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36 Top Cyber Security Tips to Protect your Digital World

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By Hector Cisneros

We live in a world where we depend on our digital technology for everything from staying in touch with our family and friends to engaging in work and executing our financial transactions. What would happen if suddenly, your smartphone, tablet or computer was infected with malware or worse, hacked? Would you be able to secure your personal and business bank accounts? Would they have access to sensitive and vital information stored on your digital devices? A breach of your digital security like this could change your life forever! In this episode of Working the Web to win we will explore the probability of your digital world being hacked, what you can do if you are, and how to prevent hackers from ruining your digital life. So, get ready to sure up the security of your smartphone, tablets, and computers as we delve into Hector the Connectors Top Tips for Smartphones and Digital security.

Courtesy of Pixabay
As in the past, we have written and warned about cybersecurity threats since 2011. Recently I wrote about the horrendous breach of Equifax, compromising 143 million Americans. I also wrote an article called How to Implement an Internet Security Counter Attack -  to help the reader create a defense against such threats. At the end of this article, we will provide an article list that is worth reading so that you obtain a broad understanding of the risk, types of attacks, and the solutions to mitigate these threats.

In 2011 we started the drumbeat by shouting the threat was real and widespread. That year Webroot The 5 Most Scandalous Phone-Hacking Stories of 2011”. These stories were titillating, but they were just the icing on the cake. In 2015 a lot of Android users got a wakeup call when they found out that their smartphones could be hacked via text message. Read the article called; “Most Android phones can be hacked with one simple text.”  Today, cyber threats are far worse than they were in 2011. In fact, hack attacks continued to more than double in number every year. What is even scarier is that most attacks are not reported, and large institutions try to hide their breaches as Equifax did.
published an article called; “

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To give you an idea of the breadth and types of attacks, I suggest you read these articles. From CNNThe hacks that left us exposed in 2017, from Wired - THE BIGGEST CYBERSECURITY DISASTERS OF 2017 SO FAR and Wikipedia's List of cyber attacks.  Since cyber-attacks are becoming almost a daily event, we run the danger that we will become jaded to their occurrences. Let's look at the most important methods and techniques you can implement to protect you, your family and your businesses from the cyber-attacks.
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Here are my Top Security Tips

