Seven Cybersecurity Lessons for 2021 – How Awareness Results in Better Security

January 6th, 2021
Seven Cybersecurity Lessons

2020 was a tough year for everyone. The pandemic resulted in tragic personal losses and delivered a death blow to many businesses. The impact of this pandemic will be felt for a very long time to come.

To make matters worse, these challenging times continue to be leveraged by cybercriminals to launch a variety of cyberattacks. Pandemic concerns are being used as bait for spam, phishing attacks, and malware.

While countries across the world went into lockdown, cybercriminals were busy working out newer and more evolved attacks that could circumvent even the most advanced security protocols.

No rest for the wicked, it seems.

So, the question to ask is: what are the cybersecurity lessons we can take with us into 2021?

1. Home users should not take cybersecurity for granted

Lesson #1 and the one that might seem elementary, but isn’t. The ‘work from home’ (WFH) model means your home PCs are a prime target for cybercriminals. It is important to note that your home computer was always on the radar, but it’s more so now, because many employees are using their PCs and Macs for office work.

This model will continue in the New Year and with a number of companies making this permanent, it is of utmost importance that you start taking cybersecurity seriously. Recognize the fact that your home desktop, laptops, tabs etc. are a target, and take appropriate steps to secure them.

2. SMBs and SOHOs should prioritize cybersecurity

There is a rise of cyberattacks against SMBs and Small Office, Home Office (SOHO) businesses, and as things stand this rise will continue. If you are the owner of a small business, something that you operate out of your home, don’t think you will have it easy. The size of a business isn’t protection enough. You must exercise strict cybersecurity hygiene, deploy a good anti-virus software, ensure security of your home Wi-Fi and make sure you stay away from clicking on suspicious links and so on and so forth.

Security also becomes a critical aspect if you are working as a third-party provider, freelancer, or contractor for larger businesses. If left unprotected, your system can become the backdoor cybercriminals use to enter the organizational network of a bigger and more lucrative business.

3. Avoid security booby traps

If there is one thing that has changed over the years, it is awareness about security threats and the way cyberattacks hack into a system. Unfortunately, there is also a sense of hyper-awareness about security threats, and cybercriminals prey on this by tricking you into installing “security software” you shouldn’t.

For example:

You are hunting for antivirus software and suddenly you see a popup on you screen, screaming at you, ‘Download Antivirus NOW!” What do you do? You click on that link, and instantly, you download that antivirus software. But what you’re actually doing is download malware instead. And, just like that, your computer is infected.

Lesson learned – do not install anything that you don’t know is 100% the real deal.

4. Adopt a zero-trust approach

Organizations are adopting a zero-trust strategy – this means they instill a set of security protocols that do not trust anything inside or outside the perimeter. Their security framework verifies everything trying to establish contact with its systems, and only then access is granted.

It will be difficult to adopt this technology model for a home computer, but it’s still helpful to internalize this belief – zero trust. Do not trust any email that reaches your inbox and any link within. If a website you visit wants you to click on a link, don’t trust it. Always assume that your financial information is unsafe and someone, somewhere, wants to get at it. Accept the fact that someone is trying to crack open your passwords and access privileged login credentials. Verify anything and everything.

This zero-trust attitude will protect you from a variety of attacks, such as a Trojan virus, which disguises itself as legitimate software and convinces you to download the “software” onto your computer.

5. Leverage VPNs

A low hanging security fruit in cybersecurity best practices you can pluck is using a VPN (virtual private network) that encrypts all data being shared between you and your organization so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Whenever you are using your home computer to transmit information with your employer or access organizational resources, do so through a VPN only. Never turn it off when you are working.

With a VPN, you mask your real IP, and considering you will be using a home internet service that might or might not be secure, using a VPN makes a great deal of sense.

6. Optimize patch management

Some lessons age like fine wine. This is one of the them. Never forget to patch your system. This includes both OS and application software. Zero-day attacks have become prevalent these days. The reason why these are very successful is that they exploit hidden or unknown vulnerabilities in an application/software before a patch is made available. Typically, reputed software companies come up with patches quickly to plug the security weakness.

But the question here is: how serious are you about making the necessary updates when the patch is made available? You can configure your software to update automatically or do so manually, but either way but it’s imperative that you do so. Don’t leave a machine unpatched.

Forget about zero-day attacks – even in the normal course of things, attackers are on the lookout for unpatched systems. These are usually available on home PCs and Macs. Don’t give them the satisfaction of having found one on your computer.

7. Get an antivirus solution

This is the key lesson. You will need to deploy advanced cybersecurity for your home PCs and Macs. With Sophos Home, you can implement business-grade cybersecurity that is purpose-built for home users. Its offers advanced ransomware protection, cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) malware detection, and much more to protect your computer from never-before-seen threats. 

There are plenty of lessons you can keep in mind to minimize risks, but the key to ensuring the highest level of security for your PC or Mac is making informed decisions that help you avoid system compromise.

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