6 Essential cybersecurity habits to start the new year right

6 Essential cybersecurity habits to start the new year right

At the beginning of each new year, many of us pledge to eat healthier, exercise more, and finally tackle our overflowing to-do list. But amid these personal goals, let's remember another crucial resolution: bolstering our cybersecurity. With cyberthreats constantly evolving, adopting safe habits that protect our personal information and online accounts has never been more important.

Here are six habits that you can incorporate into your daily routine for a more secure and stress-free digital life:

1. Strengthen your passwords

Passwords remain a critical aspect of online security, yet many people still use weak and easy-to-guess combinations. One of the biggest password offenses is using easily accessible details such as names, birthdays, or addresses in your passwords.

To fortify your defenses, use passphrases — a string of four or more random words such as "MajesticPizzaPicnicSymphony" or "UnderwaterRobotDiscoGlitterball." These are much harder to crack than traditional passwords since they are long but easy to remember.

You should also avoid recycling the same password across several accounts. Otherwise, if your password gets stolen, all other accounts using that password are put at risk.

2. Implement multifactor authentication (MFA)

MFA significantly reduces the risk associated with stolen passwords by requesting at least one more proof of identity on top of a password. Examples of such proofs include fingerprints, facial recognition, or one-time passcodes.

3. Leverage password managers

Managing numerous passwords can be challenging, but password managers can make your life much easier. These programs can generate unique passwords for all your accounts and store them in an encrypted vault. This means you don't have to memorize multiple passwords — all you need is one master password to access all your login credentials. Password managers can also autofill your credentials, saving you from the hassle of typing them yourself.

4. Explore passwordless authentication

For heightened security, consider adopting passwordless authentication, a rising trend embraced by industry leaders such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google. Passwordless authentication eliminates passwords, instead using methods such as biometric verification (e.g., scanning your fingerprint) or secondary devices (e.g., unlocking with your trusted smartphone) to verify user identity.

5. Guard against oversharing

The information you share publicly can unintentionally become ammunition for cybercriminals. They can use it to craft realistic phishing emails, impersonating friends, colleagues, or official institutions to gain your trust and steal sensitive information. Using AI, they can even manipulate audio and video, potentially making it appear like you're endorsing a fake product or service, or revealing confidential information.

To stay safe online, avoid sharing your address, phone number, birthday, financial details, or workplace publicly. Be cautious about tagging your location or using features that automatically reveal your whereabouts. And before posting anything online, ask yourself, "Would I share this information with a stranger on the street?" If not, think twice before posting it.

Many online platforms offer privacy settings, so use them to limit who sees your posts and profile information, opting for "friends only" or even stricter settings for sensitive content. Creating separate accounts for personal and professional spheres is also a great way to compartmentalize your information and prevent unintended exposure.

6. Keep software up to date

Software vulnerabilities often give cybercriminals a foothold into your systems. This is why it's vital to regularly patch your software with the latest updates as soon as they're available. Enable automatic updates whenever possible to streamline the process and minimize security risks.

By adopting these essential habits, you can fortify your digital defenses and navigate the evolving landscape of cyberthreats with confidence.

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