  1. Make sure you have at least one antimalware app installed. If you have a digital device (computer, smartphone or tablet), make sure you have installed an antivirus/malware application on your devices. I recommend buying the best brand name product you can afford. This small investment can save you in a big way. Avoid the free products; they have gaps in their protection.
  2. Use a multi-layered approach – You need protection from the Cloud to the firewall, servers, PCs and all smart devices. Adding a second or even a third level of virus/malware endpoint protection to your system by installing an anti-malware program such as Malwarebytes. Every smart device needs to have a couple of layers of anti-malware protection. I use Trend MicroMalwarebytes, and Advanced System Care on my computer smartphones and tablets. 
    Courtesy of Wikipedia
  3. Make sure you keep your antivirus/malware apps up to date. Having an expired or non-updated AV application is asking for trouble. Keep your anti-malware application up-to-date by having it set to auto-update.
  4. Actively scan your computers, tablets, and smartphones on a regular basis. Set them to automatically scan at least once a week. Not scanning your devices on a regular basis increases the time it takes to discover malware infection. The longer a virus has time to do its dirty work, the harder it is to remove and eradicate.
  5. Protect your tablets and smartphone with built-in Apps. You may find that you already own one of these products for your mobile device. My latest smartphone came with the "Lookout" app installed on it. I also have a multi-user license at the office for TrendMicro and it comes with a mobile security protection app.
  6. Have your anti-malware products audit your social networks for security weaknesses. Products like TrendMicro do these scans. Some social nets also have built-in security scans. Make sure you follow the suggestions of the social networks you use. Many of the big names are actively asking their subscribers to self-audit, plug security holes and use two-step authentication.
  7. Limit what you share on Facebook and other social networks.  Cybercriminals go out of their way to systematically collect your personal information so that they can build a detailed profile of who you are, who you're connected with and what your regular behavior is. This information can give them the ability to fool you into giving up more information willingly, by just getting you to fill out a form, accept an email, and yes download an app!
  8. Make sure you have a bulletproof backup of your system. Use a tested and proven backup application system that is not connected to your machine or network all the time. This can be a flash drive, USB drive you use to make backups (that is not always connected) or an online service that you connect and disconnect from on a regular basis. We also employ a continues backup system with revision management.
  9. If you're using a cloud backup service, make sure it includes revision management, so
    Courtesy of Pixabay
    you keep earlier versions of your documents. This way, if a ransomware virus breaches your computer, you may still have earlier revisions you can access and retrieve.
  10. It's also a good idea to make different kinds of backup and restore points on your computer. Creating multiple and frequent restore points could allow you to roll back your system to a date before the ransomware infection.
  11. Don’t leave your computer running all the time. If it's running, it’s usually connected to the internet, and thus, it is vulnerable to attack. Shut your system off at night, or at least set it to sleep mode. We suggest doing system maintenance weekly on all digital devices. We use advanced system care to automatically shut the machine down when maintenance is complete.
  12. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to Get help! Use your antimalware vendors for support and to coordinate products. Not all products play well together! I have found that I must load TrendMicro first before installing other antimalware products.
  13. Never download or buy an application that does not have hundreds of downloads and a high rating. Downloading new app's that have not been vetted by the marketplace is a surefire way to get on the cutting edge of a hacker’s knife.
  14. If you really like that free app, buy it. Many of the purchased apps limit or eliminate the adware that runs on many smart devices. These ads could be linked to applications that put you at risk to unscrupulous companies or worse, the criminal element who are itching to get at your data.
  15. Keep your Browser up-to-date and make sure you use antimalware plugins to help keep malware at bay. Many antivirus products provide browser support so make sure you install their plug-in’s as well. There are also browser plugin’s designed to rate the risk of many URLs’, even before you click on them. One such plugin is “Web of Trust.” This product flags URLs with a color code.
  16. Login to the web using a more anonymous and secure connection. To increase your online security, use a VPN to Mask your IP Address. You can also use an Onion plugin for your browser to login in via the Tor network. Conversely, you can also use a browser designed to be
    Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
    more secure and private like Firefox, Comodo Dragon or a Tor enhanced browser. 
  17. Only use HTTPS addresses when browsing on the internet. These addresses are more likely to be legit, which is why Google gives them a higher-ranking factor. You can tell that they are more secure because they have the “HTTPS” designation. If you have a website or blog using the older “HTTP” designation, upgrade it to HTTPS to improve its security and ranking.
  18. Refrain from visiting websites of a dubious nature. This includes porn sites, warez, free software apps, online first-run movies and music sites. You can't blame criminals if they are fishing for your information with risqué ad's that show half naked girls promising magical affairs. You're the one who decides that it's OK to click on that kind of ad! Stay away from offers that seem too good to be true.
  19. Use a throwaway email address whenever possible (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.). If you have a habit of filling out lots of forms or your providing info to a website you have never used before, don’t use your primary email address. Use a Gmail or other free account that you can cancel or abandon if needed.
  20. Avoid opening any email attachments unless you know specifically where they came from and what they represent. (Remember, the first thing many viruses do once they infect a system is to sniff out email addresses to which they send a copy.) Since many crypto viruses come disguised as an email from FedEx, UPS or USPS, beware of any suspicious emails from shippers.
