- Although the Internet has been with us for 50 years now, we still repeat basic mistakes, like using weak passwords, avoiding updates, or browsing unsecured pages. All of this opens the door to cyber threats.
Today 17th of May is World Internet Day, Check Point Software Technologies Software is using the day as an opportunity to highlight some of the “bad habits” that affect our digital security.
These bad habits include neglecting passwords, forgetting to update our devices, leaving an open door for cyberattacks, and falling prey to disinformation.
Nowadays we cannot live without the Internet. Remember looking for information in an encyclopedia or going to a travel agency to buy a plane ticket or make a hotel reservation? It seems like ages ago, but the truth is that this network of networks has changed the way we do many tasks and has opened the doors to new possibilities that allow us, for example, to work from anywhere or make a bank transfer from our phones in just one click.
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Unfortunately, the rise of the Internet has been accompanied by an increase in the frequency and type of threats posed by cybercriminals. We have moved on from viruses distributed on floppy disks and Morris to the emergence of Trojans, spyware and ransomware, which are the main protagonists across today’s cybercrime landscape. According to the Security Report 2023 from Check Point® Software Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: CHKP), a leading global cyber security specialist provider, cyberattacks increased by 38% in 2022 compared to the previous year, with an average of 1,168 attacks per week per organisation. And this situation is only set to continue and worsen in years to come. Here in South Africa, an organisation was attacked on average 1445 times per week in the last 6 months.
All of this makes it clear that we need to be prepared to face these threats, which is why Check Point Software is using World Internet Day as an opportunity to highlight some of the “bad habits” that affect our digital security:
- Neglecting passwords: This is one of the most common mistakes, and yet one of the practices that most affects the maintenance of proper cybersecurity. We all find it easier to recycle passwords and use the same one for work and personal emails, but we are putting important data at risk. It is also very common to share them – Netflix or Spotify passwords, for example – and oftentimes we write them down or send them in a message or email to family or close friends. This reality translates into millions of users who every year see their accounts breached because they do not take care of their passwords. To avoid this, it is advisable to create secure passwords, with at least 12 characters and a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Likewise, it is always recommended to update them every few months, and not to reuse them on several different platforms or accounts.
- Update, update, update: All systems and devices have regular updates designed not only to improve or correct usability, but also to apply patches for possible vulnerabilities. The message to update often appears at inconvenient times or when we do not have a Wi-Fi connection and we usually end up postponing or even ignoring its installation, unconsciously leaving an open door for cyberattacks. Just by keeping our devices up to date, we can avoid many of the vulnerabilities that can occur.
- Falling prey to disinformation: While most cyberattacks today focus on data theft, there has recently been a growth in hacktivist practices and other state-related threats. This type of practice often includes the distribution of disinformation with fake news or biased and incomplete messages that prey on the emotional side of users to generate discord. For this reason, it is advisable to use several sources when informing ourselves, as well as to check any news or chain message before falling into practices such as mass dissemination. One of the main pillars of Internet security is common sense.
- Using free wireless networks: To avoid using up your own data, it is increasingly common to surf between hot spots and free Wi-Fi networks in restaurants, airports, train or metro stations, hotels and even public or private transport. However, security researchers have demonstrated on numerous occasions that these types of wireless networks have little or no security. It is advisable not to access an unknown network, but if you must, limit your use to basic browsing, avoid entering passwords or using sensitive applications such as payment platforms or banking access.
- Browsing and trusting unsafe websites: A way to identify this type of fraudulent website is to look for small errors such as typos, poorly written text or the presence of misleading or poor-quality images. However, the most effective method is undoubtedly the analysis of the URL, with security indicators such as SSL certificates (indicated by the presence of a padlock next to the web address); or alerts, such as the presence of irregular characters or subdomains.
“We all know just how much the Internet has changed every aspect of our lives, but we must remember that any technological advances that benefit regular users, also open up new opportunities for cybercriminals to carry out their attacks. The Internet may still be a fairly young tool, but we already have a lot of experience at our disposal to avoid becoming victims of cyber attackers,” explains Pankaj Bhula: Check Point’s EMEA Regional Director: Africa.
Adding: “It comes down to education and common sense, learning what we can about the risks that are out there and using our common sense to spot a threat so that everyone can share in safe digital spaces.”