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Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

As new technology emerges, cybersecurity protocols also evolve. However, there are some basic tips you should carry with you everywhere to stay better protected against cyber attacks. Here are some general rules to follow to stay safe in 2023.

Use Strong Passwords and a Password Manager

Using strong passwords is a must-do to keep yourself protected, and you should take this a step further by using a unique password for each separate account you have. This protects you in a number of ways.

Using strong passwords increases your protection against brute force attacks, to name one of many. These attacks happen when a cybercriminal, or “threat actor,” uses software that generates random and known passwords (acquired from data breaches) to try to guess what your password is.

Think of brute force attacks like this: If you forgot your combination for the padlock on your locker, you can try every number combination from 0000 to 9999 to find the correct combination. Brute force attacks work in the same way. Using strong passwords—that is, a combination of lower- and upper-case letters, numbers, and special characters—effectively lowers the odds of the brute force attack being successful. Not to mention that strong passwords prevent someone from simply guessing what your password is.

Keep in mind, though, that the threat actor isn’t always on the other side of your screen–they can be sitting next to you in the office. This is where the password manager comes in. With a Password Manager, you only need to remember one password. Once you enter the master password, the password manager will fetch and input the password in the form you’re filling out (assuming you’ve already stored the information in the password manager). Therefore, you can use extremely strong and lengthy passwords without worrying about remembering them, and without writing your passwords on a post-it note.

RELATED: Password Managers Compared: LastPass vs KeePass vs Dashlane vs 1Password

Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

The first layer of protection between your account and someone else accessing it is your password. The second layer is two-factor authentication (2FA). You should be using it to add an extra blanket of security to your accounts.

2FA is, at its most basic, an identity verification software. If you (or the threat actor) enter the correct password to your account, 2FA will kick in and require you to verify your identity, most often by entering a series of random numbers or letters sent to you via SMS (cellphone texts) or by an app.

You can (and should) use 2FA for all of your accounts, Amazon, eBay, Nintendo, Twitter, RedditInstagram, and any other account you may have.

RELATED: What Is Two-Factor Authentication, and Why Do I Need It?

Double-Check That Link Before You Click

Phishing is one of the most common forms of cyber attack. Phishing is a form of cyberattack that is delivered mainly by email, but also by SMS. The threat actor tries to entice you to click a bogus link that will take you to a website that’s masquerading as an official entity, or even download a virus on your device.

Before you click any link, double-check that it’s the true source you want to visit. The difference can be as minor as “arnazon.com” and “amazon.com”.

RELATED: How to Spot a Text Message Scam

Use a VPN When On Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is a great thing in a pinch, but it’s not a good idea to connect to a public Wi-Fi network unless you absolutely have to. If you do connect to a public Wi-Fi network, make sure you connect to a VPN. Otherwise, your traffic may be exposed to anyone on that network.

Worse yet, if you send any sensitive data across the network without encryption (like HTTPS), that data could be intercepted by the network operator or other people on the network. It’s never a good idea to send sensitive data over unencrypted HTTP, but it’s especially dangerous to do so on a public Wi-Fi network.

The best solution is to do those sensitive tasks from your own private network. If you’re in public and have to do something urgent, use your cellular data to play it safe. If that’s not an option, it’s a good idea to connect to a VPN, even though public Wi-FI is safer than it used to be.

The Best VPN Services of 2023

Best Overall VPN
ExpressVPN
Private Internet Access
Best Budget VPN
Private Internet Access
Best Free VPN
Windscribe
Proton VPN
Best VPN for iPhone
Proton VPN
Best VPN for Android
Hide.me
Best VPN for Streaming
ExpressVPN
Best VPN for Gaming
TorGuard
Best VPN for Torrenting
IVPN
Best VPN for Windows
NordVPN
Best VPN for China
VyprVPN
Mullvad VPN
Best VPN for Privacy
Mullvad VPN

Keeps Apps and Devices Up-to-Date

App and device updates aren’t just for bringing you cool new features; they also often provide important security patches. No matter the device—phone, laptop, apps, or even your NAS—make sure you always keep them up to date so you don’t get hit with malware or zero-day exploits. These security patches are important, so don’t be caught without them.

Don’t Jailbreak Your iPhone

Hackers find security holes in the iPhone’s iOS operating system, and then take advantage of those security holes to take control over iOS. This is known as jailbreaking. The hacker then brings this jailbreaking tool to the public for download, which you may be tempted to do.

When you jailbreak your phone, not only are you potentially making your phone unstable, but you’re opening your device up to malicious attacks from threat actors who are also taking advantage of this exploit.

If you feel you need to jailbreak your iPhone, you should probably just buy an Android.

Don’t Store Sensitive Info on Your Phone (and Always Use a Passcode Lock)

As we mentioned, cyberattacks don’t always happen on the other side of the screen. If you lose your phone and someone finds it, or if someone gains physical access to your phone, and your personal information is stored on that phone, you’re vulnerable.

Always use a passcode lock to prevent threat actors from accessing your phone, but it’s a good idea to never store any information you don’t want to be exposed to the public on your phone. This includes passwords, personal information, and sensitive photos.

RELATED: How to Use a More Secure iPhone Passcode

Use Privacy-Focused Apps

Using privacy-focused apps may not only help prevent you from being a victim of cybercrime, but it also allows you to protect your personal information from being captured, such as your contacts, browsing history, ad interactions, and more.

There’s a large number of privacy-centered software for you to replace the mainstream programs that you’re used to. Here are some suggested apps:

RELATED: Privacy vs. Security: What's the Difference?

Secure Your Local Network

Your local network connects the devices in your home to each other and to the internet. If your local network is compromised, there is a potential treasure trove of information available to someone with malicious intentions. Once someone has access to your local network, it is often much easier to access other devices (like security cameras or computers) on the network. It is a risk best avoided.

There are a few things you can do to improve the security of your network.

First, change the default login password for your router to something robust and secure. Many routers, particularly older ones, have standard administrative passwords that you can easily look up on the internet.

The second thing you should do is update your router’s firmware. Router updates frequently contain important security patches that fix existing vulnerabilities. Since your router is exposed to threats from the internet and people that are close enough to see your Wi-Fi network, it is essential that it is kept up to date.

The final thing to do is enable the newest security protocols available on your router, disable Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), and disable remote access, if they’re enabled. Older protocols use weaker encryption and are usually more vulnerable than newer versions.

RELATED: Secure Your Wireless Router: 8 Things You Can Do Right Now


These are just a few tips out of many to keep you protected. The only person who can keep you protected is you. Be mindful of everything you do online, be wary of “too-good-to-be-true” deals, double-check links, and even be mindful of your surroundings. Stay safe!

RELATED: What Are the Three Pillars of Cybersecurity?

Profile Photo for Marshall Gunnell Marshall Gunnell
Marshall is a writer with experience in the data storage industry. He worked at Synology, and most recently as CMO and technical staff writer at StorageReview. He's currently an API/Software Technical Writer based in Tokyo, Japan, runs VGKAMI and ITEnterpriser, and spends what little free time he has learning Japanese.
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Profile Photo for Nick Lewis Nick Lewis
Nick Lewis is a staff writer for How-To Geek. He has been using computers for 20 years --- tinkering with everything from the UI to the Windows registry to device firmware. Before How-To Geek, he used Python and C++ as a freelance programmer. In college, Nick made extensive use of Fortran while pursuing a physics degree.
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