  21. If you must open unfamiliar emails or surf questionable websites, use protection. Install an
    Courtesy of Flickr
    application that prevents other programs from making changes to your system. One such program is Sandboxie ( It works with several popular web browsers to intercept and isolate your machine from applications that try to run programs on your system.
  22. Limit what you keep on your smart device. If you must keep sensitive information on your smart device because you use it to buy things online, make sure you use either the security features built into your anti-malware applications that encrypt your sensitive data, or you should purchase software that provides this feature for you.
  23. When not using your smartphone, turn off the WIFI and Bluetooth services. This can easily be done by enabling airplane mode. You can still listen to music and even play some games without a wireless connection. It's ok to turn off your phone in the evening when it's charging. No one can compromise a smart device if it’s not connected to the internet.
  24. Create and use Strong Passwords. Make sure your smart devices (computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.) are password-protected with at least an eight-digit password made up of
    Courtesy of Vimeo
    numbers, letters and some special symbols (12 characters are better). Make sure you change them at least once a year. If you have trouble keeping track of your passwords, get a password tracking app to use with your device.
  25. Make sure you keep your all your smart devices current with regards to security updates. If you’re running Microsoft Windows, this is almost a weekly process.  This includes updating your apps as well. If you have a Wordpress site, all widgets need updating regularly. If you love free apps for your tablet and smartphone, beware! Many of these apps can compromise the security of that device.
  26. When traveling, (especially overseas) use a prepaid smartphone - Don't install any of your private info on it. This limits your risk if your phone gets stolen or compromised in unknown territory. If your phone doesn’t have valuable data on it, it can’t be stolen.
  27. Minimize the use of Artificially Intelligent devices. These devices keep your private information on tap to function. If you are using any of these devices (Amazon Echo, Google assistant, etc.) make sure they are behind your firewall. If they are compromised so is your data.
  28. If you need greater security, purchase dedicated security devices to increase your network
    Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
    protection for the home or office. If you want the best security, buy a secure portable firewall or security hardened smartphone like the Blackphone from Silent Circle. These New devices are available and can create dedicated and or mobile firewalls. You can also purchase security communication keys as hardware dongles used to protect your Google mail accounts.
  29. Buy and use single-use credit cards to limit your financial exposure. These limit your financial risk. Also, using programs like Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal can provide additional layers of protection.
  30. Only use Smart Credit/Debit Cards - If you have credit and debit cards, make sure they are the new types with smart chips on them. Insist that your financial institutions provide them to replace the old dumb cards. This gives you two layers of protection for fraud.
  31. If you are using a debit card to make purchases, stop! Use a regular credit card for store purchases only. Only use a credit card online as a last resort means of payment. Use PayPal instead, to add another layer of protection to your purchases.
  32. If you don't have a paper shredder, buy one. They are inexpensive, and good ones can be
    Courtesy of  Wikipedia commons
    found for under $100. They should be able to shred at least ten pages at a time, and the better ones can shred credit cards and CD/DVD/Blu-ray disks. Shred all financial documents before you throw them into the trash.
  33. Purchase ID protection and check your credit status on a regular basis. If you don’t currently have an ID protection service, get one. Their annual cost is relatively low, and many offer monthly plans. You can buy these products from many insurance carriers as well as from your bank and companies like Be aware that Equifax offer this service and it was hacked!
  34. Find out what your bank’s policy is if your account/s are hacked. Many banks provide little or no protection. Some offer protection if the hack is reported within 24 to 48 hours.  Others offer a minimum liability. Make sure you know what your responsibility is and what you’re liable for. 
  35. Set Bank Account Security to the Highest Level -  Turn on two step authentication on all bank and financial accounts.  Also set transaction monitoring to the highest level so that you are informed of any transaction that occurs over $50 via email and text to make sure you don’t miss the communications.
  36. Stay current with regards to Security Threats. Keep up with the news about major hacks, compromised apps and the constant news of security breaches happening on a daily basis. Be smart and make good choices. Most security breaches are self-inflicted wounds - not the Herculean efforts of super hackers. Regularly check the FBI’s REPORT website and other scam/fraud web pages to learn about and lookup current or suspected threats and scams. Subscribe to some security blogs to automatically receive current information. Also Read as much as you can, including the article linked throughout this blog post.

Suggested Reading List
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In this article, I have provided a list of prudent techniques and methodologies that anyone can use to reduce their risks of becoming a victim of a cyber-attack. This problem has reached epic proportions in the US as demonstrated by the many massive breaches in 2017. Do yourself a favor and take these varied threats very seriously. If you implement all of the above tips, you will have achieved the highest level of protection available today. Doing so will make your digital and financial life much more secure. Sticking your head and the sand and ignoring this issue will sooner or later lead to a personal disaster.

That’s my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

This article provides a list of prudent techniques and methodologies (my top cyber-security tips) that anyone can use to reduce their risks of becoming a victim of a cyber-attack and hacks. The 30+ tips are comprehensive and easy to follow. This article also provides a number of links to other articles and resources for the readers use and further research.

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Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.


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