Cybersecurity, Being Secure on Cyberspace

Cyber-security, which can be understood as a combination of computer security, network security and information technology security, is an important area in information security. This is especially true, given that nowadays our lives depend so much on computers, networks, and technology. Basically, this means protecting data, information and systems that belong to a computer/device/network by defending them against digital threats and attacks. Cybersecurity can range from the level of individuals to organizations and to even countries.

But what makes our data, information and systems insecure in the first place? There can be countless reasons for this. A few of them are using weak passwords, insecure connections, exposure of credentials, use of shared resources, poor encryption, application bugs, malware, lack of physical security and network design problems.

While the most common type of attackers is who do it out of curiosity and for mere fun, more serious types of attackers, whose aims maybe to get information for later use, to monitor some activity in the system, to blackmail someone, for money etc. too exist. However, one common characteristic of most attackers is that they tend to attack easy targets. Easy targets are the weak systems that do not follow or make use of many security principles. Hence, the main way by which we can try to be safe is by trying not to be an attacker’s target. For sufficient security, we must see to it that confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the system and its data are ensured.

Some basic tips that we can follow to safeguard ourselves from hackers/attackers are:

  1. Ensure physical security: Keep your devices safe from theft and damage, scan your plug and play devices (e.g. USB drives) before using, never write passwords anywhere or save in any file in your device, administratively disable any network ports that are not being used, have a secure backup plan.
  2. Set strong passwords or passphrases: A password composed of 10 or more characters including a mixture of symbols, capital letters, simple letters, numbers in a random order makes a strong password. It is also advisable to use a passphrase, i.e. longer than a password and with spaces.
  3. Be careful what you click on: Avoid clicking on any suspicious links or attachments in emails or websites.
  4. Keep your privacy settings in check (in browsers, applications, etc.).
  5. Use your own devices with high privacy settings and updated virus guards for sensitive browsing related to monetary activities (banking, shopping, etc.).
  6. Beware of what information you are sharing. Do not share sensitive information online.
  7. Update anti-virus programs on time. Many do not pay heed to this, but it is very important since computers are regularly threatened by new viruses and updates contain the latest definitions needed to combat them.
  8. Make sure internet connections are secured. Install a firewall and keep it running at all times, turn off file sharing on disk drives, be cautious in public Wi-Fi zones and connect to networks only if you’re sure they are safe and secure. Use a Virtual Private Network(VPN) when using public or less secure networks. 

The more valuable your data, information and systems are to you, the more you have to be thoughtful about keeping them secured. There are many advanced methods and cybersecurity regulations to increase the level of security but the above mentioned are the most basic ones we all need to follow. In today’s world, a global village as it is, cybersecurity is essential and priceless are its benefits.

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  1. This article was sent in by Rashmi Erandika Ratnayake. She is a final year undergraduate in Computer Science at Faculty of Science, University of Peradeniya. You can find her on LinekdIn