A Beginner’s Guide to Basic Cybersecurity

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It’s a basic human instinct to protect themselves from harm. When it comes to “harm,” people usually think of physical damage. However, in the digital era, many things aren’t physical at all. And one thing’s for sure, you can be harmed in the digital realm, tool. So, what can one do to protect themselves on the internet? Let’s start with the basics.

Cybersecurity vs. Cyberattacks

To be safe on the internet, one has to defend their systems and network from digital attacks. The practice of protecting such systems is called cybersecurity. Since the internet is so broad and almost impossible to fully control, there are certain loopholes that hackers use to exploit other users. Such exploits are commonly referred to as cyberattacks. Cyberattacks can vary from identity theft, money extortion, stealing personal images and data, etc. These are the most common forms of cyberattacks:

  • Ransomware
  • Phishing
  • Social Engineering
  • Malware

Ransomware is essentially malicious software disguised as a legitimate file, and its purpose is to block users’ data. Malicious software hijacks users’ data and threatens to delete it unless they pay a ransom – hence the name. Culprits can lock the whole hard drive or target certain items of importance such as documents, business files, private photos, etc.

Phishing is a scamming tactic that comes in various shapes and forms. The most common one is fraudulent emails disguised as real people or companies, i.e., legitimate entities. Their goal is to make users believe they are actually in touch with those entities, hoping that they will send over sensitive information.

Social Engineering often goes hand in hand with phishing. However, social engineering is like a psychological exploit. Social engineers can call users and pretend they’re from another company, asking for credit card details. They also take advantage of users’ information on social media, creating a perfect cover to make them seem trustworthy.

Malware is software designed to penetrate the user’s systems or cause some sort of damage to their computer. It has many shapes and forms, varying from worms and viruses to spyware. Malware is the core of almost all the threats listed above. The name stems from a combination of “malicious” and “software.”

How Can You Protect Yourself?

Unless you’re a professional, once a cyberattack starts – you probably won’t be able to stop it. So, for beginners, prevention is the way to go. Let’s learn how to protect ourselves on the internet and prevent cyberattacks from happening:

  1. Be Careful

This might seem redundant, but it’s not. Users have to rely on their brain and instincts. This is especially important when receiving emails that are potentially phishing scams or contain any type of malware. Always check the sender’s email address before opening it, especially before downloading anything.

  1. Use VPNs

A VPN is basically a secure tunnel between the user and the internet. VPN servers disguise a computer’s physical location and use a virtual IP address to access online data. Because of that, it’s very difficult for anyone to spy on devices that use VPN. But, are VPNs legal? Yes, VPN services are totally permissible unless used for suspicious and malicious activities. They are legal almost everywhere, except for a few Eastern countries.

  1. Enable Two-Step Verification

As the name implies, two-step verification is just adding a second layer of security to one’s account. Passwords can be volatile and easy to crack, so adding that extra layer can be of utmost importance. Two-step verification methods can vary from fingerprint scans and facial recognition to security questions and security codes sent via email or a text message.

  1. Use a Password Generator

Password generators are extremely useful, and people should always use one to create their passwords. They create a sequence of random numbers, symbols, and letters that’s close to impossible to crack. Using words that are familiar and close to heart is a big no-no, as such passwords can be easily cracked.

  1. Use Encrypted Messaging Apps

Users share a lot of valuable information via various messaging services. What a lot of users don’t know is that most of their messages aren’t encrypted at all. Instead, messages are transmitted in their original form, allowing hackers to intercept and spy on them. Luckily, many services decided to encrypt their messages. Apps such as WhatsApp and Signal use end-to-end encryption, meaning that the message is scrambled during transmission, and then unscrambled once the message reaches its destination.