Internet security: what it is and tips
Internet security is the collection of practices, technologies, and concepts that shield any Internet-connected software or hardware we use from online threats.
The number of devices we use at home or work that can connect to a network is increasing rapidly. In addition to our laptops, desktops, servers, routers, modems, smartphones, and tablets, our watches, appliances, thermostats, doorbell cameras, and appliances are also Internet-connected devices.
Internet connectivity allows our technology to be more useful and convenient, and much smarter. However, opening up the devices and software we rely on to the data superhighway also leaves them vulnerable to hackers, malware, exploits, bots, spam, malicious links and websites. Internet-connected technology is also more susceptible to social engineering attacks like phishing. And sophisticated threat actors can use devices in a network for lateral movements, data exfiltration, or to drop ransomware.
With the increasing use of the Internet, cybercriminals have more opportunities to access sensitive data and cause financial losses. Internet security is essential to protect businesses, individuals, and governments from malicious attacks such as hacking, malware, ransomware, and identity theft. It also helps protect financial transactions and other sensitive information from being stolen or misused. Internet security measures can help prevent data breaches that can lead to costly damages for organizations and individuals alike.
Common Internet security threats
Malware, short for malicious software, is any type of software that can harm a system, network, or device. Examples of malware that can hurt our Internet security include computer viruses and worms, spyware, ransomware, exploits, cryptojackers, and some types of Trojans.
Types of malware
- Computer worms and viruses
At first glance, a computer worm may seem similar to a computer virus. After all, both computer worms and viruses can corrupt data. But computer worms can be far more sophisticated. Unlike viruses, worms can self-replicate from one computer to another without requiring human activation. Computer worms can also drop more dangerous malware like ransomware, consume bandwidth, open backdoors, and more.
Watch this video to learn how viruses are different from malware:
Ransomware is a kind of malicious software that locks people out of their personal files, systems, networks, or devices and demands payment in exchange for access restoration. Ransomware extortionists usually ask for payment in the shape of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin because of convenience. While some types of ransomware are targeted, others, like WannaCry, may spread more randomly across networks.
During a phishing attack, you get a fraudulent email message featuring a link leading to an online form asking you to provide sensitive information. Your clicks on a phishing link can also simply prompt an automatic download of a malicious software.The phishing links can also be distributed through spam messages. Any unwanted communication sent in bulk via email, text message, phone call, or social media is an example of spamming.
(2) Hacking and remote access
Hackers compromise digital devices such as computers or tablets, or even networks through various tools, techniques, and deception. While some hackers hack for the thrill, others are motivated by activism, espionage, or monetary gain. Hacking has evolved from teenage mischief into a billion-dollar growth business, whose adherents have established a criminal infrastructure that develops and sells turnkey hacking tools to would-be crooks with less sophisticated technical skills (known as “script kiddies”). As an example, see: Emotet.
(3) Identity theft and data loss
Identity theft is one of the biggest Internet security threats. By sharing private information online or becoming a subject to phishing attacks, a user becomes a target. Hackers may steal sensitive information, such as name, address, login credentials, social security number, or date of birth, to impersonate you, typically for a financial crime. Experts say it can take several months to years to recover from this attack.
Businesses often report data loss which can lead to other Internet security crimes, such as a data breach, malware attack, financial crime and identity theft.
How to protect yourself and your data & stay safe online?
- Use Internet security software to ensure that your devices are protected from these and other online threats. Examples of Internet Security solutions include:
- Anti-malware and antivirus software
- Virtual Private Network (VPN) applications
- Browser protection tools
- Virus scanning
- Adware and unwanted programs blockers
- Password managers
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- Set strong passwords and use biometric security technology
Hackers use sophisticated technology to bypass password security, including brute force attack tools that guess many multiple password combinations in seconds. Defend yourself by setting long and complex passwords. Avoid using common patterns in your passwords, such as dates or words, and use a password manager to store your passwords. Regularly update your passwords.
Here are some tips for creating a strong password:
- Use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Avoid using easily guessable information, such as your name or birthdate.
- Use a long password, ideally at least 12 characters.
- Avoid using common words or phrases.
- Do not reuse the same password for multiple accounts.
- Use a password manager to generate and store strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts.
- Regularly update your password.
- Avoid using easily guessable patterns on the keyboard like “qwerty” or “123456”
Remember, the stronger your password is, the harder it will be for someone to guess or crack it, so try to make your password as complex as possible.
Improve your password security further by utilizing biometric security technology. With biometric security, you can prove your identity with something that’s completely unique to you, such as your fingerprints or irises.
- Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on all your accounts
In addition to setting stronger passwords, enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) for your accounts. Multi-factor authentication requires more than one method of authentication from independent categories of authentication methods. This helps to ensure that the person accessing a system, application or website is who they claim to be. Common examples of MFA include something the user knows (e.g. password), something the user has (e.g. security token), and something the user is (e.g. fingerprint).
Most email providers and social media networks now require or at least have two-factor authentication (2FA) enabled. Use it – if you don’t have it set up, do it right now. 2FA is a type of multi-factor authentication that requires two methods of authentication from separate categories. It adds an additional layer of security and prevents unauthorized access by requiring a second form of verification beyond a simple password. It’s a way to protect the user account from being accessed by someone who has obtained the password.
