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How to not get hurt online

By: Bertus Visser, Chief Executive of Distribution at PSG Insure

As many of us work digitally in some way (some of us almost entirely), the likelihood of encountering fraud is no longer unlikely. Working from home has increased this risk tenfold, making personal and business data a growing concern. We recently consulted with one of our approved product providers who specialises in cyber risk, to develop a better understanding of the key threats clients should be aware of. Below are some top tips for being safer online. 

Defining getting hurt

Cyber-attacks can have hefty costs and cause major business or personal disruption. The severity of your injury depends on the nature and size of your loss. An attack could happen through clicking a link and it could go as far as hijacking your website and data, or fraudulently reaching out to your clients or friends. There are many ways criminals try to trick you and take what they can.

While no-one may intentionally let their guard down online, it can happen easily if you don’t keep online safety top of mind. 

  • Being ‘quick to click’ can cost you

We should not become complacent and should always check the sender or wording before clicking on a link or attachment in an email. Clicking on or authorising pop-ups without a second look can cost you. Be cautious instead of quick to click. 

  • Apply password and patch protection

Simple passwords may be easy to remember, but they are also just as easy to crack. Use strong passwords exclusively and change them frequently. While free or low-cost anti-virus software can provide some protection, it’s often not sophisticated enough to deal with the increasingly opportunistic attacks you encounter when being online. Patches or updates on your anti-virus are important to enable. Out-of-date protection can have the opposite effect – no protection whatsoever. 

  • Check bank details before you pay

Confirm an invoice via phone call instead of just paying it, or verify the account details through your bank, even if it can slightly delay the payment. Taking the time to check a bill or the source of an email before you open an attachment is always best practice. 

Being connected to the internet exposes you to cyber-risks. The pandemic has also given rise to Covid-19 related attacks such as phishing attempts or using malicious websites, while hackers have targeted the potential weaknesses of working-from-home infrastructure. Remote working software, Office 365 and browsers like Google Chrome are widely used and, therefore, widely targeted. Google has put out warnings alerting the public to possible attacks – so be extra cautious.

What should you do?

Double check everything, be sceptical, and don’t take the easy way out. Use a longer passphrase or make use of a password manager application to store passwords safely.  Keep your Wi-Fi password fresh and secure, and make use of authentication tools such as OTPs or fingerprint payment approvals when using your cell phone to transact. 

The more tailored your security solution is to your needs, the better. It comes down to enabling one-time passwords and assessing any attachments before opening them. Some paid-for and more advanced anti-virus solutions have started to incorporate behavioural analytics and artificial intelligence, which monitor your endpoint device. For example, your advanced anti-virus solution will monitor the programmes running on your laptop and if any start to act in a strange or malicious manner, they will be contained, and you will be notified.

While cyber insurance has often been geared more towards businesses, there are products available for individual protection too, so ensure you consider what you might need to avoid getting hurt online, while always prioritising acting responsibly too. Chat to your adviser to assess the insurance you might need.

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