In the rather wacky 1993 film Benny & Joon, Mary Stuart Masterson portrays the role of Joon who, apart from using the laundry iron to toast bread, insists on wearing a motorbike helmet whilst driving in the car. Similarly, cyber security can sometimes get a bit out of hand – security should not get in the way of productivity; it should be pragmatic and relatively easy to use.
Additionally, the approach to security should be balanced. On the one hand, there is fear mongering, which breeds paranoia, and on the other hand, there is head-in-the-sand ignoring of the problem, which leads to that inevitable moment when the person goes: “If only I had…”
Here are 3 steps for 3 different devices you can take to be more secure right now, without having to wear a tinfoil hat.
iPhone, Android or Windows, you do need to be careful how and when you use your phone.
Avoid public Wi-Fi wherever possible. Consider upgrading your mobile Internet bundle instead. Have a look at my other article on public Wi-Fi.
When downloading new apps, thoroughly read the permissions that the app requires. Alarm bells should ring when something like a game asks to access your phone dialer, messaging service, emails and address book
Use the lock-screen function. Whether you swipe a pattern, smile at the camers, use your fingerprint or type in a code, make sure that you and only you can access your phone.
Laptops and tablets are carried around and used outside the office. This makes them quite vulnerable. On average, a laptop is stolen somewhere in the UK every minute, most of these being in pubs and on public transport.
What happens if the device gets lost or stolen?
Be careful not to leave your laptop or tablet unattended. This is an open invitation not only for the theft of the device itself, but also for someone to tamper with it/ upload malware/ steal data.
Be careful when using a laptop on e.g. a train, at a coffee shop or any public area – someone might be “shoulder surfing” and seeing all your data. I recently heard of a sales deal going south because the sales person was working on a proposal on the train and, unbeknownst to him, a sales rep from a competing firm happened to be on that same train, saw the proposal, and put in a better offer. Use a privacy filter screen overlay such as this one whenever using your laptop in public places.
To protect your data, consider encrypting the drive or switching to a cloud-hosted virtual desktop. Encrypting the drive is fairly secure, but could slow down your computer quite significantly. If you are thinking about using a cloud-hosted desktop, make sure that the cloud service provider is ISO 27001 certified. One downside of cloud-hosted desktops is that they rely very heavily on internet connection. There are offline options available, but these usually cost a few Pounds extra. Read my other article about making the switch to Cloud.
For most people, this would be the one at work, but even there you should take personal responsibility for your cyber security.
Don’t write down your user names and passwords. If you absolutely must, then write them down and put them in a place far away from the computer, preferably under lock and key. Write them down in such a way as to make it less obvious that they are login credentials. See this article on good password policy.
Make sure your machine is up to date with the latest security patches, the firewall is active, anti-malware is running and all up to date. Perform regular malware scans.
Remember to lock your work station whenever you leave your desk. The Windows button + L is a shortcut to instantly lock your machine.
Bonus tip: Beware of email attachments from unknown sources. As a general rule, if you don’t know the sender, don’t open the attachment.
Millions of devices are lost, stolen or compromised each day, so please pay attention to securing your devices!
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