Cybersecurity for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide
What is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is one of those phrases you hear and might think, “oh, I’ll never understand that it’s too complicated.” But the truth is, protecting data and information is a lot easier than it seems and cybersecurity for beginners is common practice. It’s especially important to adopt good practices too, because today, we’re reliant on technology and the internet for just about everything! So, if you think it’s a concept too challenging to grasp, don’t fret. We want to assure that one, this isn’t true, anyone can learn good cybersecurity practices, and two, we’ll show you how!
Our goal is to educate both the individual and business. If you’re concerned about viral attacks or losing personal data, read on. If you’re an enterprise trying to protect its valuable info, keep going. We’ll give you the basics for learning cybersecurity for beginners, creating all the tools you’ll need for a safer online experience.
The first thing you want to get in the habit of is understanding how intertwined cybersecurity is with all our daily tasks. From checking social media to looking at bank statements, it plays a deep role in protecting us. Therefore, keeping your own information safe should be a top priority. Doing so requires habits.
Yes, as a business, you can invest a lot in IT teams, software, and layered networks. However, this won’t mean much if your own staff create threats because they weren’t aware of things like phishing attacks or websites lacking encryption. Same scenario for an individual: your anti-virus will only do so much. If you unknowingly download malware and run it on your system, you missed the red flags tipping you off to the dangers of it.
Improving Your Security
So, let’s break it down. There are multiple things you can (and should) do as an individual. If you’re a business, we highly recommend you impart these tips to your workforce – as a guide and policy. With these steps, you’ll find learning cybersecurity for beginners is a lot easier than it sounds.
1 – Good Passwords
Adopting complex passwords is one of the key initial steps in good cybersecurity practices. Yes, it’s a hassle to remember multiple ones, but understand malicious third-parties use methods like bot attacks to cycle through generic login phrases. A good password is one of the easiest ways to protect data (and it’s free).
2 – Two Factor Authentication
Also known as 2FA, two-factor authentication is a step above solid passwords. This is because a code is required along with the password login, and said code is only accessible by an approved device, such as a person’s smartphone.
3 – Encryption
Individuals should practice good habits by identifying encrypted websites (typically this is a website using HTTPS). Your web browser will let you know if a website isn’t secure (chrome, for example, will say whether or not a website is secure in the upper left tab).
A website lacking encryption means info like logins and contact info can be taken by third-parties. In the same token, a business should encrypt its valuable data, especially if they use WAN or host public connections.
4 – Anti-Virus
It goes without saying, but whether personal or professional, anti-malware software is a must. Without it, your system and/or networks are vulnerable to various online viruses which can wreak havoc, outright corrupting a system or taking data.
5 – System Backups
As a business, downtime is all but guaranteed. During these periods of IT failure, you’ll want to make sure your information is housed safely. This can be accomplished via managed providers or data centers who can host your data, preventing loss.
As an individual, it’s recommended you invest in items like an external HDD/SDD and/or cloud storage.
6 – BDR Plans
Your organization not only benefits from system-wide backups but a recovery plan as well. A BDR lays the framework for what to do during downtime, how to recover from it, and what steps are taken to prevent future issues. This can also (and should) cover issues related to viral attacks or other malicious intrusions compromising a network.
7 – Update
Essential to software and apps, keeping programs updated to their latest version is another crucial factor in good cybersecurity. Malicious parties routinely seek to exploit vulnerabilities in outdated software. Whether for business use or individual, any app which holds personal information should be using its current version.
8 – Remain Selective
It’s great there are hundreds of programs and apps usable by our devices and smartphones. However, each app is a potential access point for lost data, because they use our information for their services. Often, this is just a simple login and email combination. But in some cases, many apps want more personal information. In this case, be selective about what you download, and carefully comb through what you’re granting permission for. For example, a news app shouldn’t be requesting access to say, your personal photos.
9 – Understand Social Engineering
Part of why malware remains so effective is because they remain deceptive. Social engineering is a major part of this, often used to deploy phishing attacks.
Essentially, malicious third parties attempt to trick users by sending messages that appear to be from friends, family, or even a business. They often include links or demand action about the loss of an “account,” attempting to hijack user logins or similar. Remaining vigilant and understanding how social engineering works, then, is a big part of good cybersecurity strategies.
10 – Track
One thing that’s easy to forget is the number of accounts and logins you (or your business) has. When every other website has email signup or login, you can easily lose track of where your passwords go. Why is this is a problem? Well, not every website has the same security standards. One day, an old website you used might be compromised, along with the email/password associated with it. Those who take that login information can use it to try and access your other accounts.
In a way, your logins are like water in a large bucket. The more water, the more valuable. But if the bucket gets holes, there are leaks, and water gets everywhere. So, take stock of how many websites you’re logged into, with what password, and so on.
Summarizing the Plan
These key steps are fundamental in better protecting yourself from cyber attacks. Because, it’s necessary to understand: you will be attacked on some level, it’s a common aspect of the internet. And that’s fine, this is a normal expectation to have, as it sets the proper mindset when navigating the web.
Education and personal scrutiny, then, are among your best tools. Skepticism is key. Caution is better. As an individual, take the path of safety. As an enterprise, test your worker competency and keep them informed and prepared. Routinely conduct penetration tests to see the weak (and strong) areas of your network, constantly refining how you approach business protections.
Not so bad, right? Learning cybersecurity for beginners might sound like a hassle, but a lot of it is established in common-sense and critical thinking. While building programs and networks are more the IT crowd, any individual can approach cybersecurity like a pro, especially when they follow the above steps.
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