We recently interviewed our colleague John Scotford, IT engineer here at Farmplan. John has over 25 years of experience and is passionate about all things cyber security. Here, he shares his top tips for staying safe online.
So, John, thank you for taking the time to chat to us about this topic. Firstly, could you explain what cyber security is?
Basically, it is protecting yourself and others from ‘attacks’ carried out primarily with a computer. No computer is safe – including mine or yours. Every system has a security vulnerability. The more secure and aware you are, the less of a target you are.
Criminals are more likely to target less secure machines and systems. They will always look for a weakness. But don’t worry, there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself.
Who is most likely to be a target to hackers?
I should start by saying that the most harmful thought you can have is “it won’t happen to me”. We all think we are safe, and our virus software is there to protect us. Unfortunately, we are all at risk and the stakes are high, so we must all do our bit to protect our personal data.
How safe are links?
Clicking without thinking is dangerous! Just because you can click on a link does not mean you should. I would always recommend checking these are from a trusted source and never click on or download anything you are unfamiliar with. Especially as certain websites can automatically install malware onto your PC.
What are Phishing scams?
Phishing scams are designed to trick people into clicking links or responding to emails, and they can be carried out in a variety of ways including via email, text, phone calls and even on your social platforms. These are often very convincing, so it is crucial not to share any personal or financial information if you are suspicious.
Should I invest in anti-virus software?
Absolutely! There are ‘free’ protection services out there, but they will not offer the same amount of protection as a paid subscription will.
- Paid for anti-virus provides a broader range of protection compared to free anti-virus.
- Free anti-virus software rarely includes technical or telephone support. You’re often at the mercy of FAQ pages or user forums to solve any issue you’re having.
- If your business stores customer details, you’ll then have to account for varying levels of technical aptitude, safe browsing and downloading habits among staff, making a more comprehensive protection system even more vital.
How about passwords? There are so many to remember….
We all have too many passwords to remember and it is tempting to take shortcuts, sometimes using one familiar password for more than one place. Try and use a more user-friendly option like opting for at least 8 characters. Try and change your passwords once a year or more frequently and use a different password for each of your accounts.
Can I make it safer in any other way?
Yes! Aside from a strong password it’s even more important to use two-factor or multi-factor authentication. This service adds an additional layer of security. This could be a personal identification number (PIN), additional password or fingerprint.
How important are computer updates?
It is critical that your computer is running on the latest version of updates, installing them as soon as they are available. I recommend that you turn on your automatic updates from your operating system to help alert you to these.
How safe is public Wi-Fi?
Firstly, it’s important to understand that there are two types of Wi-Fi – secured and unsecured.
An unsecured network can be connected to without any type of security feature such as a password, whereas a secure network will almost certainly ask you to agree to legal terms, register an account or type in a password before you are able to connect. Keep this in mind when intending to shop online for example. Turn off your auto- connect function and always check if your Bluetooth function is turned off. This is often overlooked and easy access for hackers. Always use public Wi-Fi with caution.
Let’s talk about data back-up
My advice is to always make more than one back-up, such as to an external hard drive or cloud storage. You can never have enough back-up. If you become a victim of ransomware or malware, the safest way to restore your data is to erase your systems and restore with a recently performed backup.
What is ‘Digital Footprint’?
This is your activity on your devices. It is important to keep track by monitoring your accounts. Not just your bank accounts but also your social media accounts. I also recommend you delete accounts you are no longer using and remember to set strong passwords.
As well as anti-virus, we also offer a range of cloud services that can help small and large businesses alike with their day-to-day activities.
To find out how our cloud services can help you and your business contact us on 01594 545033 or click here to find out more.