial losses due to cyber-attacks are costlier than many large-scale terror threats. Therefore, it makes sense to be reminded again of the potential psychological and financial losses that we are all exposed to.

If you care, here are the top five practical ways to make yourself cyber-safe:

Use Strong Passwords

Using a weak password provides open-door access to hackers who can potentially take complete control of the situation. Experts think that most individuals and workers use weak passwords because they don’t want to remember difficult passwords for multiple applications. Remembering numerous login credentials is a tricky affair as an average person uses more than 20 to 30 online platforms. Another reason for using a weaker password is to access trial and free versions of online software, which improves vulnerability.

To make yourself cyber safe, it is recommended to use a strong password consisting of 8 to 16 characters; a combination of upper and lower letters; and unique signs including numbers. Using an online password tool that can remember all your password is a more straightforward and practical solution. Similarly, using multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of login security. Using MFA, users are sent secret codes to their emails and cell phones, allowing everyone to remain safe.

You need to understand that modern hackers are not people feverishly typing passwords in a dark room. Contrary to these Hollywood depictions, a hacker calmly used sophisticated tools to attack private networks around the clock because there is often big money in hacking.

Secure Social Media Accounts

Every day, billions of people are hooked to their social media accounts because social media is increasingly becoming popular as an alternative platform for advertising, jobs, and networking. Recent studies reveal that an average person uses social media for 116 minutes. For hackers, social media is an excellent source for stealing information because an ordinary person mostly uses it instead of corporate workers. As such, most people are unaware of the seriousness of hacking issues. Using a social media account to log in to the mobile application makes us very vulnerable to cyber threats.

You can save yourself from such attacks by closing all the social media accounts that you don’t use anymore. A hacker can easily access your active social media account if it’s connected to a dormant or inactive social account. Similarly, don’t use Facebook or Google login to unnecessarily accessing other platforms. If the security of the application is vulnerable, your linked social media account can also fall into the hands of hackers. Practice good password hygiene by using 2-factor authentications for accessing crucial social media accounts. It’s also a good idea to keep your mobile applications updated, allowing you to protect yourself from any new threats.

Keep Backup and Storage

Since the advent of the Internet, both small and large organizations have started to store and backup their critical data. While the practice of backing up data is still in its infancy, it’s perhaps one of the most important investments that anyone can make. Most of us are already aware of the feelings when we can’t access our data, or someone accidentally erases the data. In recent years, many U.S. corporations have yielded to the demands of hackers by paying millions of dollars in ransom because they didn’t have secure storage space and backup sources.

To secure yourself, it is vital to scan external storage devices such as a USB before using these. It is even more critical if the USB doesn’t belong to you because it may contain viruses that can easily penetrate and shut down all the computing sources connected to a particular computer. As a precaution, try to store your data in the cloud so you can easily access it without using hardware and expansive restoring procedures. Likewise, use a backup system to back up the information and understand how to retrieve the info if your system is compromised.

Update Your Software and Devices

An update is done to stop hackers from accessing loopholes in the security features of the software. If the software is not updated, the hacker can easily take advantage of the loophole to penetrate the system.

We have become so accustomed to notices of software updates that we don’t take it seriously whenever a window pop-ups to tell us about the need to upgrade the software. Whenever someone ignores these messages to update their software, they allow hackers to target their computers and networks.

To increase cyber security, you must never ignore these messages because they are essential patches that cover loopholes in security. If you are busy, make sure to update the system as soon as possible. Another simple and effective method is to select automatic updates in the settings. Remember, the longer you ignore downloading the updated security patch, the longer you and your network are vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Guard against Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks are commonplace on the Internet. Usually, these attacks start when you receive an email from a legitimate-looking source asking for information such as your name, bank account number, and other personal credentials. While most users can discern between spam and legitimate emails, anyone can fall victim to such attacks. Nowadays, most phishing messages are sent by sophisticated attackers who try their best to mimic the original emails sent by the company. When we get an identical email similar to the bank’s official email, people tend to reveal important information.

There are a lot of different techniques used by the attackers such as embedding a link that takes you to a fake website to reveal information. Similarly, emails also install Trojans via email attachments, which makes the computer vulnerable to attacks. Spoofing the sender address to appear a legitimate source is another standard method.

For protection against such cyber-attacks, companies must train their employee to detect such messages. Accordingly, all systems should be current with the latest security patches to prevent attacks. Installing an antivirus solution is also one of the best options to tackle the issue. Deploying a web filter, encrypting important information, and developing a security policy are just a few of the most critical steps that you can take to safeguard yourself and your company.

Despite the awareness regarding issues of cyber security, human error is a huge factor that contributes to cyber-attacks. Recent research by Kaspersky disclosed that more than half of the organizations believe that reckless mistakes by their workers are the most significant factor contributing to the cyber threat. Inappropriate use of the security features is also the key to make systems vulnerable. Under these circumstances, the only sure proof safeguard is to train and generate awareness among employees. In the long run, reminding workers of the perils of cyber threats is the only solution to the safety of individuals and organizations.