- Block webcams
Blocking your webcam is not strictly necessary, but it can be a good security measure to take to protect your privacy. A webcam can be used to spy on you, and if a hacker gains access to your device, they could potentially use the webcam to watch and listen to you without your knowledge. To block your webcam, you can use a physical cover that can be placed over the lens when not in use, or you can disable the webcam in the settings of your device. Additionally, you can use webcam security software to monitor your webcam and alert you if it is being used without your permission.
- Update your Internet Security software
Vulnerabilities in software such as operating systems, firmware, web browsers, and applications can be exploited by threat actors to steal your data, breach or damage your devices, or attack other entities in your network, such as your employer, friends, and family. Updating your software with the latest security updates can significantly tighten your Internet security posture.
- Carefully select browsers and use ad blockers
With so many browsers available, it’s important to make sure you choose a secure browser to protect yourself from potential cyber threats. It will help safeguard your data from malicious attacks and cybercrime. Use ad blockers to avoid adware and PUPs installed on your device without your knowledge.
- Use a VPN app, especially when using public Wi-Fi
Download and regularly use a VPN app on your devices. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a popular defense mechanism for Internet security. It creates a private, secure, and encrypted tunnel between your system and the Internet. It also covers your location by assigning a different IP address for your Internet activity than your actual one. This is essential when using Internet on public Wi-Fi networks at shopping centers, cafes, airports and gyms. Learn more about what VPN is and why you should use it by reading our “What is a VPN” guide.
Every member of the household, including children, should receive some education in Internet security, such as avoiding phishing expeditions and steering clear of suspicious messages. Please see our Internet safety for kids page to learn more about protecting vulnerable people in your family.
Securing your home network is also an important component of home security. Here are some steps to improve home network security:
- Set a complex password for your network to enhance WiFi security.
- Change the default login credentials for your router and network.
- Change the default name of your network.
- Enable your router firewall.
- Update your router’s firmware to protect it from vulnerabilities.
Organizations must invest in the latest cyber security technologies and practices to protect their data and the personal information of their customers from Internet security threats. This means developing innovative solutions, such as using AI to detect threats before they can do any harm. It also means investing in a good security team and regularly training them on the latest developments in the cybersecurity industry.
- Here are some tips for businesses to improve their internet security:
- Develop a comprehensive security policy: Establish a clear policy outlining what employees can and cannot do online, including guidelines for passwords, email usage, and the handling of sensitive information.
- Keep software up to date: Regularly update all software, including operating systems, web browsers, and antivirus programs to ensure that any known vulnerabilities are patched.
- Use a firewall: A firewall is a barrier that helps to protect your network from unauthorized access.
- Use encryption: Encrypt sensitive data, both in transit and at rest, to protect it from being intercepted or stolen.
- Train employees: Regularly train employees on internet security best practices, including how to identify and avoid phishing attempts, and the importance of strong passwords.
- Implement multi-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security by requiring something the user knows (e.g. a password) and something the user has (e.g. a code sent to a phone or generated by an app).
- Conduct regular security audits and vulnerability assessments: Regularly check your network for vulnerabilities and take steps to fix any issues that are found.
- Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for remote access: A VPN encrypts all data transmitted over the internet, providing an additional layer of protection for employees working remotely.
- Have a disaster recovery plan in place: Businesses should have a disaster recovery plan in place to ensure that they can quickly and effectively respond to any security breaches or other disruptions.
- Work with a trusted security provider: Consider working with a security provider that can help you to develop and implement effective security measures.
These are just a few general tips, and the specific security measures your business needs will depend on the size and nature of your operations, but implementing these tips can certainly help your business to be more secure.
The future of Internet security
Internet security is becoming increasingly important in the digital age. With the rise of online transactions, data breaches, and financial crimes, it is essential to protect our digital assets from malicious actors.
The future of Internet security will be focused on preventing and mitigating cyber threats. Expect advanced technologies such as AI and machine learning (ML) to play a bigger role in responding to potential Internet security threats in real-time. Additionally, businesses will invest more time in educating their employees about the importance of Internet security and how to protect themselves from online attacks.
Some organizations will switch to zero-trust security measures to minimize the chances of attacks through the Internet.
Internet security protects our data, networks, systems, devices, applications, and identities from malicious actors who are looking for innovative ways to exploit vulnerabilities. As such, we must stay one step ahead of malicious elements by investing in the latest technologies and strategies that can keep our activities on the Internet safe.
Internet Security FAQs
What's the difference between antivirus and Internet security software?
What is mobile Internet security?
Mobile Internet security involves a range of steps and practices to protect your mobile data and devices from Internet security threats such as potential scams, malware, Trojans, malicious websites, and smishing attacks.
What is email security?
Email security is the process of protecting emails from unauthorized access, modification, or deletion. It involves several measures, such as encryption, authentication, and digital signatures, to ensure that emails are secure and private.
What is an Internet security key?
Internet security keys keep our data secure. In a nutshell, a network security key grants access to a local area network. It authenticates users and devices that are trying to connect to the network, ensuring that only authorized users can access the data stored on it. It can also be used for encryption, shielding it from threat actors.
What is application security?
Application security is the practice of protecting applications from malicious attacks and data breaches. It involves a range of procedures to prevent security issues within applications, such as authentication, encryption, and secure coding.
What is network security?
Network security is designed to protect a computer network and its resources from misuse or unauthorized access. It helps protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data stored on networks from malicious attacks.